Meet The Herring! A Glossary Of Herring Varieties

pickled herring

So, what is herring anyway? Yes, most people know that herring is a fish, but many don’t get further than that. Some may go on to describe herring as a small fish. This is also correct. As a close relative of the sardine and the shad, herring is indeed a smaller fish. Herring might have the reputation of being a “fish” like any other, but we would argue that it achieves a bold and assertive flavor profile when it is pickled.

It’s fascinating that people don’t know more about this small but mighty fish, so we’re here to arm you with all that there is to know about the hardy herring! Who knows, maybe this will motivate you to venture out of your comfort zone and try it, if you haven’t already. Trust us, you won’t be disappointed!

Herring is an inexpensive source of protein and is packed with vitamins and minerals. What’s more, herring can last several months when kept under refrigeration when pickled. Here are a few of the most well-known preparations for herring.


Pickled herring makes an excellent finger food, but its culinary uses are nearly endless. One of the most popular ways to prepare pickled herring is chopped herring salad. Chopped herring salad is composed of chopped pickled herring mixed with diced onions and mashed apples. The apple variety to use for chopped herring salad, according to classic New York City appetizing tradition, is the Granny Smith. Pickled herring often referred to as “herring in wine sauce”.


Pickled Herring



Herring in sour cream, otherwise known as herring in cream sauce, is another among the most prominent classic sauced herring varieties. A likely reason for the popularity of this simple herring recipe is the way that the cool sour cream mixes so smoothly with the salty, tangy pickled herring. This makes it perfect for pairing with toasted rye bread or a pumpernickel bagel.


Acme Herring in Cream



(Pronounced like “matches”, with a strong “ma”) Matjes means “maiden” in Dutch. When applied to herring, matjes originally referred to young herring that were harvested before spawning season. Before the spawn herring are especially fat and nutrient dense, which made this catch particularly sought after. The typical preparation for this herring was to pickle them in a brine that contained brown sugar, beets, cloves, and other spices. Now matjes herring is made with herring harvested in all seasons, but the preparation has stuck. In the Netherlands matjes herring is a typical street food where it is sold from pushcarts, served on a hot dog bun with chopped hardboiled egg and chives.


Matjes pickled Herring



For herring in dill sauce, chopped dill is mixed into the wine sauce used for plain pickled herring to add a mild herbal quality.


pickled Herring in Dill sauce



After pickling, herring is sauced with a lightly spiced whole-grain mustard.


pickled Herring in Mustard Sauce



Salt cured herring is varied in its culinary applications, but most would say that it ought to be rinsed of its natural preservative to temper its flavor before frying, sautéing, or simply noshing on as an accompaniment to vodka, aquavit, or schnapps.


Thin strips of pickled ginger are added to herring in wine sauce to create a slightly peppery, sweet, and complex herring flavor.


pickled Herring in ginger



Kippered herring are salt cured in a wet brine and then smoked. This makes for a delicious preparation when poached in milk or heavy cream and served with eggs cooked over easy or sunny-side-up.


Rollmops are pickled herring fillets wrapped around a pickle spear or gherkin.


pickled Herring Rollmops



Schmaltz herring is rich. This term once referred to the fattiest herring harvested, but now refers to herring preserved in oil. Fried herring is usually made from schmaltz herring dredged in flour and matzoh meal, and then sautéed with butter in a skillet over medium heat until golden brown.

The above-mentioned herring preparations are diverse, and can be used in a variety of recipes. Depending on the sauce, pickled herring can be spicy, sweet, creamy, tart, sour, or taste of dry or sugary wine. For your bread-and-butter variety of pickled herring, which we refer to as herring in wine, a simple and old-fashioned pickling is imparted. At Acme, we use a precise combination of vinegar, chopped onions, sugar, spices, and water to keep the flavor simple, consistent, and delicious. If you have never tried herring before, we suggest you give it a shot! You might just find yourself with a new and nutritious way to add more fish to your diet.


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