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Apr 17, 2009 12:04 PM

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 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 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 ( 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