Jone Lewis' Scandinavian Cooking Scandinavian cuisine: recipes, tips and articles
Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic
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Herring: Favorite Scandinavian Staple

Herring is one of the most recognizable staples of Scandinavian cookery. Pickled herring may be among the most familiar Swedish foods to Americans, but herring can be prepared in other ways, too. Herring has a prominent place on the smörgåsbord, on open-faced sandwiches, marinated and in salads, and in cold and hot dishes.

Herring has been a staple food in Scandinavian since ancient times. Herring bones are found in food middens uncovered by archeologists studying Neolithic settlements. Herring has been found in abundance in the waters surrounding Scandinavia: Norwegian herring off the coast of Norway in the Norwegian Sea, smaller Baltic herring off the southeast Swedish coastline, in the Baltic Sea, the larger Icelandic herring off the coast of Iceland.

Herring, like many other traditional Scandinavian foods, was preserved either by salting, smoking, or marinating. Preserving foods is essential in a climate where the winter is not only cold but dark, making fishing, farming and hunting difficult. Two to three ounces of salted herring provides enough daily protein for an average person to survive through winters, sieges, food scarcity, and other tough times.

A favorite Swedish comfort food with herring is sillgratin, in English called herring au gratin, herring and potato casserole, or baked herring and potatoes. It's not only a dish you'll want on a smörgåsbord but it's great for a dinner, midnight supper, or an impressive and unusual contribution to a potluck.

It's relatively simple to make, with just a few ingredients. I've noted substitutions you may have to make if you're unable to find salt herring. Feel free to vary the proportions to match the ingredients you have on hand. I've also included some variations.


Some other herring dishes:

 

 


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