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
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