Lamb and hot cross buns might be the Easter food of Anglo countries, but in Sweden, it’s all about sill, pickled herring. Herring is one of those typical Swedish dishes that you’ll always find on the table at big holidays like Christmas, Midsummer, and Easter. Normally served along with potatoes and at least a few shots of Aquavit, you can be sure that if sill is on the table you’re in for a good meal.
This version of herring doesn’t suit all tastebuds, but if you like the pickled taste of fish, you can play around with different sauces to add a new spin to your sill. Johanna Kindvall’s simple recipe for Mustard Herring gives the herring an extra dimension, and a beautiful color, perfect for the Easter table. Serve with Aquavit of course.
by Johanna Kindvall
the cure (if using already cured herring skip this part)
about 1 lb filets of fresh herring*
½ cup white vinegar (6%)**
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoon salt
Rinse the herring in cold water. If you like you can skin the herring but I normally do that after the cure as it gets off easier then. Mix the white vinegar together with the salt and the sugar. When the sugar and salt are totally dissolved in the liquid add the water. Place the herring in a bowl and pour the vinegar mixture over. Set aside in the fridge for about 24 hours. Stir in between to make sure that all fillets gets properly cured. Its done when all fillets have become white in color.
Let the fillets drain properly in a strainer while you prepare the sauce. Remove the skin with your fingers or use a knife to peel it off. Cut the fillets with a scissor into bite size pieces.
about one lb cured herring(or get simple herring in vinegar)
3 tablespoons sweet mustard
one tablespoon dijon mustard
one tablespoon brown sugar
one teaspoon sherry vinegar (apple cider vinegar works as well)
50 ml neutral vegetable oil (such as rapeseed oil or sunflower oil)
½ cup dill
Mix together mustard, sherry vinegar and sugar. Add carefully the olive oil drop by drop while stirring. Chop the shallot and dill finely and add it to the sauce. Season with salt and freshly milled black pepper. Place the herring pieces into the sauce and stir carefully around so the sauce gets around the fish evenly. Let the fish rest for a couple of hours, preferably 24 hours but I can never wait that long. Before serving chop the chives into 1/4” pieces and sprinkle on top. Serve the herring with new potatoes or just on dark rye bread with sliced boiled eggs. Enjoy!
* It’s not impossible to fillet the fish yourself but you need some practice. This is one way: Cut off the head and tail. Open up the stomach with a small knife (or even your fingers) to take out the innards. Make it as clean as possible. Now comes the tricky part where you use your thumbs to loosen the backbones by pressing your thumb under it. When it starts to loosen grab the top of the backbone and pull it off. You now have both fillets connected together. Remove the fins with a scissor and rinse the fillet in cold water. You will get a hang of it after some practice. If you think this is too messy, just ask your fishmonger to do it for you.
** If you only find 5% white vinegar you should use a little less water.