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Surstromming
(Swedish sour herring)

This recipe for "surstromming" (Swedish sour herring) is for real.
It is fermented herring, like sauerkraut with just enough salt to
select for a particular sort of fermentation. When bought in cans,
they bulge, so there's some sort of anaerobic fermentation still
going on. I wanted a recipe this spring, because I salt down herring
(for pickled herring) during the run here on Cape Cod and wanted
to try my hand making surstromming. Surstromming originated, the
story goes, when a ship returning an abundance of herring ran low
on salt and the locals developed a taste for the spoiled result.

Ulven is an old scandinavian word for the wolf. The modern word
for wolf is "varg". But, the surstromming manufacturer uses the
old version, ulv for wolf, and by adding the article at the end of
the word you get "Ulven" for "the wolf". That is, "Roda Ulven" says
"The Red Wolf". Ulv is also used as a name, pretty common among
the vikings I believe, and still used. The o with umlaut in Roda
is pronounced oe, like the o in the german brotchen for little
bread. Another similar sound would be how you say the o in word.

Kerstin got a surstromming recipe from the Red Wolf surstromming
producers. It was very difficult to get a precise answer about
the concentration of the brine, the guy she talked to talked about
degrees, and did not know if these degrees represent percent. But
read the following and come back with questions if things are
critically unclear. Perhaps we can find out.

You need stromming. The fish should not be of sill-type. That is,
not too fat. You also need coarse grained salt. A 60 liter plastic
barrel was recommended. It should have a lid equipped with a priming
cock, a sort of ventilator or regulator to prevent the barrel to
explode when the fermentation process begin. About 35 to 40 kg
stromming is suitable for the 60 l barrel.

The brine concentration. They use a salt measurer, a salinometer
of some sort, having a scale expressed in degrees. An approximate
way to get the right brine concentration was to make holes in the
bottom of a bucket, fill it with the coarse grained salt, and sieve
the water through the salt...which should give a "saturated" brine
of 23 "degrees".

Gut the fish and take away the heads too.

Day 1.

Fill the 60 l barrel to one third, about 20 l, with the 23 degree
brine. Put in the fish, add salt on the top. Let it rest for a
few hours. Then stir every third hour for the rest of the day.

Day 2.

The brine should be much less salty, about 11 degrees, because much
of the dissolved salt should be in the fish by now. Keep 5 l of
the brine, the call it the blood brine. Sieve the fish and throw
away the remaining brine. Make a new brine, 20 liter, 12 degrees.
Fill the plastic barrel with one third brine, 20 l, these 20 l
should include the 5 l blood brine, and add the fish. Put on the
lid. Keep it 17 to 18 deg C. You must use the ventilator the
prevent it from exploding. It will be ready in mid August. It
will stink.

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