How to Make Schmaltz Herring

Start to Finish: 20 minutes

Servings: 9 to 12

Difficulty Level: Beginner

Schmaltz herring is a mature herring caught when it has a high concentration of fat. It is then cured by pickling before it's eaten. It has an acquired taste and smell that is enjoyed in Jewish and Scandinavian cuisine. Curing herring is a two-step process that begins with salt; you can buy salted herring fillets from a local butcher. This recipe is adapted from's DIY Pickled Herring.


  • 2 pounds salt herring fillets (skin intact) 
  • 2 cups water (for soaking) 
  • 3⁄4 cup additional water  
  • 3⁄4 cup white vinegar  
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seed 
  • 1 tablespoon whole allspice 
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds 
  • 2 whole garlic cloves 
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger 
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar  
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced 
  • 1 bay leaf  
  • 1 sprig fresh dill 


Soak the salted herring fillets in a bowl of water, then put them in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Drain the herring in a colander and rinse; pat them dry with paper towels.

In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the water, vinegar, mustard, allspice, coriander, garlic, ginger and sugar. Heat the mixture over a burner set to medium-high and stir frequently; bring to a boil, then remove the saucepan from the stove and let it cool.

Place the fish, onion, bay leaf and dill in a nonreactive container. Pour the cooled liquid over the fish and cover it. Refrigerate the fish for 48 hours and cut the fish crosswise into 2-inch pieces before serving.

Serving Suggestions

Pickled herring is eaten on special occasions, such as Shabbat meals on Jewish Shabbat, or Sabbath, days. It can be served with potato salad with sour cream, cheese and rye bread or as a side dish with rice. You can enjoy pickled herring with beer or boiled potatoes with butter.