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Herring – A Traditional Holiday Favorite

December 10, 2007 | Permalink

Try a Healthy Dose of Superstition this Holiday Season


Herring has been a traditional dish in many Wisconsin homes during Christmas and New Year’s for generations. Ever wonder why this pickled treat has remained a holiday menu essential?


For starters, herring was a popular food in the diets of many of our ancestors. For families in many Northern European countries, especially Germany, Scandinavia and Poland, herring was an abundant and affordable food with high nutritional value. When later generations began immigrating to the United States, many settled in the Midwest where herring was less available. Herring then became more of a treat served only for special occasions. The food brought back nostalgic memories of the past, and with time, these cultures began to believe that eating herring on Christmas Eve or at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s would bring good luck in the year to come.


“The holidays are a time to reflect on the events of the past year. We celebrate our fond memories and our hope for good times in the future,” says Kim Wall, president of Baensch Food Products, the company that produces the Wisconsin favorite, Ma Baensch herring. “Herring is a part of this nostalgia for many families. For them, it’s home, hearth and herring!”


Herring’s nutritional value is as important to many families today as its good luck status. Herring is rich in omega 3s, which are considered key in the battle against heart disease. “Recent studies also encourage pregnant women, as well as young children, to eat seafood two or three times a week to ensure optimal brain development for infants and toddlers. And for everyone who enjoys sushi, herring is another tasty and nutritious alternative,” said Wall.


When it comes to serving herring, Wall does have some tips. “Herring is best served cold and it tastes great with salted crackers, but don’t be afraid to try something different,” she says. “Incorporate herring into your favorite fish spread, or try your hand at a traditional herring and potato salad—you just might be surprised!”


So this holiday season, make sure heart-and-brain-healthy herring finds a place at the dinner table. And maybe you’ll even receive some unexpected good fortune too!




Easy Salmon Ball
6 ounces cream cheese spread
½ t. onion powder
¼ t. Worcestershire sauce
¼ t. asian chili sauce, or to taste*
1 T plus 1 t. lime juice
6 ounces skinless, boneless pouched pink salmon
½ cup chopped pecans, toasted and cooled
Assorted crackers


Place salmon in a colander, flake with fork and allow to drain, discarding liquid. In a medium bowl, using a fork, cream together cream cheese, onion powder, Worcestershire, chili sauce and lime juice. Add salmon and continue mixing until well blended. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour. Remove from refrigerator and form into a ball. Place single layer of toasted pecans on a sheet of waxed paper. Gently roll salmon ball over pecans to cover. Wrap securely with plastic wrap and store up to 24 hours or place in center of serving platter and surround with crackers and serve.


*To add more heat, increase amount of chili sauce.

Eating Right Fortifies Hunters

October 2, 2007 | Permalink

Seafood provides energy and nutrition for a more successful hunt

Once again, it’s that blaze-orange time of year when thousands of
hunters take to the woods with hopes of bagging a trophy buck. A good deer hunting season takes more than a steady shot and a little luck. Key to the success of the hunt is the stamina, energy and alertness of the hunter, which translates into “Eat Right!” When your body is properly fueled, you can hunt longer and more effectively. You won’t run out of gas during a drive or lack the necessary alertness while on the stand.


Hunters are usually meat-eaters, but when you eat meat, your digestive system has to really work to break down the high concentration of protein. This means that blood is directed to the digestive system to allow it to work harder. In turn, there is less blood feeding the muscles, so you feel more tired, more quickly. Good nutrition and eating habits not only provide fuel for the chase, but also affect long-term health and physical fitness – both of which can significantly impact hunting success.


“Seafood is a great alternative to meat and is healthier for you too,” says Kim Wall, a seafood expert whose company produces the popular Ma Baensch herring. “It’s a good source of omega-3s, which medical research has shown to be key in the battle against heart disease. A fish like herring is rich in omega-3s, plus there’s the tradition of eating herring for good luck – which makes a powerful combination for today’s hunter.”


Another energy-saving tip is to actually eat more often. Regular, light snacks get digested quicker to produce the maximum amount of energy in your body. So, when you’re packing your hunting gear and loading the coolers, think healthy snacks and seafood options. Smoked trout, canned or pouched salmon and herring are delicious ways to incorporate seafood into your hunting weekend menu. “Smoked fish and ready-to-eat seafood taste great with crackers and require no prep work,” Wall says. “But then when the hunt is over, fire up the grill, trade some glory stories with your fellow hunters and treat yourself to a big, juicy steak. And if you’re really feeling adventurous, throw some shrimp on the ‘Barbie’ for a surf-and-turf classic!”


An Easy Seafood Recipe from Ma Baensch


What better way to start the day than with a healthy breakfast of salmon cakes, eggs and whole wheat toast? Believe it or not, substituting heavy breakfast meats like bacon, ham or sausage, with seafood like salmon can boost energy and stamina levels throughout the day.




Mediterranean Salmon Cakes
4 – 7 oz pouches pink salmon, boneless and skinless
3 eggs, raw
½ cup whole wheat bread toasted and shredded
½ cup onion, minced
½ cup kalamata olives, diced
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 T oregano
1 t cumin
¼ t dill
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
Olive oil
Lemon wedges
In large skillet over medium heat, sauté onions in a small amount of olive oil. In a medium bowl, combine salmon, eggs, shredded bread, onions, olives, feta cheese, spices and lemon juice. Mix well; shape into eight 1/2-inch thick patties.


Add salmon patties and a small amount of more olive oil to the skillet. Cook three to four minutes per side or until golden brown. Serve patties with fresh lemon wedges and toast.


Makes 8 cakes

The Superbowl Party…Both Healthy and Easy!

January 19, 2007 | Permalink

The Superbowl, the hailed ceremony for every pigskin fanatic in America. And regardless of who’s playing, every true football fan will be tuned in and looking forward to a
great game, accompanied by some great Superbowl snacks. With the holidays behind us and our New Year’s resolutions to get in shape and eat healthy before us, most of us don’t want to slave in the kitchen or ruin our diets, but there are plenty of easy and healthy ways to please the crowd.

“We all have our favorite game-day foods. But it’s always fun to try something new,” says Kim Wall, a chef and seafood expert whose company produces the Wisconsin favorite, Ma Baensch herring. “I love trying new recipes, especially those that you can prepare ahead of time, so when the game is on, you can enjoy the action and not be in the kitchen! A great reference for some healthy and easy recipes is”


One of the easiest game-day snacks is herring, because it’s perfect served cold and right from the jar with crackers. Another way Wall spices up her snacks is by substituting different types of seafood into her favorite dishes. “I make all kinds of easy seafood spreads and dips that are versatile and work with many types of seafood, like shrimp, crab, halibut, trout and herring. Everyone loves them and they don’t even know they’re healthy!”

Eating seafood on Superbowl Sunday is a tremendous health benefit that can help keep diets on track. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least two times a week, especially fish that is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids like herring, salmon and albacore tuna. Omega-3s are key in the battle against heart disease and can also help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Plus seafood is low-calorie and won’t throw off New Year’s resolutions to eat healthy and get fit.


Here are some of Wall’s favorite game-day recipes. Enjoy!




Marlin Nuggets with South Seas Dipping Sauce

1 lb. marlin steak
Cut into 1 inch nuggets
1 lb. sugar snap peas, raw, trimmed
South Seas Dipping Sauce—two separate batches
Green leaf lettuce
South Seas Dipping Sauce
2 T soy sauce
2 T rice wine vinegar
2 T housin sauce
1 T honey
1 T sesame oil


Combine ingredients for one batch of South Seas Dipping Sauce. Place marlin nuggets and dipping sauce in a Ziploc bag and marinate for at least one hour.


Preheat broiler on high. Line a shallow baking tine with foil. Pour marinated marlin nuggets on foil and arrange nuggets evenly. Nuggets should not touch and height should be even. Broil on high for three minutes. Remove pan and evenly turn nuggets with tongs. Return immediately to broiler and broil three additional minutes. Remove from oven.


To serve, prepare a platter lined with leaf lettuce. Place the second batch of South Seas Dipping Sauce in a bowl at the center of the platter and place nuggets around the bowl. Drizzle with dipping sauce. Sprinkle sugar snap peas amongst the nuggets. Serve with toothpicks to skewer nuggets and peas for liberal dipping.


NOTE: Do not keep fish warm as fish will overcook; this appetizer is to be served at room temperature.




“The Best” Boiled Shrimp
1 onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 lemons, sliced
1/4 C hot sauce of your choice
3 T (more if you prefer) shrimp or crab boil seasoning
3 lb frozen shrimp* (10/15 count per pound)


Place onion, garlic, lemons, hot sauce and spices in large stock pot filled with water. Bring to a boil, and boil 15 to 30 minutes, allowing seasonings to impart their flavors into the water.


In a large bowl, prepare an ice bath (water and ice).


After water has been boiled, add frozen shrimp. Boil for 3 to 5 minutes, until shrimp are opaque. Remove shrimp and immediately plunge into ice bath to stop shrimp from continued cooking. After shrimp have cooled, remove from ice bath and place on ice in a serving bowl.


Shrimp can be prepared up to 24 hours in advance. If that is the case, place shrimp in a sealed Ziploc bag and refrigerate after they’ve been cooled.


*Frozen, wild caught shrimp, product of USA is preferred, tail on, shelled and devained. Shrimp can be cooked from the frozen state; there is no need to thaw before cooking.




Hot Buffalo Tuna Dip
3 (6 ounce) cans, solid white albacore tuna in spring water, drained
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 C Ranch dressing
3/4 C hot pepper sauce, brand of your choice (more or less to taste)
1 1/2 C shredded Cheddar cheese


Heat tuna and hot sauce in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in cream cheese and ranch dressing. Cook until well-blended and warm. Mix in half of the shredded cheese, and transfer the mixture to a slow cooker. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top, cover, and cook on Low setting until hot and bubbly. Serve with celery sticks, tortilla chips and/or crackers.

The Luck of the…Herring?

December 4, 2006 | Permalink

The holidays are a time for tradition, especially when it comes to holiday meal planning. Every family has a special entree, side dish or dessert that has become a must-have over the years. For Wisconsinites, one popular, holiday favorite is herring. Ever wonder how this pickled treat became such a holiday essential?


For starters, herring was a staple in the diets of many of our ancestors. For families in many Northern European countries, especially Germany, Scandinavia and Poland, herring was an abundant and affordable food, not to mention its high nutritional value. As new generations immigrated to the United States, with many settling in the Midwest, herring became more of a treat served only for special occasions. Eventually, these cultures began to believe that eating herring on Christmas Eve or at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s would bring good luck in the year to come.


“It’s very typical for a staple in early ancestors’ diets to become a delicacy for later generations,” says Kim Wall, a seafood expert whose company produces the Wisconsin favorite, Ma Baensch herring. “Herring is available year-round now, but many families still only eat it for special occasions and certainly can’t imagine
celebrating the holidays without it!”


While there is no right way to serve herring, Wall does have some tips. “Herring is best served cold and it tastes great with salted crackers, but don’t be afraid to try something different,” she says. “Incorporate herring into your favorite fish spread, or try your hand at a traditional, German herring roll—you just might be surprised!” Or better yet, maybe you’ll receive some unexpected good fortune!


Holiday Recipes from Ma Baensch




Festive Herring Spread
8 ounces cream cheese
1 12 ounce jar Ma Baensch herring marinated in wine sauce
Drained, reserve herring and onion
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
1 tablespoon fresh dill weed, minced
Dash Jalapeño Tabasco Sauce


Blend ingredients in a food processor in order given. Cover and chill for 2-3 hours to allow flavors to combine.
Serve with toasted French bread, rye bread or crackers of your choice.




Crab Dip
8 ounces cream cheese
6 ounces mayonnaise
16 ounces jumbo lump crabmeat (canned), shredded
1 cup baby portabella mushrooms, diced
1/2 cup grated red onion
3 tablespoons horseradish
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 cup shaved almonds, dry toasted and crumbled
Phyllo dough cups – optional


Blend together all ingredients except crab, mushrooms and almonds. Fold in crab and mushrooms. Place in casserole dish and sprinkle with almonds.
Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, or until heated through and bubbly.
For individual appetizers, fill phyllo dough cups with one teaspoon of mixture, sprinkle with almonds and bake




Robert’s Coconut Shrimp
12 large shrimp*, raw, peeled, de-veined, tail on
1 tablespoon peanut oil
Seasoning salt
¼ cup coconut, sweetened flakes
¼ cup dark rum
¼ cup pineapple juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Heat large frying pan over high heat, add peanut oil. When oil is hot, place shrimp in pan, spaced comfortably apart, and season lightly with seasoning salt. Turn shrimp after two minutes. Sprinkle with coconut, and add the remaining liquid ingredients. Sauté another few minutes, and remove from heat just before shrimp is completely done. Reduce sauce by half, return shrimp to pan and toss lightly. Serve immediately.


May serve as a hot appetizer or as an entrée accompanied by a stir fry of sugar snap peas, sliced baby portabella mushrooms, sliced water chestnuts, bock choy and toasted almonds over brown rice.


* Wild-caught, product of USA preferred

Ma Baensch Launches New Interactive Web Site

November 6, 2006 | Permalink

Baensch Food Products, a Milwaukee-based company that packages and distributes the popular Ma Baensch herring, today announced the launch of a brand-new “Ma Baensch” Web site. The site,, is an interactive site that features Ma Baensch’s history, highlights herring’s health benefits and provides interesting recipes, tips and ideas for using herring yearround.


The Ma Baensch site directs herring connoisseurs to a local grocer where Ma Baensch herring is sold and also sells Ma Baensch herring directly from the company. Site visitors can also submit a “Fish Tail,” which is a personal herring or seafood story or memory.


“Launching this new Web site is a big step for Ma Baensch,” says president Kim Wall, who purchased the company from the Baensch family in 1999. “This company has a rich history that we are very proud of. Ma Baensch herring is packed using the same processes and commitment to quality that the original Baensch family used. It’s what defines Ma Baensch and separates it from other herring brands.”


Since Wall purchased Baensch Food, she has initiated rebranding efforts to position Ma Baensch herring as premium seafood. Ma Baensch herring is currently sold in Wisconsin Pick-n-Save, Metro Mart, Copps, Sentry, Piggly Wiggly, Jewel-Osco, Woodman’s and Sendik’s grocery stores.

Eat Herring for Good Health

September 15, 2006 | Permalink

Popular Wisconsin snack can also help prevent heart disease and other health problems Milwaukee, September __, 2006…Did you know that eating herring can help protect against heart disease and stroke? It can also lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. And those are just a few of the health benefits.


Kim Wall, whose company produces the popular Ma Baensch herring, says herring is an abundant source
of the omega-3 fatty acids, concentrated in fish oil, that medical research has shown are key in the battle against heart disease. “Herring is naturally rich in omega-3s as well as being high in protein and calcium,” says Wall, a seafood expert. “In addition to heart benefits, people who eat fish are less likely to develop diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, kidney disease and asthma. A new study shows eating a diet rich in fish can also prevent macular degeneration.”


According to the American Heart Association, fatty fish like mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon are high in two kinds of omega-3 fatty acids found only in fish, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These two fatty acids can help prevent heart disease, cancer and many other diseases. The human brain is also highly dependent on DHA, and maintaining DHA levels can help deter depression, schizophrenia, memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease. Herring contains 1.71 to 1.81 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per 3-oz. serving. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish (particularly fatty fish) at least two times a week.


“With the large variety of seafood now available, it’s easy to find several that you will love,” says Wall.
“Fish is simple to prepare and great on the grill. And don’t forget the seafood spread or herring on your favorite crackers as a fast and easy hors d’oeuvre.”


Baensch Food Products Co., a division of Wild Foods, Inc., packs premium Atlantic herring from Nova Scotia under the Ma Baensch brand. Founded in 1932 by the Baensch family, the company was purchased by Kim Wall in 1999. Today, the company continues to use the original family recipes for its herring marinated in wine sauce or sour cream and chive sauce. Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Baensch Foods is a member of the National Fisheries Institute and is kosher certified through the Chicago Rabbinical Council.