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Herring – A Traditional Holiday Favorite

December 10, 2007

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.