Dutch Herring

This recipe comes from “Don’t Forget the Parsley. . . .”—a book of recipes that for 38 years were prepared by Willie Berry at her Berry’s-on-the-Hill restaurant in Orangeburg. The recipe is German (“Dutch”), as were the settlers of Orangeburg. Berry’s was a famous stop on U.S. Highway 301, which bore most of the New York-Florida traffic prior to the construction of interstates.

When alewives run up into our rivers to spawn, they are netted for the table. Both the roe and the gonads are delicious. The roe is still canned by hand on the banks of the Chowan River by Murray L. Nixon Fishery (http://saltherring.home.mchsi.com/). A few delicatessens stock small kegs (which hold 16 or 17) of the “milkees,” which are raw salted male herring with their milt. If you cannot find these “milkers,” ask any fresh fish supplier to help you. Serve these on New Year’s Eve, as the Germans traditionally do for good luck.

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  • 1 keg or 14 - pound pail herring (milters)
  • 2 pounds onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 12 lemons, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 to 1½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 to tablespoons ground allspice


Separate the milt sacs from the herrings. Put a layer of the fish in a large nonreactive bowl or a 1-gallon glass jar or glazed crock. Alternate with layers of sliced onions and lemons. Squeeze the contents of the milt sacs into a heavy saucepan. Add the vinegar, the water, and spices. Cook, uncovered, over medium-high heat until it thickens, about 10 minutes. Pour over the fish, lemons, and onions, cover, and place in the refrigerator for 1 week before serving. Cut into small pieces to serve as finger food or serve 1 herring with fresh lemon slices to each diner as an appetizer. The herring will keep for an additional week in the refrigerator.