Recipe: Basic Brines from Old Ballard Liquor Co.

Freshly filleted Togiak herring for Northwest Herring Week at the North Pacific Seafoods plant in Naknek, Alaska, on Bristol Bay.

If you would like to try your hand at preparing herring at home, it is available from several Seattle retailers as fillets.

All small, delicious, nutritious oily fish like sardines, anchovies, smelt and herring have small pin bones that are not easily removed by filleting, but these bones are not unsafe to eat. It’s more a texture/psychology issue for eaters. Because Togiak, Alaska herring are larger than most, their pin bones are a little larger, too. If you have an issue with these little bones, we recommend that you marinate your herring in an acidic brine before you proceed with the rest of your recipe. Here are two such brine recipes from Old Ballard Liquor Co.

Basic Bone Softening Brine:

  • 1 Cup Distilled White Vinegar
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 1/4 Cup Lemon Juice

Brine fillets for 2-3 hours, then pour off brine.

(Optional) At this point, if you would like to remove the vinegar taste from the fish before moving forward with your recipe, soak the brined fillets in ice water for 30 minutes, change the water and soak for another 30.

Tasty smoking/marinade brine:

  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup pickling salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon juniper berries
  • 1 teaspoon allspice berries
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole white peppercorns
  • 6 cups of ice cubes

Add all ingredients to a pan and bring to a boil, then turn the heat off and allow to steep for 30 minutes.  Add the ice cubes to chill the brine. When brine is fully cool, brine the fillets for 2-3 hours.


2 thoughts on “Recipe: Basic Brines from Old Ballard Liquor Co.

  1. I love those oily little fishes – sardines, anchovies … but spelt? That’s like wheat. Consider this a suggestion about how smelt should be spelt.


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