Swede and Sour Kitchen

Written by a gal from NYC living in Sweden, this blog dabbles in Swedish food and culture!

Midsummer’s Pickled Herring

Inlagd SillIt’s been quite “exciting” in Sweden for the past few weeks: riots in Stockholm, highschool graduations, National Day, the royal wedding. In addition, the weather has just been splendid. It’s been so close to perfect that I feel guilty if I stay in and do everyday things like laundry, cleaning, cooking, and even blogging. I could have written about studenten, an end of highschool celebration when graduates rent trucks and tractors and ride around town, partying and dancing to loud music with alcohol and noisemakers. But I haven’t written about that. Next year, maybe. I could have told you about National Day, but I didn’t. I could have taken the opportunity to bake a princess cake this past Saturday, when Princess Madeleine married a financier from New York, but I didn’t seem to care enough about it. I guess I’ll have to save the princess cake for a rainy day.


The truck they’re about to board to go hootin’ and a hollerin’ through the city in.


If you thought these were sailors running around in dresses, you’re wrong. They’re highschool graduates in their graduation caps.

However, I have thought a bit about next weekend, a huge holiday in Sweden, which this year will be the first year I’ll be in Sweden for – Midsummer! Midsummer is actually celebrated on the weekend around the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, which lands on the 20th or 21st of June. According to The Nordic Museum’s website,

Midsummer is perhaps the most important holiday in Sweden, alongside Christmas. Midsummer, like the Maypole, goes back to a very old celebration of summer and vegetation. But Midsummer also meant a break in the working year in a farming society. The day was originally celebrated to honor John the Baptist, a relationship that has become increasingly distant. Midsummer night was full of magical powers and supernatural beings.

The only experience I’ve had with Midsummer was when I watched some Swedes/Swedish-Americans dance around a maypole at Battery Park in New York. I remember it looking pretty funny, watching women and children dance and sing in a strange language, with flowers in their hair. But this year, this year I’m going to experience it all. Or?

In order to get this experience I’m fantasizing about, I think plans need to be in order, and that, it is not. Maybe we’ll hang out with family. Maybe with friends. Maybe we’ll find a maypole. Or supernatural beings! Or lions and tigers and bears! Who knows!

But I’ve taken matters into my own hands and started to prepare for this magical weekend. With HERRING! This may conjure up strange visions of weird silvery fish in jars and tins and if that is the case, you’re right. But what people with an untrained palate may think is stranger, is that pickled herring is and can be eaten in the morning. For breakfast.

If you read anything about Swedish midsummer, you’ll quickly learn that the foods associated with midsummer are herring, herring, herring, fresh potatoes, sour cream, chives and strawberries, strawberries and strawberries. So I pickled my own herring, the classic way and the mustard way, and will have it with me where ever we end up! And if we end up just staying at home, I do hope the trolls and elves will help us eat the fish. ‘Cause there’s a buncha herring in the fridge right now. And it can’t stay there forever.

Midsummer New Potatoes Pickled Herring

Basic Pickling Mixture

recipe from Niklas Ekstedts Niklas husmansklassiker : 100 rätter du bara måste kunna

7 dl (3 cups) water
500 g sugar
2 dl (ca ¾  cup) distilled vinegar
5 whole allspice berries
2 bay leaves
10 salted herring fillets (about 800 g)

1. Boil all the ingredients, except the herring, in a saucepan on the stove.

2. Pour it into another container and let cool. Store the mixture in the refrigerator.

3. Rinse the herring fillets under cold running water for about 20 minutes.

4. Transfer the fillets into a clean bowl and pour the mixture over the sill to cover. Save the rest of the pickling mixture.

5.  Place something over the fish as a press, preferably a lid from a smaller jar. Then, let stand in the refrigerator for a day.

6. Take out the herring fillets and chop them into pieces. Make sure to have clean hands or gloves.

7. Transfer the herring to a clean bowl and pour in the saved pickling mixture, enough to cover. Let stand another day.

8. You now have pickled herring that is ready to be flavored in many different ways. It keeps for about a month in the refrigerator.

Classic Pickled Herring

recipe adapted from Niklas Ekstedts Niklas husmansklassiker : 100 rätter du bara måste kunna

400 g basic pickled herring

½ leek
3 carrots
1 red onion
5 cups strained pickling mixture

1. Add the herring to a lidded 1 liter glass jar.

2. Rinse the leek and slice. Peel carrots and onions. Chop the carrots into rings and the onions into coarse pieces. Add it all to the herring.

3. Pour in the cold pickling mixture and let stand for at least 6 hours.

Mustard Herring

recipe from Niklas Ekstedts Niklas husmansklassiker : 100 rätter du bara måste kunna

400 g basic pickled herring

1 onion
1 dl (ca ½ cup) white wine vinegar
1 dl (ca ½ cup) Swedish mustard (or any grainy mustard)
½ dl (¼ cup) Dijon mustard
2 dl (¾ cup) sugar
2 dl (ca ¾ cup) cooking oil (I only used about ½ cup )
about 1 dl (ca ½ cup) sour cream
a pinch of salt
freshly ground white pepper

1. Finely chop the onion and mix it with the vinegar, mustards, and sugar.

2. Slowly pour the oil in while whisking.

3. Mix in sour cream and season with salt and white pepper.

4. Mix the sauce with the herring, and store in a lidded 1 liter glass jar, for at least 6 hours before serving.

Serve with new potatoes and sour cream and chives. Happy Midsummer!

One comment on “Midsummer’s Pickled Herring

  1. Pingback: Classic Swedish Strawberry Cake | Swede and Sour Kitchen


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