In Finland this delicacy is know as “lasimestarin silli”, direct translation being “glass master’s herring”. It is herring preserved in sugar and vinegar based liquid, and spiced with onions, carrots, horseradish and peppers. Pickled herring is enjoyed throughout the year, but especially during Christmas time.
I’ve always loved pickled herring, especially ABBA kes?silli (summer herring) with new season potatoes. Many restaurants offer various, self made spiced and pickled herrings in their lunch buffets, but way too often I’ve found them to be slimy rather than delicious.
A week ago my mum gave me a small jar of self made lasimestarin silli for a pre-xmas present. I was really surprised, since as long as I can remember, she has bought all herring products from stores. When I opened the jar and carefully tasted the herring, I was astonished as it was super delicious. Today I called her and asked for the recipe. She had found it in Pirkka magazine, and told me that my grandmother used to make this herring each Christmas, but because mom didn’t like it when she was young, she didn’t carry on the tradition.
“Better late than never” I thought earlier today and headed to a grocery store to buy some herring fillets. Luckily I have been saving some used glass jars which made this ex tempore preserving session that much easier. You can use either whole fresh or salted herrings, but those have a ton of bones to be removed, or be a wimp like me and buy boneless, skinned fillets. Many herrings are very heavily salted and must be soaked before use.
The following recipe is based on the substitutions used by my mom, the biggest differences to the original recipe being the use of pre-spiced herring fillets and substituting white peppers for black peppers. I made a big batch – 1.5 kg of herring (almost 4 lbs) as I’m planning to give them away as little xmas presents. I’m going to Tallinn tomorrow with S where I’ll also meet Nami-Nami’s lovely Pille, and she was going to get one jar also until I remembered her hatred towards herrings :)
Glass Master’s Herring
Yields one big jar or two smaller ones
500 grams (1 lbs) herring fillets
3 red onions, thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2.5 cm (1″) horseradish, peeled and thinly sliced
a few dozen black peppers
1 dl (0.5 cups) sugar
1 dl (0.5 cups) white vinegar
2 dl (1 cup) water
optionally sodium benzoate and benzoic acid (E210 & E211) as preservatives
Mix sugar, vinegar and water and bring to boil. Let cool.
Boil the jars and lids to clean them thoroughly, or bake in 125°C (260°F) oven for 15+ minutes.
Peel onions, carrots and horseradish and slice them very thin. Rinse the herring fillets with running water and pat dry with tissue. Cut them in 2 cm slices (slightly less than 1″).
Fill the jars with the ingredients in layers, adding a few laurel leaves and a small handful of black peppers per jar. Top up with chilled sugar-vinegar solution. Mix the preservative (such as Atamon) in the liquid if you opt to use preservatives.
Shake the jars to remove any air bubbles. Store in a fridge.