Where winter is cold and there is lots of snow, one might expect Christmas Eve dinner to be served hot but the older tradtion was that the hot meal was served at noon and the evening meal was one of bread and cheese, smoked meat and on special occasions, herring salad.
Some recipes for herring salad added potatoes and others celery and still others capers. Each family will have a slightly different recipe so don’t get attached, there is no right or wrong but pickled herring, pickled beets, pickles, apples and hard boiled eggs are pretty much the staples as this sweet and sour salad would have been made from ingredients preserved earlier in the year or able to be left in cold storage.
If herring salad is a new idea to you, try thinking about it as a northern version of antipasto, sour, sweet, fish and lots of chopping.
You will need:
1 1/2 jars pickled herring
1 1/2 jars pickled beets
9 hard cooked eggs
6 – 8 whole dill pickles
6 slices thick cut smoked turkey
1 cupish mayonnaise
2/3 cup sugar
Open your heart to the compassionate spirits as hands are washed and aprons found. Bring your thoughts into the present moment and gather any family members that might want to learn your traditions. There is a lot of chopping and an excellent opportunity to share memories and family history. “In my kitchen filled with care, I welcome, Earth, Fire, Water, Air.”
Before you get started this would be a good time to say. This makes A LOT of herring salad and if you are the community source, it all gets dispersed over the next week. If you are making it just for your family, dividing the ingredients by three or even four will probably be in order.
The plan is to cut everything into bite size pieces so clear some space at a table and gather a cutting board and sharp knife. Drain the herring and beets, retaining the liquids, which will need to be added back to the left over ingredients for proper storing.
We use smoked turkey but smoked ham would probably be other people’s first choice.
Have it cut thick at the deli, at least 1/4 inch.
The herring comes in a 750ml (24 oz. ) jar and is pickled in white wine and vinegar.
In the jar with the herring are white onions and they can also be added to the salad.
The pickled beets also come in a 750ml (24 oz.) jar. It is possible to purchase slices or bits and pieces. I usually get the bits and pieces as it is all going to be diced.
There is absolutely no reason not to use your home made pickled beets in this recipe. That is after all how it would have been prepared in years past.
Generally I use ones without garlic but as always it is a personal choice.
The beets and pickles are usually the smallest dice in the mix of ingredients and I should add that dicing the beets a few days in advance or with gloves will help your nails and cuticles get back into condition by Yule.
The eggs are hard boiled and peeled.
It is also possible to dice these by hand but I could never get the eggs as finely cut.
I imagine that the original recipe probably called for pickled eggs as there would not have been fresh eggs available.
The last ingredient are the diced apples.
Peel, core and chop into bite sized pieces.
I used Gala or Fuji but really any sweet apple will do. I would not go for something sour as there is enough in the mix already.
Toss the ingredients together and add mayonnaise to combine. For this amount of salad at least a cup will be needed. Taste and finish with sugar for that sweet and sour mix.
The first time I was involved in making this recipe, I questioned the sugar but apparently it has been handed down from generation to generation. Sugar would have been an expensive, not easy to find ingredient, so honey might have been an earlier option. Some households like to let the salad sit a day or seven. Others say it must be eaten right away. As I mentioned above, no wrong or right, just as Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof would say, “Tradition“!
Serve with slices of dark rye dread.
Herring Salad from My Kitchen Wand