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Matjes Herring Recipe?

When I was a kid, my parents often bought herring from the food market. In those days (when lox was sliced off the whole side and "packed in oil" was frowned upon), there would be 4 types of herring available...and this was at the deli counter, not in a jar: Picked Herring in Wine Sauce (whole, unboned), Pickled Herring in Creme Sauce (whole, unboned), Herring in Wine Sauce (boneless pieces such as is available, now, everywhere, in jars) and Matjes Herring.

The only thing I would eat was the boneless stuff (because the bones grossed me out) and the accompanying onions...

Now, I have a hankering for the Matjes Herring. I can't find the herring in any store (though they might have it at Castle's Jewish Deli, some ways off) and I can't find a recipe for making it...although I see recipes for using it as an ingredient to make something else and I have found a number of recipes for Herring in Wine Sauce. The latter is easy to make and the cheapest fish around here, plain ole' boneless whiting fillets work very well. (There is no local source for raw herring or salt herring that I can find here.!

What I am talking about is herring that was quite pink or reddish, pickled and fairly sweet and, I guess, called "Matjes Herring, Jewish Style".

I am guessing that this herring could be just Herring in Wine Sauce using wine vinegar and extra sugar, but I suspect there are some spices in Matjes Herring that are not in the normal Pickled Herring recipe.

Can anyone provide, or direct me to, an authentic recipe for Matjes herring?

(I am the type of person that gets off making things that are often purchased pre-prepared...like pickles, grav-lox, worchestershire sauce and even cured meats: You wouldn't believe how quick, inexpensive and simple it is to corn your own beef...and how good it is.)

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  1. Greetings, olen1009. Did you ever find a recipe for Matjes? I'd love to see it if you did.
    I have been searching for years. I did find out that a key ingredient is wormwood, at least it is in the Finnish versions, The store bought stuff is not bad, but i don't like the potassium sorbate in it. Thanks, Larry (Matjes)

    2 Replies
    1. re: matjes

      Try going to Abba.com in Sweden and or google true swedish recipies. If I am not mistaken Matjes refers to the type, size or age of the herring.

      1. re: wineman3

        I have an English language Swedish cookbook which says matjes comes from the Dutch and means maiden. It refers to herring caught just before they reach sexual maturity. At that stage of development they are plumper,richer in fat and milder in taste.

        The book describes 13 varieties of herring that may show up on smorgasbords but gives only 12 recipes - there is no recipe spelled out for matjes, just that they are cured with sugar and salt, may be be served undrained, and are always consumed with boiled potatoes (in the skins), sour cream and chives.

        Thus in Sweden at least the term denotes the type of fish used, not a special recipe. I guess the term might mean something else in other cuisines.

        Ikea sells matjes herring in their food store:


        I was thinking I'd tried all the varieties of herring at Ikea but I don't remember that one. I'll have to try it.

    2. Any luck finding that recipe? I too have fond memories and current cravings for that sweet
      briny treat...but $6.00 for a tiny little jar...

      Please let us know.

      1. You mentioned "local source for … salt herring that I can find here". I don't know where "here" is, but Nordic Delicacies in Brooklyn (nordicdeli.com) sells old-fashioned salt herring, which is stored in vacuum-sealed plastic containers their refrigerator. They also sell the Swedish ABBA brand in cans, which I prefer (since it is less sweet) to the more widely available Finnish Skansen.

        1. Here's a link to something that purport to be Matjjes herring starting with salt fillets.


          1 Reply
          1. re: malabargold

            It looks delicious, but the matjes I am thinking of is prepared from raw herring and a portion of their lower innards are left in during the curing process, hence the somewhat glandular flavor of the finished product.

          2. This link has a recipe that starts with fresh herring

            1. Hello olen

              I developed a taste for matjes herring from my maternal grandfather from Sweden. The very best ( well expensive) matjes herring came in small flat tins...that required constant refrigeration. He prefered that version to eat with boiled eggs for breakfast and only on a very festive occasion: This was to bring good luck before going fishing. That and the oblgatory beef tongue sandwiches he'd have packed in wax paper we brought with us.
              good luck

              To this day i know of no other canned item that requires constant refrigeration other than "Cougar Cheese" produced by the Ag dept of WA State Univ. Pullman WA. Obviously these foods are not processed in a canning retort.

              Matjes the word refers to the age of the herring that has thus retained all its aquired body fat stored before the spawning season. It is valued for its fat content and tenderness.

              There are several ways to prepare it. It can be baked into custardy potatoes au gratin. Or poached and served with buttery scrambled eggs. Its just a fish.

              There are no shortages of Sugar, White Vinegar, Whitewine, Onion, black pepper corn, maybe an allspice corn and (fresh)bayleaf receipes.

              I feel the Holy grail of marinaded herring is the redwine version. My framework for a receipe follows below.

              The reddish matjes herring is someting you can make at home and save alot of money than spending $7.99 on a 6 oz. jar or 4oz tin.
              If you are lucky enough to live near a "European" specialty market you may be in luck. The Markets I have been to on both coasts were operated by recent Immegrants from eastern Europe and the Former Soviet republics. Herring is on the menu. In addition to the vinagar/white wine/ onion peppercorn forms you may find "herring" that is refrigerated and packaged in oil. It may say "Jewsih Style" on the package. It is plain unadorned herring. Fresh herring is naturally oily and ok if you can find it. I used to eat it while working on a fshing tenders in Bristol bay / Togiak during the annual April Herring season when I was a kid in my twenties. There the old timers would say, "the salt and sugar cooks it!" Still, I'd prefer fresh flash frozen to -20C below 0.

              Here is what to have on hand the to prepare the Marinade:

              1. Start with a medium priced Ruby Red Port.
              I think here are some bitter / wormwood-like components in Port. I should try Sweet Red Vermouth sometime. The bitter helps bring balance to the fisheyness of the herring. When you taste a little bitter along the way don't lose faith.
              2. A Decent Sugar.. Demera or light brown. White is still good too.
              3. Plain Kashering salt (+ its ground just right for rubbing into meats).
              4. Fresh White peppercorns, a grinder mill or mortar and pestle to grind it.
              5. Fresh ground Mace.
              6. Fresh dillweed.
              7. Small canning jars, lids, rings.

              The mix ratio for the salt and Sugar is 1:2 for every 1 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper and mace.

              Cut up enough herring in your favorite sizes to fill a 6-8 oz wide mouth mason jar.
              Chop up some 3- 4 tablespons of dill.
              For each I put a couple tablespoons of the dry in a sauce pan. I add a 1/2 cup or so of Port. Then correct salt/ sugar and mace to match your memory. There is no set official receipe for saltyness or sweetness. I find that it is very much both :-) It should be sweet, salty and spicey rich that eating a few pieces should be satisfying.

              Gently bring it to a an almost bare simmer then off of the heat. It has a bit more viscosity I'm sure if you taste it now it will reasure you are on the right track.

              Pour a bit of the cooled marinade into a jar then begin to pack it with herring pieces, dill and marinade. I never observed a need to weigh down the fish to keep it submerged though I try to approach that. Let the jars marinade for 5 days befor serving.

              Good luck to all!

              3 Replies
              1. re: IxorKleb

                I am going to go to the newly opened European Market near me to purchase herring to make this

                1. re: jpr54_1

                  Good luck! Let me know how your experiments work out. I should have mentioned: marinade and keep refrigerated.
                  I'm still almost intimidated by the variety of sausages and other items. If you like to bake you may have luck in finding ammonium bicarbonate "hartshorn" for baking those wafer thin cookies. Owners & patrons tend to be from the ex-soviet bloc...subdued, quiet vibe. Where are that you are so lucky to have a Euro-mart these days when Scandinavian shops are disappearing?

                  1. re: IxorKleb

                    I don't think there are any Scandinavian shops here.

                    I live in Hallandale Beach Florida (Broward County)
                    There are several stores here-most are from ex soviet bloc countries-

              2. Hi, I have a recipe! It was passed down from my father through my Oma and so forth,
                So take your Matjes cut it up into 1 inch chunks, then add equal parts plain yogurt for every cup of mixture add I hardboiled egg cut up, 1 half onion, and half of green apple. mix well leave in fridge over night, then enjoy!!

                1 Reply
                1. re: DuetchlandUSA

                  I must try that.
                  Its good with paper thin slices of Lemon too!

                2. Great blog! Hi, I am also trying to track down a recipe for sill lok (or lok sill) a marinated matjes herring with onion where the fish is a reddish (not white) colored fillet. I last tasted it in the UK where it was sold in a jar as an Ikea product in a Manchester Tesco supermarket. The photos attached show the reddish fish and the ingredients mention allspice, vinegar, salt and so called natural spice extracts. Can you or anyone out there help me with a recipe. Jon