HERRING. There are several species of this favorite and much used fish, the chief being the Clupea Harengus of Northern Europe and America and the Clupea bilis of the Pacific Coast of the United States. The principal American fisheries are located along the New England coasts and in British-American waters. In Europe, the main herring grounds are those of Great Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia, the Netherlands and the North of France. The domestic catch is supplemented by the annual importation of from fifty to seventy million pounds of pickled or salted herring, chiefly from Holland, Great Britain, Norway and Canada.
The fish are usually caught in gill nets or scoop nets, the yearly harvest amount ing to many hundreds of millions. The average size is from eleven to fourteen inches. The principal season in the eastern market is from October 1 to April 30. On the North American coast in the winter, the catch is frozen solid and thus easily shipped fresh to the markets for packing.
When recently caught and cooked by boiling or broiling, herring are both whole some and agreeable for consumption fresh, but the principal demand here is for the smoked or pickled fish, as the fresh herring if fried, or if kept long, becomes strong and oily and is apt to offend the stomach. The best grades of the cured fish are on the other hand highly esteemed as a relish, and salted herring is credited with diuretic properties by many physicians—perhaps because of the free quaffing of water or other liquids which generally follows its consumption.
Bismarck herring is the whole fish put up in a pickle flavored with spices, pieces of red pepper, onions, etc.
Bloaters (which see) are half-cured whole herrings.
Boneless herring, other than that in cans or jars, is the dry cured fish ready pre pared for the broiler. It comes packed in boxes with glass tops and is a quick-sell ing article in a grocer's stock.
Kippered herring is the fish split, salted and mild-smoked.
Milchner herring is the pickled soft-roe fish, the roe being converted into a sauce by rubbing through a sieve.
Red herring is English herring salted and smoked. The title is of English origin, distinguishing the smoked fish from the "white" herring, preserved by salting only. Soused herring is another title for Pickled herring.
More fancy types include "Delicatess" or Filet (filleted) Herring in Wine Sauce or in Oil ; Roll Mopse (pickled rolled fillets) ; small. fish in Tomato Sauce, etc.
As an article of food, herrings are of vast importance to a large proportion the population of Europe and the preparation of the cured fish furnishes employment for thousands.
'The Dutch herring fishery is conducted by steam and sailing vessels, which use tanned cotton gill nets, 360 meshes deep and 720 meshes long, the mesh being two inches stretch. They are set about six feet below the surface, being held in position by leads and corks. From 80 to 150 nets are carried on each vessel. A thousand bar
rels are often taken at one haul of the seine.
The fish are dressed and salted immediately after the nets are hauled on to the vessel—this point is considered of great importance.
The Dutch fisherman, when dressing herring, is equipped with a short knife, attached to the fourth and fifth fingers of his right hand by a string tied to the handle. He takes the fish in the left hand, with the belly up and the head forward, and thrusts the knife crosswise directly through the gill cavities, entering the left side and emerging from the right. The knife, with edge turned upward or outward, is then pulled directly through the tissues, cutting and tearing away the gills. There is little apparent effort made to remove anything except the gills and pectorals as the other organs come away incidentally. The men become very expert in cutting—some of them can handle an average of twelve hundred fish an hour.
The removal of the gills and heart results in opening the large blood vessels and free bleeding ensues, leaving the flesh pale or "white." The fish are next rolled in salt and then carefully packed in barrels in straight rows, backs down, each layer at right angles to those above and below and with salt between layers, a barrel of salt being required for each four barrels of fish. The barrels are finally headed up and stored in the hold until the end of the fishing trip. On reaching port, the catch is unloaded and sold at auction.
The shore buyer generally repacks the fish in order to sort them by size and grades of quality, no sorting being attempted on the vessels. Some purchasers or agents prefer the sea-packed, unsorted fish, but as a rule dealers or jobbers wish to know how many fish are in a barrel and what their quality is.
For repacking, the herring are first emptied into large vats or tanks, the original brine, called "blood brine" or "blood pickle," being carefully saved and poured back after re-barreling. Fresh salt is added in the proportion of one barrel to eight.
Dutch herring barrels, in which the bulk of the catch is marketed, contain about one hundred and twenty-five kilograms ( about 275 pounds) of fish. Smaller recep tacles—one-half, one-quarter, one-third, one-sixteenth and one-thirty-second barrels— are also used, but are in less demand than formerly.
In Holland there is no official regulation for packing or branding, but the packers have a standard which is generally observed, as it is to their interest to have the fish properly packed and labeled.
Both Dutch and Scotch herring are graded according to the spawning condition of the fish. Ripe or full herring are branded "Full" or Vol; those in which the roe is undeveloped, as "Matties" or Maatjis, and the spent herring as "Shotten" or Ijlen, (or /j or Ijle). There are several qualities of each of these classes, designated No. 1, No. 2, etc., and also numerous other grades, as "Mixed" or unassorted, etc.