And for The First Time in a Long Time,
Some Herring Are Staying Here
Through minor changes in California Fish and Game Regulations, limited amounts of San Francisco Bay Herring
have become available locally this 2012 season.
For decades the San Francisco Bay Herring Fishery has been studied and regulated, with commercial permits, annual quotas, and very low harvest rate*, yet until this year, finding fresh,
local, whole herring has been next to impossible.
Herring by the ton have been fished, then immediately
exported to Asia where the roe is in high demand
and continues to catch top dollar.
This year, commercial permits have been issued for
whole herring fish and Ernie Koepf, pictured below,
Captain of the Ursula B and his crew, are bringing a
portion of the catch in for local consumption.
For the next month you'll find local, impeccably fresh,
scrumptious herring at the store and on the
menus at our local restaurants.
It is our hope that we can celebrate and support this new fishery
and create demand for local whole-herring consumption.
The existence of the fishery depends on it.
Succulent, soft flaky flesh loaded with deep,
fresh ocean richness
that's our herring...
While herring is often eaten pickled or cured, and the roe is also prized and enjoyed cured in lobes, on kelp or simply sautéed in butter, we find that simple preparations, like grilling, capture the delicious qualities of our own San Francisco Bay delicacy.
*How well does this fishery assure continued stocks of herring for the future? The Department of Fish and Game sets a quota based on annual biomass assessment, and our local harvest rate ranges between 5%-10%, where the rate found to be sustainable in Canada and other parts of the world is 20%. Gill nets with minimum mesh size restrictions take a harvest, 90% of which is composed of older 4 and 5 year olds, 10% of the overall population, which reaches breeding age at two years.
Herring life expectancy is about five years of age.
This is a sustainable fishery.
Simple Brined & Smoked Herring
For a simple take on one of life's luxuries, here's a recipe for smoked herring that you can prepare in your own kitchen, then serve in a salad, a pasta, on crackers, atop a bowl of hot soba noodles.....
will yield approximately 1-1.5 lbs smoked herring For supplies, we're recommending a three-piece hotel pan (a deep hotel pan, a shallow perforated pan of the same diameter, and a lid).
For the brine:
- 2 quarts water
- 7 T brown sugar
- 10 T salt
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 white onion, sliced
- the juice of one lemon
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 T pepper corns
- 2-3 pounds or 10-12 fresh gilled, gutted and scaled herring
- 1/2 cup wood chips
The day of brining:
1) In the bottom portion of the hotel pan, combine brine ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil, simmer for five minutes, then let cool completely.
2) Submerge the cleaned herring into the brine, cover and refrigerate for four to six hours. You'll notice that the fish has become more firm.
3) Remove the fish from the brine, pat-dry them off thoroughly, and place them onto the perforated portion of the hotel pan, then return to the refrigerator uncovered to air-dry overnight, or for 24 hours. The skins will become leathery.
The day of smoking:
1) Remove the fish from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Place the dry wood chips into the bottom of the deep hotel pan. Place the deep pan over high heat on your stove with ventilation on, or outside on a grill, until the chips begin to burn and smoke.
2) Turn the heat down to low to maintain the smoking, then stack the perforated hotel pan and the lid over the smoking chips, and allow to herring to smoke for approximately 20 minutes until the fish are both smoked and cooked.
(if the chips simply smolder without smoking, just turn the heat up enough to get them smoking again, and return to low)
3) Remove the fish from heat and allow to cool in the same pan without handling them. Gently cover in fresh plastic, and allow the fish to rest for at least 12 hours. The brine and the smoking will be dispersed throughout the flesh, and it will become more flaky and mellow than it was when it had first been smoked.