The herring is an oily silverfish high in omega 3 oil. Grilled, smoked (as kippers) or baked, they are very good for you!
They are pelagic fish, always on the move, and tend to show seasonally around the UK south coast between February and June for a spring run and again in autumn between September and December.
Herring are also a major food source for predators. Recently, the sight of a dolphin pod working a shoal to the surface was a real treat.
When fishing for mackerel with feathers or lures, herring often caught unintentionally.
Commercially fished for over two thousand years, fishing fleets followed the huge shoals around the UK coast and were a mainstay of the coastal communities.
Oily fish deteriorate very quickly so salting and storing in barrels preserved them.
Massively overfished at various times in the past, herrings have a great capacity to recover their numbers rapidly.
The vast majority of UK caught herring is exported to Europe and Scandinavia.
Q. Why a kipper?
A. Caught during spawning season, male salmon known as kippers, butterflied and hot smoked give their name to herring smoked the same way. Left whole and cold-smoked, they are bloaters.
Pickled herring fillets wrapped around a savory filling, rollmops are a Scandinavian delicacy.
The name rollmops is German in origin. It is a combination of “rollen” meaning to roll, and “mops” being a fat young boy.
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Recipe – Cider Vinegar and Orange Rollmops
While you can buy ready made rollmops, try making your own with this recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
Cider Vinegar and Orange Rollmops
- 6 fresh herrings descaled, gutted and filleted
For the Brine:
- 60 g salt
For the marinade:
- 500 ml cider vinegar
- 250 ml cider
- 12 allspice berries
- 12 black peppercorns
- 6 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp light brown sugar
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- Zest of 1 large orange pared into wide strips with no white pith
- 1 small onion red or white, very thinly sliced
- Check the herring fillets for any pin bones and remove as necessary. Dissolve the salt in 500ml cold water to make a brine, then add the fillets. Leave for two to three hours.
- Meanwhile, make the marinade. Put all the ingredients in a saucepan, bring slowly to a boil and simmer for a minute. Set aside to cool.
- Drain the herring fillets from the brine and pat them dry with kitchen paper. Roll them up, skin side out, from tail end to head end, and pack the rolls into three sterilised 500ml preserving jars. Pour the marinade over the herrings, making sure you get some of the spices and zest in each jar, then seal.
- Store in the fridge for at least three days before eating. They’re best eaten five to 10 days from jarring, but will keep for up to a month. The longer you leave them, the softer and more pickled they’ll get.
Recipe – Fried Herring Fillets with a Lime Pepper Crust
Simple and quick, these fried herring fillets from Delia make a great lunch.
Fried Herring Fillets with a Lime Pepper Crust
- 2 herring fillets 175-200 g each
- 2 limes
- 1 tsp whole mixed peppercorns
- 1 dessert spoon plain flour
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- sea salt
- First of all crush the peppercorns with a pestle and mortar – not too fine, so they still have some texture.
- Then grate the zest of the limes and add half of it to the peppercorns, then add the flour. Mix them all together and spread the mixture out on a flat plate. Wipe the herrings dry with kitchen paper and coat the flesh side with the flour-pepper mixture. Press the fish well in to give it a good coating – anything left on the plate can be used to dust the skin side lightly.
- Now in your largest frying pan, heat the oil until it is very hot and fry the herrings flesh-side down for about 2-3 minutes. Have a peek by lifting up the edge with a fish slice – it should be golden. Then turn the fish over on to the other side and give it another 2 minutes, and drain on crumpled silicone paper (baking parchment) before serving. Serve sprinkled with crushed salt, the rest of the lime zest and the limes cut into quarters to squeeze over.
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Please observe minimum size limits when fishing.
Use a measure like this one from Tronixpro.