Surströmming is the Swedish name for soured fermented herrings. Caught in the cool Baltic waters of southern Sweden during the spring months, the herrings are fermented in barrels of brine for a month or two before being canned. In the absence of pasteurisation or sterilisation the fermentation process continues in the cans which, after approximately six months, pressurize and bulge. This is perfectly normal and, as long as there are no leaks, they are safe to eat from.
Because of surströmming’s overwhelming odour it should always be opened outside and, to avoid being sprayed in brine from the pressurised can, it should be initially punctured submerged in a bucket of water before being removed and fully opened. Tilting the can at a 45 degree angle and puncturing the top (where you have a pocket of air) helps prevent splashing if opening without water. According to a Japanese study, a newly opened can of surströmming has one of the most putrid food smells in the world. Top tip…To reduce the smell place the can in the freezer for a couple of minutes before opening.
Prior to consumption our unfilleted herrings must be cleared of their stomach contents and backbone as follows…
- Open the abdomen and remove the stomach contents. If you’re lucky it’ll contain roe, considered a delicacy by many
- Place the fish with the skin side up on the plate and press with a fork to flatten
- Turn the fish over and remove the backbone
- If preferred skinless, peel the fillets away from the skin but be aware that it can be difficult to get whole fillets
Surströmming is best enjoyed wrapped in buttered tunnbröd (a sweetened flatbread) with boiled sliced potatoes, fresh dill, chopped onion and sour cream. The taste is sharp, savoury, and very spicy – definitely one to remember!
- Shelf life: Up to 18 months
- Storage: Chilled in the refrigerator at 4-6°C
- Drained weight: 300 grams / 10.5 ounces
- Contents: 6-8 unfilleted soured fermented herrings
- Country of origin: Sweden
- Warning: Contains bones which may present a choking hazard
- Free from: Artificial colours, flavourings, preservatives & MSG