Pickling herrings involves soaking (brining) herrings in a liquid with salt, sugar and spices. Lightly salted herring is a very popular traditional dish not only in Russia, but also in Holland, Sweden, Germany, Denmark and some other northern countries. In Russia traditional lightly salted seledka was always made whole in large quantities in wooden barrels, then cleaned, cut and served under sliced onions as a classical starter (‘zakuska’) with vodka. However pickling herrings at home requires slightly different technique, mostly for safety reasons.
SAFETY INFORMATION. The short salting (brining) process does not guarantee that the fresh fish will be free from Anisakis nematode, a parasite that may be present in sea fish and mammals. Anisakis is killed by the processing under high temperature (that is not applicable for herring salting) or by deep freezing. To be safe make sure that you:
- Buy the freshest herrings you can get at the fish monger or the super market
- Ask the shop assistant to clean the herrings for you right away (to remove the head, gills and the gullet)
- Cleaned and washed herrings should be fast frozen at home at -16° C (3.2° F) or the maximum temperature your domestic freezer can provide for at least 20 days!
Lightly salted herrings, recipe
- 3 young herrings
- 1 + 1/2 tea spoons of salt
- 1/2 tea spoon of sugar
- 3 bay leaves crushed
- 1 table spoon good sunflower or olive oil
- juice of 1/4 of a lemon
- 1 large red onion to serve
Mix salt, sugar and crushed bay leaves together. Cover the herrings in the mixed spices from both sides and inside. Place the herrings into a glass container, close and put into the refrigerator for 2 days. In one day turn the herrings on the other side.
Now you can cut and serve the herrings. Put 2 fillets together as the whole fish and cut the herrings into an inch pieces. Carefully, keeping the fillets still one on top of the other put the cut herrings on a nice tray or dish (a fish serving dish is perfect). When all 3 herrings are cut, thinly slice the onion and put it into the left over dressing in the glass container. Coat the onion in the dressing and then put it on top of the herrings. Serve salted herrings cold or room temperature.