Hot-Pickled Herring

Hot-Pickled Herring

This recipe is something of a contradiction because, despite the name, it is eaten cold.

The slow poaching in a lightly flavoured vinegar neutralises the oiliness of the herring to a certain extent, and the herbs and onion make for a fine, delicate flavour.

This method is also much quicker than the traditional method of sousing herring, which involves both brining and marinading in spiced vinegar over several days. You can put this dish into the oven at 6pm, cook and then leave to cool in the oven overnight and it is ready to eat the following day. This method also has the advantage of dissolving all the tiny pin bones that abound in herring, leaving just the backbone to lift free when served.

The recommended dressing is for oil and vinegar, but a little crème fraiche or even the strained cooking liquid are also enjoyable.

Pickled Herring Recipe
Source: MS1795, Wellcome Library Collection

Hot Pickled Herring

1 herring or 2 herring fillets per person
1tsp salt
1tsp black pepper
100g butter
1 large bunch of thyme.
2 onions, sliced thinly into rings
1 litre white wine vinegar to cover

  • Cut off the herring heads and tails if necessary. Rinse and pat dry.
  • Sprinkle the herring wth salt and pepper.
  • Slice the butter thinly and lay half in the bottom of an oven-proof dish.
  • Arrange a layer of onion and thyme sprigs and lay the herrings on top.
  • Repeat the layers of butter, onion/thyme and herring until the dish is full (or ingredients are finished).
  • Pour over sufficient white wine vinegar to cover the herring, then cover the dish with a double layer of cooking foil, tied tightly with string.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6.
  • Bake for 4 hours, then remove and set aside to cool completely.
  • Serve cold.
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