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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Hareng. Herring on French Menus. The Humble Herring in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

A school of herring. 
Hareng – Herring; the fish. Herring on French Menus.
The two herrings that may be on French menus are the Baltic Herring and the Atlantic Herring.  They are, in fact, the same specie’s but from different seas. They fight for your Euro and their place on French menus.  In French fish markets, you will see that the herring caught in the Baltic Sea are smaller than those found in the Atlantic and according to the herring mavens are tastier.  Fish, after all, are flavored by what they eat. (For the differences between the word menu in English and French click here).
The Baltic herring tops the French popularity stakes
Hareng Baltique au Vin Blanc - Herring from the Baltic Sea marinated in white wine. This is a traditional and favorite French recipe.   Accompanying the herring will be sliced, lightly marinated onions. When the Baltic herring is being served its provenance will be noted on the menu.  The marinades for this herring dish  is simply made. The recipes may vary slightly, but all begin with fresh fileted Baltic herring, white wine, wine vinegar, bay leaves, pepper, coriander, parsley and sliced onions. After the herrings and onions have been left in the marinade, in a refrigerator, for 8 - 10 hours they will be ready to serve. (For more about vinegar in French cuisine click here, for more about pepper in French cuisine click here)
Pickled herring and salad.
Other herrings on French menus:
Hareng Bismarck – Bismarck Herrings.
Bismarck herring filets are lightly marinated in vinegar, sugar, salt and onions and herbs that the chef decides upon.  Bismarck herring filets and their mode of preparation predate the German Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck.  In fact, they predate the chancellor by many hundreds of years. However, since they were part of Bismarck's renowned substantial breakfast, the herring was renamed in his honor.

Herring Fishing in the 1920's.
Copyright free photograph image from page 536 of "Larousse universel en 2 volumes; nouveau dictionnaire encyclopédique publié sous la direction de Claude Augé" (1922)
Bismarck was the Chancellor of the German Empire and is not well remembered by the French.  Bismarck’s political maneuvering drew Napoleon III into a war that France could never win; that was the disastrous Franco-Prussian war.  The war resulted in the occupation of Paris, the Paris Commune, Napoleon III's abdication and exile in England and much more. (For more about Napoleon III and margarine click here and for more about the Napoleon Family's connection to the FBI click here).
Hareng Bouffi  or Hareng Craquelot –– A bloater
Bloaters are large, fatty, whole, herrings, brine-soaked and then cold-smoked whole for less than twenty-four hours. A hareng bouffi may sometimes be confused in a French menu’s English translation, with the British kipper.  That happens despite their different recipes and their looks being decidedly different.   A bloater is the whole fish, salted and smoked with its innards intact. A kipper is split open and cleaned, slightly salted, and then cold smoked for about three days.

To remove any more confusion there is also a small North American freshwater fish called the herring bloater.  This is a little fish, up to 20 cms in length, and it is not from the herring family.
Hareng Fumé  - Smoked herring,
Smoked herring is very popular in France. The name covers a broad range of recipes.  In restaurants, most, but not all, of these herrings will be prepared by the chef, and then hot smoked; hot smoking cooks the fish.  After hot-smoking the herring may be served hot or cold. For cold-smoked herrings and other cold-smoked products that requires a smoke-house. There are chefs who like the control and creativity along with the varied tastes that a smokehouse provides.   These chefs produce their own cold smoked herrings, smoked salmon, smoked sausages and more.  Apart from those chefs who enjoy the hard work involved in cold-smoking in most restaurants the cold smoked products will have been bought in. 
Herrings smoking.
Hareng Fumé en Salade et ses Pommes de Terre Tièdes  - Smoked herring served in a salad with warm boiled potatoes.
Tartare de Hareng Fume – Smoked herring tartar  will be on many menus, even though the original Tartars, the Golden Hordes certainly never rode with fish under their saddles. (For more about Tartare on French menus click here).
Hareng Fumé Pomme Vapeur – Smoked Herring served with steamed potatoes.
Filets de Harengs Fumés et ses Pommes Chaudes à l'Huile – Smoked herrings served with hot sliced potatoes served with a vinaigrette dressing. (For more about vinegar and  vinaigrette dressing in France click here.)
Hareng Kippers – Kippers or kippered Herrings
Kippers are the famous and traditional cold-smoked herring from the UK. Kippers originated in Scotland and I have only once seen kippers on a French breakfast menu. Do not expect that these fish regularly swim across the Channel to French restaurants.   If you really do want kippers its best to take the train or plane to Scotland. A kippered herring is traditionally part of a full English, Irish or Scottish breakfast. Kippered herrings will have been split open, lightly salted and then cold smoked. The name kipper is assumed to derive from the copper coloring of a well-smoked kipper. However, that coloring agent is now banned and British kippers will be colored in shades from light red to brown. (For more about the English kitchen and the French connection click here).
Hareng Matjes – Matjes Herrings.
Matjes Herrings are skinned and fileted before being cured in a salt-sugar-wine vinegar marinade. The real Matjes herrings are made with fat young herrings that have not yet spawned.  Matjes are an original Dutch creation and the name gives away those origins.  Depending on the marinade the final color of the herring may be white or red to brown. Unfortunately, most supermarket Matjes herrings are rarely the young herrings required. In a good fish restaurant, ask a few questions and you may be in for a treat if the chef cures his or her own Matjes herrings.

Matjes herring with potato pancakes.
Dutch herring masters know their fish and they do not take second place to anyone.  When given the opportunity try Matjes Herring on its home ground. Over the years, the recipe has changed and now even Dutch Matjes Herrings have wine in the marinade.
Hareng Pec
Hareng Pec is a unique French Herring. It is a relatively dry, but, freshly salted young herring. These herrings have been popular in France since at least the 15th century.  Then the poet Chapelle, (Claude-Emmanuel Luillier 1626-1686) wrote a poem in their honor. Today, sometime, Saur herrings may be on the menu as Pec; they are similar but far from being the same. A pec herring is not smoked.
Hareng Saur - Saur herring
Saur herrings are salt cured for two or three weeks and then desalted.  At the end of the desalting process, the herring is then cold-smoked for three days. This recipe has changed little in the last 600 -700 years. Nevertheless, along the way the origin of this herring's name was lost. Some claim that the word saur refers to its reddish-brown color. Others believe that the name saur comes from the initial pickling. Then others point out that saur may be used in the same manner that sauerkraut is used in German for pickled cabbage. Saur means pickled in German and I accept this as the probable origin of the name saur.
Hareng Schmaltz - Schmaltz herrings
 Schmaltz herrings are salt cured and then rinsed to remove most of the salt before being served. This herring was a staple food in Eastern Europe.  The word schmaltz means fat both in old German and in Yiddish.  The herrings used are full-grown herrings that are fatter than younger herrings.  In France’s best Charcuterie –Traiteurs, her incredible delis, you will be will find genuine schmaltz herring.  (For more about Charcuterie-Traiteurs in France click here)

Hareng Rollmops
Rollmops are large filets of herring; usually large Bismarck herring filets wrapped around a pickle and kept rolled with a toothpick.

Rollmops and smoked salmon.
Œufs de Hareng – Herring roe.
Herring roe is a delicacy in France and prepared with many different recipes including marinating and smoking.
Harenguet (See the appendix Fish: Sprat).
There are three genuine members of the herring family throughout the world. Other fish do have connections to the herring, just as trout and salmon have a distant relationship.  In Europe, the herring on your menu will be the Atlantic herring, with a variety of sizes and tastes, including the Baltic herring.  In North America, there are the Atlantic and the Pacific herring. In South America there are the Pacific herring and the Araucanian herring.  Most herrings are small fish weighing in under than 500 grams (18 ounces) and the smallest herrings, under 80 grams (3 ounces) and will be sold as sardines. The larger fish will be on French menu listings like those in this article. However, herring may also be baked or fried apart from smoking and marinating.  Many traditional herring recipes go back hundreds of years. (For more about fresh sardines on French menus click here).
Sardine herrings
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Bryan G. Newman
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