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Norwegian Style Herring – Pickled for the Holidays

Courtesy of a certain Canadian and Dane living in Oslo; Norway has become a country that I’ve had the pleasure of visiting many times over the past 20 years, or so

Dreaming of the Fjords

Dreaming of the Fjords

With friends, family and alone, I have hiked its Hardanger Jokulen glacier, where George Lucas filmed the cold bits of Star Wars (The Empire Strikes Back), sailed down the enormous Sognefjord and even white water rafted down the glacial melt of its icy peaks in a rubber boat and dry suit!

However, Norway is not just about these great outdoor diversions, as there is one thing that I look forward to on my visits, especially in the Winter Holiday season, when this dish becomes even more popular. That is, munching on their fantastic variety of sweet pickled herring (‘Sild’ in the native tongue) as part of a traditional Scandinavian breakfast

Herring caught by Captain Lofstad of Pura Vida Fisheries, Hampton Bay NY

Herring caught by Captain Lofstad of Pura Vida Fisheries, Hampton Bays NY

Living here in the US, it’s not so easy to get hold of ready made jars of Norwegian pickled herring, so, when the guy from Pura Vida Fisheries at my local Farmer’s Market told me that he had some herring , I thought I might have a go at recreating the dish for myself.  After some research into various traditional Norwegian recipes, I tried this one derived from those used by Norwegian immigrants to America’s own Scandi belt in Minnesota!

The Ingredients lined up

The Ingredients lined up


  • 1 lb fresh herring fillets (around a dozen fillets)
  • 3/4 of a medium sweet onion (sliced)
  • 5 cup white vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
  • 5 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp peppercorns
  • 5-2 tbsp allspice berries
  • 1 tbsp whole cloves
  • 6-8 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp mustard seed
  • 1 tbsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tbsp anise seed
  • Sea Salt


The stages of pickling herrring

The stages of pickling herrring

  • Soak the herring in a a solution of 2 cups of water and 1 and 3/4oz of sea salt for 3 hours then drain
  • Slice the herring horizontally into approximate 1-2 inch pieces
  • Boil the vinegar with all the spices and bay leaves and leave to cool
  • Mix the herring, onions and the vinegar spice mix in a large bowl
  • Pour all the ingredients into a Kilner type
    Into the pickling jar

    Into the pickling jar

    sealed jar, top up with extra vinegar if needed

  • Seal the jar, place in the fridge for 5 days and that’s it – really easy!
  • On the 6th day, open the jar and serve your herring on some dark rye, or crispbread with your breakfast, brunch or lunch


Fantastic, spice imbued pickled fish, with the taste of the Fjords – Pickled perfection!


    • simsalb

      Me too! I’ve visited Norway countless times, hiked its mountains and glaciers, sailed down the fjords and gourmet sampled around the farmer’s markets at Mathallan in Oslo!


      • Bruce Webber

        I have just returned to Perth (Australia), where I learned of these norwegian pickled herrings from the american proprietor of a restaurant in Sanur (Bali). They are his favourite seafood but cannot of course, buy any in that country. I intend making them for him when next there however, will need to use australian herring fillets which I will catch fresh, vacuum pack and freeze for the short trip over.
        This recipe reads exactly as he describes and I know he will be delighted. Thankyou.
        If you wish to try my own variant of pickled fish and which is thoroughly addictive, try the following.
        Skip the sugar altogether and substitute sweet spiced malt vinegar, combined with a small jar (250 gm) of fruit chutney.
        Thanks again.


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