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It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here, just returned from a month long tour of the Alps. I hope (plan) to give each city we visited a review, and pass on any eating tips or associated recipes I gleaned over the coming weeks, as we work our way through winter here.


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Monday, May 19, 2014

Majtes herring serving suggestions

“Matjes” means “soused” in German and Swedish (it’s maatjesharing or just maatjes in Dutch). It is also a type of:

“especially mild salt herring, which is made from young immature herrings. The herrings are ripened for a couple of days in oak barrels in a salty solution, or brine. The pancreatic enzymes which support the ripening make this version of salt herring especially mild and soft.”

I nearly know this… I had to look up this stuff on wikipedia / the Google scenario to work out how to make it palatable and eat it. The computer-net also let me know:

1. (of food, especially fish) preserved in pickle or a marinade."soused herring"synonyms: drench, soak, steep, douse, saturate, plunge, immerse, dip,submerge, sink

Soused also means drunk in English. You may find yourself having to have a few stiff drinks for this food, but you will see why it’s worth the effort… Now read on!

When I told one of my Hebrew pals I was having matjes, she said:

“Are you getting your Jew on, or what?”

I replied in the negative, referring instead to Europe, particularly the Northern climes, and the timing of Eurovision being on... making it an apropos novelty food.   Indeed, since I am part Viking, this may be an ancestral food my people ate.

Matjes are brought to you here en Australie by ‘Holland House’ (it comes flat packed in plastic trays in a sealed bag) – the same company that brings you roll mops and bismark herring (herring cured in brine, an old favourite of mine from share house days in Canberra, when I refused to let a Norwegian co-tenant gobble the food kitty and stonewall me by buying pickled fish).

I thought I’d try the difference, and get all Eurofied for Eurovision. Along with buying cheap and terrible schnapps.

The fish in question are supposed to be “drowned” in some pickling solution that makes the herring quite soft. It’s an unusual food, on the extreme end of the scale, and reminds me somewhat of anchovies in oil; salty and glutinous.

I couldn’t stomach it outright and plain. I mean, the stuff is cold, smelly, oily and wobbles, and at the time there was a bearded lady from Vienna (home of Sigmund Freud and fathers who lock their children in the basement*) winning the song competition I was watching.

The matjes lingered after an initial tasting in the fridge for another couple of days.

As an old skinflint, however, I refused to let good food go to waste, and did some internet research.

Matjes Serving Suggestions

It transpires that Northern Europeans enjoy this herring with:
  • potato salad
  • sour cream, 
  • black bread with raw onion (white/salad onion) on top
  • pickled onions, cornichons, etc.
I girded my loins, and set myself up with:
  • vodka
  • soda water
  • some grainy toast
  • gherkins
  • raw onion (red)
  • salad leaves
... to discover that matjes are really quite delicious.
OK – not so much in the immediate eating thereof, incidentally, because my mind was wrinkling with the stress of eating such a weird and mildly abhorrent food.

But afterwards, I kept involuntarily saying “yum!”.  Like my body was talking independently of my brain (not an altogether unusual occurrence).  It was the aftertaste in my mouth; a kind of pleasant indigestion.

When I awoke the next day, I could actually feel that my outer extremities (fingers and toes), as well as my joints (knee, lower back, ankles) were a lot less creaky. They still all crunched to one degree or another, but the difference was astounding.  It was though I’d had a complete oil and lube change, courtesy of fish oil. And not in a tablet form, either.

And then I began to wonder if I was just talking myself into it.

Who knows? I’m highly suggestible, even to myself…

To confirm any doubts, there were two thirds of a fillet left, which I had on toast with some pickled onions for breakfast while I conjectured thusly. Not bad.

I wonder if I could grow to become mates with matjes? Maybe… anything is possible. Just watch out you don’t wind up freaking out all and sundry with your pongy weird fish and pickles eating. Like Dad with his terrible cod liver oil in the 70s. Blech!

I rate matjes a handy five tentacles out of eight for taste, possibly building with an acquired palate through regular eating, and an eight out of eight for joint and pain relief and/or reducing heart attack mortality.

Viel Spaß!

* Apologies to Kampusch for using the Fritzl case

4 comments:

Felicia said...

I am Singaporean Chinese but I absolutely love Matje and pickled herrings lol. I buy them from Ikea food store but I want to try these out and also the other varieties by Holland house! I actually just eat them straight out of the bottle haha but great suggestions :) Thanks! I was wondering where can I get these Holland House Matje herrings?

Kit Fennessy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kit Fennessy said...

Hello Felicia! How wonderful to hear from you, and what a very interesting picture you paint of eating Herring in Singapore.
I don't know if Holland House sells in Singapore, but I will drop them a note for you and see if I can find out!

Felicia said...

Maybe because I am Chinese so I enjoy eating 'weird' food as it's very in our cooking. I am actually studying in Melbourne at the moment so getting it here wouldn't be an issue. Thanks!