Pickled Herring for the “Eves” (a shortcut)

IMG_3377We may be jipped out of a white Christmas in Michigan this year, but the promise of the family rejoined and traditions re-lit has me craving pickled herring. In past years I’ve been lucky enough to receive it––scratch-made––from my Polish neighbor, Krystyna, the week before our family celebrates Christmas and the New Year.

This year she’s left Ann Arbor to spend the holidays with her family in South Carolina. I feel like Tiny Tim without a Christmas goose. Wahhhh!!!  I could have made the trek to Hamtramck (a historically Polish Detroit area community)  and purchased whole herrings (as did Krystyna),  and cleaned and pickled them myself. ‘Fraid not.

Simply wash the wine sauce off from a container of store-bought herring...

Simply wash the wine sauce off from a container of store- bought herring…

Krystyna and I grew up in very different eras and planets; she, Wloclawik, a town in northern Poland, prior to World War II. Myself, Birmingham, Alabama, on the heels of the Civil Rights movement. There were, however, similarities in our upbringings: Both were times of historical  upheaval, and we both enjoyed pickled herring every Christmas Eve.

Krystyna shared with me her no-time-to-fuss  version that

...and make your own herring "mob" with fresh ingredients.

…and make your own herring sauce with fresh ingredients.

I’m sharing with you. I’ve never  cared for the ready-made, grocery store pickled herring, although it will do when I must have a fix. This version, however, I’ve been gobbling (with Carr’s plain crackers) since I made it several days ago. It’s more flavorful with the passage of time and will keep, refrigerated, up to 3 weeks.

In fact, I purchased some more ready-made herring in wine sauce, repeated the simple process, so I’ll have enough for my family on Christmas and New Year’s Eve. It is said eating herring brings good luck if eaten on New Years Eve. So if I eat Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day and Pickled Herring on the Eve, I’ll be hit with a double whammy of luck for 2016. (Can I share it with all of the world’s children? Please?)

Combine, layer with bay leaves and chill several days.

Combine, layer with bay leaves and chill several days.

Here’s a link, including recipes, to an interesting piece that details the Polish, 12-course traditional Christmas Eve feast, which includes herring. If you’ve time to spare, have a go at the scratch-made version.

I’m serving this with cucumbers sliced on a mandolin tossed with sour cream and fresh dill; black bread crostini and Bloody Mary’s substituting aquavit for vodka.

Wishing everyone a holiday season and New Year filled with peace, celebration, and foods that make you feel the love!

Recipe: Pickled Herring; The Easy Way


  • 2 pounds prepared herring in wine sauce
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 3 bay leaves


  1. Place herring in a colander and rinse wine sauce off thoroughly under cold running water. Shake colander to remove excess water.
  2. Pour olive oil into a medium-sized bowl and stir in sliced onion, peppercorns, allspice and washed herring.
  3. Place 1/3 of the herring mixture, including the oil, in the original herring container (cleaned) or a glass jar. Place a bay leaf over the mixture. Continue this process twice.
  4. Refrigerate. This is best eaten, served with dark bread or Carr’s plain crackers, after 3-4 days and is delicious up to 3 weeks.

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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“We must have a pie…

Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.” (David Mamet, Boston Marriage)

IMG_3223But sometimes it can when making your first pie. A home cook worth his or her salt understands the most basic of recipes can sometimes be the trickiest. Take pie crust. If you make the pastry right the first time, it’s probably because you got lucky. Or you had a good coach.

Making an excellent pie crust–– one that is flaky, one that is crispy––is  easy once you get the hang of it. But it may be difficult for first-timers because success is determined by nuance, which also makes it difficult to pen in a recipe.

IMG_3224Lucy is no stranger to pastry nuance. My daughter-in-law and co-owner of Rose’s Fine Food in Detroit lives by two crust credos:

#1 Warmth of any kind is death to pastry dough.  #2 Don’t over knead; your fingers must know when you’re done–when it’s not too wet and not too dry– and to leave the dough alone.

Making perfect pie crust insists upon experience dependent on repetition, touch, and focus. “Don’t fool around and get distracted,” Lucy warns, as I gather stray dishes and place them in the sink, then check my iPhone and stick it into the charger. Got it.   .

IMG_3232The rewards of crust confidence can’t be underestimated, and not only when creating desserts. Imagine chicken pot pie with homemade crust, or a savory paté en croute; imagine biting into one of Michigan’s beloved pasties encased in a homemade pastry. Here’s a fun link I discovered on the Saveur site with some of the most interesting savory pies I’ve seen.

Lucy’s recipe for this Cranberry Pie with Bourbon and Walnuts is made with Westwind flour that is milled in Michigan. This is the flour they use to create some of their most savory concoctions at the diner.

IMG_3225“Freshly milled, organic flour has way more flavor,” Lucy tells me. “It has the whole germ, the wheat wasn’t sprayed with chemicals, and Lee and Linda are great people who deserve supporting.”

“I ate another apple pie and ice cream; that’s practically all I ate all the way across the country. I knew it was nutritious and it was delicious, of course.”(Jack KerouacOn the Road)

Recipe: Pie Crust


  • 1 1/4 cups white unbleached flour, plus additional for rolling out pastry
  • Generous pinch kosher salt
  • 1/4 pound cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch coins
  • About 1/3-3/4 cup ice water


  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Toss the butter into flour and coat. With your fingers or a pastry cutter, work the butter into the flour, until all of the butter pieces are no larger than a pea.
  2. Drizzle 3-4 tablespoons of water over the top and, using a fork, mix the dough until it just holds together when pinched. If the dough is too dry, add additional water by the tablespoon. Loosely combine and knead the dough until it is completely smooth and form into one large, 1-inch-thick disk . (See Lucy’s crust credo above.)
  3. Wrap in wax or plastic paper and refrigerate at least an hour or up to 24 hours. (Could put in the freezer 20 minutes.) Note that if you skip this step the crust will shrink as it bakes.
  4. Make filling (recipe below) while dough is chilling.

Preparation time: 15 active minutes plus 1-24 hours chilling time.

Number of servings (yield): Enough crust for the bottom of  1, deep-dish pie 

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

Recipe: Cranberry Walnut Pie Filling


  • 3 1/2 cups whole fresh cranberries, cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • Zest from 1/2  lemon, Meyers lemon preferred
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 3 cups chopped walnuts
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter plus extra for buttering pie pan
  • 2 tablespoons rye whiskey or bourbon
  • Rosemary sprig (optional)


  1. Toss cranberries in sugar and macerate at least an hour and up to 4 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Whisk eggs and sugars together. Whisk in syrup, zest, vanilla, corn starch, walnuts, melted butter and whiskey. Reserve.
  4. Butter one deep-dish pie pan.
  5. Remove dough from refrigerator and on a floured work surface, roll out dough, outward from the center, as thin as possible without tearing crust. Rotate the dough when rolling adding flour to your work surface when needed to prevent the dough from sticking. If you get a small hole, pinch pastry together. (Note that if the dough is too firm to roll, let it rest at room temperature for a few minutes or give it a couple of whacks with a rolling pin.) Place pastry in pie pan, gently easing into the corners and up the sides, and crimp edges.
  6. Pour cranberry mixture into pan. Place pan on parchment-lined sheet pan to avoid messy oven spills.
  7. Bake on center rack of oven 30-45 minutes or until toothpick pricked into the center of pie comes out clean. Pie should be golden brown; don’t allow crust to burn. (Pie will set up when cool.) Garnish with a rosemary sprig, if using.

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.


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Thanksgiving Day Count-down


Happy Thanksgiving!

My favorite time of the year is right now, this very week. If you’re into cooking (which I suspect most readers are) you are likely in Thanksgiving mode, too. I’m predictable at this time of the year. In a digital world of constant change, at least my Thanksgiving menu  remains constant.

For a sample of my family’s favorite recipes, check out my Holiday Cookbook, which you will find by clicking the Gold Holiday Ball icon to the right of this copy. “Super-Simple” recipes and a menu slide show are also included in each category. 

Please take advantage of the “print recipe only” option for individual recipes and the “find your favorite recipe” pull-down menus for searching site-wide. These features (and the absence of spam and holiday ads) are blessings.

Those of you celebrating Thanksgiving this week, have a wonderful time with the friends, family (and pets!) you love. 

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