It's Sledzie (Pickled Herring) Time !
After marrying into a family that is a quarter Polish, I've been introduced to Sledzie (Pickled Herring) as a special Christmas Eve dinner side dish. For the uninitiated, it may sound weird (pickled fish), but believe me, millions of Eastern Europeans and Scandinavians have something special here.
Although Pickled Herring is available in many delis, my 91 year old uncle in law has been making the highly demanded family Sledzie for decades. As his 10 year apprentice, I have picked up the mantle and will be leading this years Sledzie making party. This usually includes lots of political discussions, a couple of bottles of red wine, and a surprise visitor or two looking to take a jar home...
Here is his recipe for 60 fish (about 5" long):
Soak salted herring (bought cleaned and head off) overnight, changing water three times.
Drain fish in the morning, cut off fins, peel off skin, and then fillet the fish.
Remove any large bones (small bones will dissolve), and cut fillets into 3 pieces (~ 1.5" long).
Peel and cut 1/8" slices of yellow onion with a mandoline (you need about the same amount of onion as fish).
Place layer of onion in a sterilized 500ml jar, place 6-7 fillet pieces in jar, pack down, repeat until jar is full (ending with onions on top layer). You should end up with about the same amount of onion as fish.
In a stainless steel pot, heat 4.5 cups white vinegar, 1.5 cups water, 1.5 cups sugar, and 3 Tbsps of Pickling Spice tied up in a cheese cloth. Stir and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove spice bag and liquid let cool.
Using a small measuring cup, slowly pour liquid into jars until liquid is 1/4" below rim.
Wipe rims and seal with lids.
Store in cool place for 7-10 days before eating.
Makes twelve 500ml (1 US pint) jars.
Should have added that this Sledzie is great eaten as is (my preferred way) but also excellent mixed with sour cream and dill. A Scandinavian version is to mix in Swedish style mustard (whole grain Dijon will work) - really quite good.
Most like the onions as much as the fish !! That's why a 50/50 ratio seems to work.
I have one of my Uncle's homemade smokers (he made 4 of them !!), his Kielbasa recipe and the same ingredients, AND I've made Kielbasa with him many many times, but I cannot make Kielbasa near as good as him. Guess I must keep trying !