We are foodies! When we go to another country, we do not get homesick and miss our food (ok, sometimes), we love to try local treats. One of the Dutch local treat is the cured herring. Considering its exquisite taste, it is cheap as chips (about 2 Euros or so). We love it and even vacuum packed it back home. And it is healthy too!

The term soused herring usually refers to a cooked herring. The herring can be baked in the marinade or fried and then soaked in it. It is served cold. As well as vinegar, the marinade might contain cider, wine or tea, sugar, herbs (usually bay leaf), spices (usually mace), chopped onion.
The word 'soused' usually means 'soaked in a mild preserving liquid', and can be used to refer to raw herring in a mild vinegar pickle or the famous Dutch brined herring.
The soused herring (maatjesharing in Dutch, or matjes in German and Swedish) is an 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. In Britain and Canada these are sometimes marketed as 'roll mop herring'.

An apology to all Dutchies reading this post, you are not known for your cuisine. When we enter a fish shop, we see many tantillizing treats. Mixed seafood, shellfishes, deep fried fishes (ok, we don't like deep fried stuff that much)...etc., but what is most charming is the soused herring. We really cannot get it anywhere else that easily. All fish shops (fish mongers) have their own recipes of making their own herring stand out from the rest. Here is how...

Through a cut in the throat, the gills and part of the gullet are removed from the herring, eliminating any bitter taste. The liver and pancreas are left in the fish during the salt-curing process because they release enzymes essential for flavor. This process is called: gibbing. The herrings are then placed in the brine for approximately 5 days, traditionally in oak casks. They require no further preparation after fillet and skin removal and can be eaten as a between meal snack with a few finely cut raw onion rings.

As skin removal demands experience, fillets or double fillets should be attempted first. The soused herrings are silvery outside and pink inside when fresh, and should not be bought if they look grey and oily.
Whereas salt herrings have a salt content of 20% and have to be soaked in water before consumption, soused herrings do not have to be soaked.

This is a Herring vendor in the Netherlands.

Gourmet style, anyone? We love it with whiskey.

This is apparently how you eat it in the Netherlands. Dip it in some finely diced raw onions and into your mouth. It is not for the faint-hearted though.

Look at how fat and healthy their equivalent of pigeons are.

Herring delivers a healthful dose of omega-3 fatty acids

QUESTION: Does herring sold in wine sauce lose its healthful omega-3-fatty acids if I soak it in water to remove salt and other additives? I enjoy eating herring and I want the fats, but I prefer not to have the salt. Thank you for your reply.
K.M., Mountside, N.J.
ANSWER: Herring is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, and the beneficial fats will still be there after a salt-removal swim.
The level of omega-3 fats in herring is impressive. There was a study in the March 2005 issue of the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry reporting that the sought-after EPA and DHA omega-3s represent more than 12 percent of the fatty acids in herring. Pacific herring were found to be slightly higher than those swimming in the Atlantic, but both types had more of the essential omega-3s than sardines, salmon, tuna or trout.
An article in the July 2004 issue of the journal American Family Physician contains an excellent summary of research findings on these fats, together with a convenient table that lists how much of each type of fish would be needed to supply 1 gram of omega-3 fats. This article is available online at
I am wondering if it is safe to put raw chicken in a slow cooker and cook on low for eight or so hours. My husband thinks it is. I am very hesitant and afraid it will be full of bad bacteria. We would like to get your thoughts on this.
S.G., San Diego
A properly functioning slow cooker, or crockpot, will cook foods between 170 and 280 degrees, which is sufficient to bake bacteria out of existence.
The meat should be fully defrosted before it goes into the cooker. Fill it no less than half and no more than two-thirds full. Cut the larger pieces of chicken into small chunks to minimize the time at an unsafe temperature and to assure thorough cooking. Finally, steam helps the process, so keep the lid in place.
If you are going to be around, cook on the high setting for the first hour, then lower the temperature to that called for in the recipe.
I read your article on vinegar and its potential to slow the absorption of carbohydrates (May 10), and I'm wondering if balsamic vinegar has the same effect on blood sugar as regular vinegar. You say any type of vinegar will work, but I'm not sure if you meant any type of common vinegar, and if balsamic falls into this category. I use balsamic vinegar every night to make salad dressing.
I am unaware of any studies that have checked the phenomenon with balsamic vinegar, but the evidence points to the acetic acid in vinegar as the substance responsible for slowing the absorption of carbohydrates. As long as your vinegar has at least 3 percent acidity (most balsamic vinegars tend to be higher), you are getting the right stuff.

 Ed Blonz, Ph.D., is a nutritional scientist based in Northern California. General-interest questions about nutrition can be mailed to: Ed Blonz, Focus on Nutrition, P.O. Box 120191, San Diego, CA 92112-0191, or sent via e-mail to

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