Wednesday, December 14, 2011
A Starring Role for the Little Humble Herring
By JOAN NATHAN
Published: December 13, 2011
IN a fancy women’s department store in Osaka, Japan, earlier this year, shoppers lined up for one of the latest food fads in the country, jars of pickled herring.“We Japanese love herring,” said Masayoshi Takayama, the chef and owner of Masa in the Time Warner Center in Manhattan. “At Masa we serve dried salted herring, soaked in rice water for five days and marinated in tosazu vinegar.” Then it is simmered in dried-bonito broth with soy sauce, sake and more vinegar.
That’s right, pickled herring is on one of New York’s priciest prix fixe menus.
Peter Shelsky, a catering chef, is also pickling his own herring, in the less rarified confines of his artisanal appetizing store in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, Shelsky’s Smoked Fish.
And, with a bit more refinement, Laurent Manrique serves lightly smoked herring, imported from France, with boiled potatoes at Millesime, his French bistro in Manhattan.
“Surprisingly, smoked herring and quenelles de brochet are our two most popular appetizers,” he said.
What used to be food for Jewish grandfathers, particularly on holidays like Hanukkah, which starts next Tuesday night, is showing up on the menus of restaurants both hip and elegant.
Herring with wasabi and yuzu kosho paste is one of the haute Jewish dishes at Kutsher’s Tribeca. Benoit and Brasserie Julien both serve French smoked herring with potatoes. A notable dish at the dearly departed M. Wells in Queens was smoked herring Caesar salad.
Shoppers are finding a more appealing selection in stores. Herring used to be pickled in only wine sauce or cream sauce for Jewish holidays. No more. Now it’s in dill sauce, in curry sauce, with pickles, with mustard sauce.
“Whole Foods has much to do with this increased interest,” said Richard Schiff, the general manager of Acme Smoked Fish in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a main supplier in New York. “They want not just one or two herring jars, but lots.” And lightly smoked French herring is also now available to consumers at Whole Foods and other stores.
“Year to year we track numbers of herring,” said Josh Russ Tupper, a fourth-generation owner of Russ & Daughters, the gold standard for cured and smoked fish stores in New York, with at least 11 different herring varieties. “For us, the herring business has been increasing 5 to 10 percent a year.”
Feature Foods International in Brampton, Ontario, one of the major sources of herring in North America, processes more than 15,000 barrels, each weighing about 220 pounds, every year. Years ago, it looked as if its customer base would disappear.
“It is true that in Minnesota and Florida, when every old Jew or Scandinavian dies, we lose a case of herring,” said Lorne Krongold, the president and owner of Feature Foods. “Luckily, in the ’80s and ’90s the new immigration, with the breakup of the Soviet Union, replaced the aging generation.”
Now demand is even higher. To appeal to new tastes, the company has started selling smaller jars of herring on private labels for companies.
“My grandfather Shlomo was really the herring legend,” said Mr. Krongold, 57, known as “the herring czar.” From the herring business in Poland, his grandfather went to Canada in 1927 and sold barrels of heavily salted herring from Norway and Iceland, and then from the Maritime Provinces in the ’30s.
After World War II, Lorne Krongold’s father, Joseph, started bottling pickled North Atlantic herring from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. “We process the herring in our sauces, and places like Russ & Daughters further potchky with the product to put their spin on it,” Lorne Krongold said, using a Yiddish word for tinker.
Herring’s resurgence comes as the sources and quality of much of the world’s seafood have come under suspicion. Once one of the most abundant fish in the world, it is still caught from sustainable wild stocks. It is also inexpensive and high in omega-3 fatty acids. (It’s approved for the fashionable Dukan high-protein diet.)
The fish course through the North Atlantic in schools of tens of thousands. They are caught in enormous nets called purse seines, and then cured with a sprinkling of salt. Later they are soaked in fresh water and pickled, a style always favored in Scandinavia, Germany and Eastern Europe.
In France and the Netherlands, herring is often served fresh. In Normandy, it is also lightly smoked with oak.
This year, the Jean Claude David brand of French herring is available to consumers in vacuum-packed containers in the United States, thanks to Hervé Diers, who recently bought the company and is trying to save a tradition.
Mr. Diers has been building more fireplaces to smoke the fish, which is caught off the coast of Normandy near Boulogne-sur-Mer in late summer.
“In the 1950s, over 150 artisanal smokers smoked their herring,” Mr. Diers said. “Today only 7 remain.”
Mr. Shelsky is taking an artisanal approach to herring in Brooklyn. He’s pickling fish in a former lingerie shop with its original tin roof. He buys tubs of salted herring and soaks the fish for two days, then pickles it in white vinegar, sugar and spices. He was recently fiddling with a pumpkin-spiced herring.
“I find that processed pickled herring is too sweet for me,” Mr. Shelsky said.
“Earlier on, when I first opened the store, I made a foie gras and pickled herring terrine,” he said. “I think we might revisit it down the road.”
Shelsky sells three sandwiches with herring, including the Brooklyn Transplant made with smoked salmon, apple horseradish, cream cheese and pickled herring salad served on seedless rye.
In Washington, D.C., at the homey Scandinavian restaurant Domku Bar and Cafe, hipsters dine on a smoked herring pie and a herring scramble.
“I learned to love herring when I was in the Peace Corps in Poland,” said Kera Carpenter, the chef and owner. On a trip to Scandinavia, she tasted pickled herring, dipped in bread crumbs and fried, delicate and delicious.
With this dish, Ms. Carpenter has not “reduced all the beauty of the world to a small pickled fish,” as Diane Keaton’s herring merchant husband did in “Love and Death,” but it’s a very popular appetizer.
A version of this article appeared in print on December 14, 2011, on page D7 of the New York edition with the headline: A Starring Role for the Little Humble Herring.
Saturday, December 3, 2011
My son Judah recently returned from leading a tour in Ukraine and brought me this can of Ukrainian herring. We cracked it open today for part of our kiddush, hoping for the best but ready for the worst...........
It wasn't too bad at all considering it came out of a can. Tasted more like sardines to be honest, and no one got sick. I guess that means we were ahead of the game. After two shots of bourbon it didn't matter anyway.
Of course it could have been worse---- it could have been a Russian brand:
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
From: The Phrase FinderThe meaning and origin of the expression: "Neither fish nor flesh, nor good red herring"
A deliberate misleading and diverting of attention from the real issue.
Red herrings are salted herrings that turn a reddish colour during the smoking process. They have come to be synonymous with the deliberate false trails that are the stock in trade of 'who done it' thrillers.
The term has been used to refer to people as well as to fish for some centuries. John Heywood's 1546 glossary, A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue includes the expression:
She is nother fyshe nor fleshe, nor good red hearyng.
Fish was eaten by the clergy, flesh by the rich and the dried and smoked herrings by the poor. So this list of the foods eaten by all classes of society was a metaphor for 'encompassing all eventualities'.
How do we move from the actual herrings in that expression to the figurative 'throwing off the scent' meaning? One theory has it that the meaning derives from the practice of using the oily and smelly herrings to lay false trails for hunting dogs. This practice is well documented from as far back as the late 1600s and Nicholas Cox's The Sportsman's Dictionary: Or The Gentleman's Companion, 1686 describes it:
"The trailing or dragging of a dead Cat, or Fox, (and in case of necessity a Red-Herring) three or four miles... and then laying the Dogs on the scent."
It seems implausible that people laid false 'fishy' trails in order to deceive hounds so that their prey would escape. After all, there was no hunt saboteur movement in 1686, and who would have a motive to do that? It's more likely that the use of red herrings was a training exercise, intended to put the hounds on the scent rather than to throw them off it. Nevertheless, the laying of a scent trail for dogs does establish the linguistic 'surrogate' meaning for 'red herring' and the further step to 'deliberate deceit' isn't a large one.
Another theory is that the meaning derives from a trick played on one of his servants by the wealthy English clergyman Jasper Mayne. Mayne died in 1672 and willed large sums for the rebuilding of St Paul's Cathedral and to the poor people of his parishes of Cassington and Pyrton. He also willed to a servant "Somewhat that would make him Drink after his Death", which was left in a large trunk. When the trunk was opened the servant was disappointed to find that the bequest turned out to be a salted herring. The will doesn't mention a 'red herring', but a report of the event in Jacob's Poetical Register, 1719, does, so we can date the 'false representation' meaning to that date at the latest.
Of the two theories, the Mayne story seems the more compelling. It introduces the idea of a deliberate misdirection, which, unless we are to believe that people deliberately misdirected hounds, the other lacks.
Whatever the source, the figurative usage of the phrase was well established in UK by the early 1800s and had migrated to the USA by the middle of the century, as in this example from The New York Times, in May 1864:
But when the Emperor found that England would not join him in a war, he cleverly started the "red herring" of the Congress which he knew well enough was out of the question, but which has admirably answered his purpose of creating a diversion.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
The Torah commands one to make a blessing after eating bread and defines 'eating' as constituting the ingestion of a 'k'zayit' (the amount of an olive). The requirement for making a brocha achrona on other types of foods uses similar criteria. To know how much of a particular food equals a k'zayit is not easy. A k'zayit is a measure of volume, or the amount of space it occupies. But Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner of Lakewood, New Jersey has researched this and come up with the answers in his book, "Halachos of K'zayis". According to Rabbi Bodner a k'zayit of herring is equal to two large pieces equaling about 29 grams and looking like they would fit onto two regular sized crackers.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2009
There is apparently a specific shul in the neighborhood where the older mispallelim, at shaleshudes, eat herring with their hands. My father always suggested that the basis of this is minhag avoseinu beyadeinu.
But recently, Dr. David Segal related the reason they themselves give for it
(as far as I understand; unless it was his original joke...).
Towards the end of parshas Noach, the pasuk states:
ב וּמוֹרַאֲכֶם וְחִתְּכֶם, יִהְיֶה, עַל כָּל-חַיַּת הָאָרֶץ, וְעַל כָּל-עוֹף הַשָּׁמָיִם; בְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר תִּרְמֹשׂ הָאֲדָמָה וּבְכָל-דְּגֵי הַיָּם, בְּיֶדְכֶם נִתָּנוּ.
2 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, and upon all wherewith the ground teemeth, and upon all the fishes of the sea: into your hand are they delivered.
Friday, November 11, 2011
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Friday, April 15, 2011
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Saturday, February 26, 2011
A Tour Through the History of America’s Ethnic Cuisine
By Joel Denker
May 29, 2008
From Chapter 4: “The Heartburn of Nostalgia: Jewish Food in America”
Herring and smoked fish, those passions of the Jewish immigrant, would also find their way onto the supermarket counter and into the American kitchen. Two young Czech Jews, Victor and George Heller, who arrived in New York City in the early 1900s, were savvy merchandisers on this culinary frontier. These German-speaking immigrants found jobs in a delicatessen in Yorkville, a German section of the city.
Herring, a fish they loved from their childhood, was one of the shop’s biggest sellers. It appealed to Jewish shoppers as well as to Poles, Germans, and other European immigrants. “In the old country, it was a staple food for them,” Aaron Gilman, Victor Heller’s son-in-law, observed. After gaining several years of retail experience, the two brothers opened their own delicatessen in 1915 and soon thereafter launched two more.
Herring was selling so briskly in their stores that the brothers decided to go into the packing business. Initially, they imported herring and put it up in kegs, baskets, and barrels in a building on Hudson Street in lower Manhattan. They divided up the responsibilities: George handled the packing side; Victor lined up customers.
They marketed an “institutional pack” to restaurants, delicatessens, and mom-and-pop stores. In fact, in the early days, they sold their product to “anyone who would buy it,” Mr. Gilman who became an executive with the business, commented. After trying cardboard containers, the Hellers began packing their herring in jars, their most radical marketing breakthrough. Before that shoppers “would pick them out of a barrel and wrap them in a newspaper,” Mr. Gilman noted.
World War I slowed the herring business. Victor went into the army, and the business’s imports from Europe stopped. George improvised by organizing a domestic herring fleet that sailed from Provincetown. Business rebounded in the 1920s, and the Hellers expanded into smoked fish, another popular ethnic item. They acquired an old-time smoking business, the Richard Schnibbe Company, and started processing salmon, whitefish, and sturgeon in its Brooklyn plant. Constantly looking for new product lines, the brothers added olives and caviar to their list.
In 1930 the Hellers formed the Vita Food Products Company, which merged their enterprise with a number of smaller operations they had purchased. Vita became their products’ brand name as well; the name came from the bulk item they had been buying from the F. H. Phillips Company, a business in Lovenstoft, England, near the Scottish border. Vita, which meant “health” in Latin, also, they felt, had a nice ring to it.
The enterprise was still a modest one, however, and it was not until the 1950s and 1960s that sales rose. Vita, which grew into a $40-to-$50-million-a-year business, no longer had to depend on the small retailer. The supermarkets, which emerged as a marketing force after the war, bought an ever-growing share of its products. The Hellers diversified, expanding into maraschino cherries, sweet and sour pickles, mushrooms, and red and green peppers. The company also acquired more businesses, bought fishing boats, and built modern plants, canneries, and smokehouses.
But herring was still the foundation of their company. Starting with bismarck, the small whole fish, Vita introduced herring fillets and then herring tidbits. After the war, the Hellers brought out their best-known product, herring in cream sauce. Vita herring was “one of the first convenience foods that people could buy,” Aaron Gilman says. “They could take it home and consume it with a piece of black bread.”
Advertising broadened the appeal of the product. An endearing character, the herring maven, began appearing in ads in the 1960s promoting the brand. “Get Vita at your favorite supermarket, grocery, or delicatessen. Tell them the beloved Maven sent you. It won’t save you any money, but you’ll get the best herring,” a 1965 advertisement in the Hadassahnewsletter told readers.
Vita moved from the ethnic press to the general media, to newspapers and television. One of their newspaper ads for herring tidbits showed an empty jar. The caption read, “Herring Maven Strikes Again.” Maven, a Yiddish word, which came from the Hebrew for “understanding,” was at that time not widely known outside of Jewish circles. In a clever strategy, Vita employed an ethnic expression for “expert” to give their herring cachet.
Antique VITA herring jar a gift from the Roller Family of Flatbush--THANKS!!!!!
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
GUEST POST BY: Levite Shlepper ben Herring Maven
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Friday, February 4, 2011
From the book 'Jewish Humor' by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin:
Thanks to my kiddush buddy Isaac P. for sending this!!