Sweet Pickled Herring

Sweet herring and beetroot

Sweet pickled herring and beetroot

I love a shiny fish, my favourite is mackerel, cheap plentiful and delicious when in season. In the summer it’s sardine. Few foods are better than a grilled mackerel or sardine. They dont even have to be cooked, a light cure or pickling and it makes the best sushi. Hikari mono is the japanese catch-all term for shiny fish sushi. To my eyes the shimmering iridescence is so appetising, it’s always the sushi item I look forward to the most. Especially in Japan, kohada or gizzard shad is sublime.

But mackerel season is nearly over now and eyes turn to herring. It’s a difficult fish to love. Grilled, it’s clearly not as tasty as mackerel or sardine and those herring pin bones are a nuisance. But it redeems itself in a pickle. Fillet them carefully, remove the belly bones and a short pickle dissolves all those troublesome pin bones. Here’s a recipe, use the freshest herring you can find.

Ingredients and method
6-8 herring fillets

Sprinkle fine sea salt over the flesh side of the fillets like you would season a steak. Wait 20 mins before sprinkling an equal amount of fine caster sugar on the fillets. Cure for at least 2 hours.

300ml cider vinegar
150g sugar

Whilst the herring are curing make the pickling vinegar. Heat the vinegar and sugar together to infuse any aromatics you like. Go classic with dill, shallots, coriander seeds, bay and pepper. Or express yourself with dried chilli, Sichuan pepper, cinnamon, lime whatever you like. Just remember it’s a sweet pickle, and pickled shallots are great to eat alongside pickled herring anyway. Let your pickling vinegar cool before using it.
Rinse the fillets and find a suitable container to pickle them in. Make sure the fillets are fully submerged in the pickling vinegar. They’re best after two to three days but they’ll keep happily for a month in the fridge.

When it’s herring season, there’s no excuse not to pickle them. So cheap and delicious.

This lovely photo by Jack adams


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