Friday, September 19, 2008

The Great Herring Experiment

I love seafood, really really LOVE seafood! I love it cooked simply, or with elaborate preparation and exotic ingredients. I love it plain, or wrapped, or stuffed, grilled, baked, sauteed or pickled. It's  terrific  raw (sometimes), hot or cold. I just love seafood. But... Petersburg herring have challenged my love of cooking with fresh seafood.

The herring are so plentiful around the Petersburg docks that anyone can jig up a bucketful in no time… and they do. You can see youngsters barely old enough to hold a pole sharing tips and dock space  with oldsters who could be their great grandfathers. It’s a local pastime, and a popular time filler for visitors with unscheduled moments or a desire for free bait.

Our freezer drawers would not hold any more bait, and the captain needed a diversion that wasn’t another boat project.  After some prompting I volunteered to try pickling his next catch of large herring. Volunteered, mind you. A quick search through my various seafood cookbooks turned up a seemingly effortless recipe. Pickled shrimp is already a regular menu item, so how tough could this be? Uh huh.

Capt. caught, washed, beheaded and gutted the critters. That left me to do the easy part -“open the fish out flat. Pinch the bone at the tail end and carefully lift out, pulling the bone towards the head. Remove any small bones with tweezers.”  This was too easy to believe, right up to the end and the tweezer part. You can’t imagine how many tiny little bones poke through the flesh, and don’t want to release. (Flashback memory to childhood and how I hated to pick through a serving of fish to find the bones.)  Tweezers didn’t work so I opted for needle nosed kitchen pliers. Hey, they work on salmon pin bones. After one or two pulls the tips gummed up too much to close on any more bones. A boning knife proved too large to lift just the bones and leave the meat intact. Sigh, back to my thumb and forefinger pinching out each sharp, stubborn, almost invisible little bone. Hundreds of them, lurking everywhere, resisting detection.

One hour and ten herring later, these flat, butterflied little critters are brining in a saltwater bath in the refrigerator. They are waiting for their final resting place, rolled around an onion slice and gherkin in a spicy vinegar pickling brine and stuffed inside inside glass jars. Me, I’m thinking of how easy it will be next time - when I buy rollmops at the store.
Tasting note 1: Omigod! those suckers are sour.  At the Capt’s suggestion I poured off a third of the vinegar brine and added water and a bit of sugar. We’ll be brave and schedule a second tasting for tomorrow. Did I mention buying pickled herring at the store in the future?

Note 2: The following day Swedish friends thought the herring were quite tasty as appetizers and we polished off the entire batch. Pickling herring will stay an “interesting” experiment and memory. Me? I’m sticking with pickling shrimp.

1 comment:

  1. I'm with you! find your favorite brand and buy it at a store.


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