German Potato-Herring Salad Recipe for Lent

Renate's Herring Salad in Northern German Style with a yellow potato
Northern German Herring Salad. Credit: www.akitachow.com / Google Images
  • 45 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins,
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Yield: 6 servings Potato-Herring Salad
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This Potato Salad Recipe with Pickled Herring is a traditional German-Austrian Lent recipe, especially on Ash Wednesday.

This Austrian recipe is related to northern German recipes and, even though it's a cold salad, it's eaten chiefly in the cold winter months.

It's unusual that this recipe would have originated in Austria because herring is an Atlantic fish and Austria is not near the sea, landlocked as it is in Central Europe. But because fishermen pickled the herring on board their ships, they were preserved and became an oft-traded item from northern Germany.

What You'll Need

  • 1 1/2 pounds waxy potatoes, boiled in their jackets and cooled (fingerling or Yukon Gold are good choices)
  • 3 pickles, drained and chopped
  • 10 capers, drained and minced
  • 1 (14-ounce) jar of pickled herring, rinsed, patted dry and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup canned white beans, drained and rinsed (about half of a 14-ounce can)
  • 1 cup chopped onion, about 1 medium
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • Radish slices for garnish
  • Chopped fresh dill for garnish

How to Make It

  1. Peel and slice the cooled potatoes into a large bowl. Add 3 chopped pickles and 10 minced capers, chopped herring, 1 cup rinsed and drained canned beans and 1 cup chopped onion. Mix well and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the dressing ingredients by combining 1 cup sour cream, 3 to 4 tablespoons white vinegar and 2 tablespoons oil. Season to taste, mixing thoroughly.
  3. Pour the dressing over the potato-herring mixture and carefully fold it in so the potatoes stay intact. Refrigerate, covered, at least 2 hours. Decorate with radish slices and/or chopped dill before serving.

    Herring in Germany

    Herring takes pride of place in German cuisine. It is most often salted and/or pickled and served as Matjes or Bismark herring. Every region of Germany has its recipes that highlight this fish. Herring is divided into several different types, depending on the time of year and life cycle of the fish.

    Along with Matjes and Bismark, there are Fettheringe, Grüner ​Heringe, Bratheringe, Vollheringe, Hohlheringe, Salzheringe, and I'm sure a few more. I'm also sure most Germans can tell them apart just by looking at them.

    Smoked or pickled herring are common street food. People pick the one they like from a barrel (in the case of pickled herring) or a vendor's table, hold it by the tail above their mouths and devour them in what seems to be one bite.