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The Luck of the…Herring?

December 4, 2006

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