Pickled Herring with New Potatoes

I should have included this recipe among my personal favorites and memories. In 1975, while in Germany for my brother’s wedding, we went, after days of feasting, to a local restaurant to recover. They brought to the table an earthenware crock of herring in sour cream. It was nothing like the usual dried-out, astringent herring, but was simultaneously soft and firm. The cream was fresh and velvety. With the herring came a bowl of hot boiled Northern European potatoes, which are a dream, and draft Pilsner Urquell beer (the best beer I have ever tasted) and frozen (for a week, at least) schnapps. We drank shots of schnapps, then quickly ate some cold, creamy herring and hot potatoes covered in butter. With that same meal, a loaf of rye bread. Heaven on earth.


  • 12 fresh herrings
  • 1 pint white wine vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled, sliced
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 2 allspice berries, crushed
  • 10 peppercorns, crushed
  • 1 small lemon, sliced
  • 3 cups sour cream
  • 20 new potatoes
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • freshly ground pepper


Fillet the herrings. Make the marinade as follows: Bring the vinegar, water, and salt to a boil. Turn the heat off and add the onion, celery, carrot, herbs, spices, and lemon. Let cool. Put the herring in an earthenware crock or glass container and pour in the marinade. Refrigerate for 1 week.

Take the herring out of the marinade and drain on paper towels. Put a layer of sour cream in a bowl, then some herring fillets, then more cream, and so on until there are no more fillets.

Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender; drain. Toss with the butter and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve the herring with the hot potatoes and lots of frozen schnapps or vodka and beer.