For Love Of Herring: Why We Do Alaska Herring Week

The fabulous buffet line at the Midsommar Smörgåsbord at the Swedish Club for Alaska Herring Week 2017! Photo by Zachary D. Lyons.

So far this Alaska Herring Week, I have eaten 54 different herring dishes at 43 different establishments. Yes, I am the extreme, because, as Alaska Herring Week event coordinator, it is my job. But I also love it. Every dish is different. Seriously. Every chef has come at this from a different angle, so each of the 70+ dishes across 54 places (two grocers are selling to-go preparations) is unique.

Indeed, herring is a globally-eaten fish, and we have Alaska Herring Week dishes representing cultures from all over the world to prove it, including China, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Vietnam and all over the US, from New England to New Orleans to the Pacific Northwest, and more. But nowhere did we see so much joy over the return of herring to our local plates than at the Swedish Club during Friday, June 23rd’s Midsommar Smörgåsbord.

A full house for the Midsommar Smörgåsbord at the Swedish Club for Alaska Herring Week 2017! Photo by Zachary D. Lyons.

The Swedish Club was packed on Friday for the feast, and while the menu featured other traditional Swedish fare, Alaska herring was the star of the show. But you had to be there to truly understand why. See, herring is the centerpiece of a traditional Midsommar Smörgåsbord. It is integral to the Swedish culture. It is, for Swedish expats, a taste of home. Unfortunately, herring has been just as unavailable to the Swedish Club for their Midsommar Smörgåsbord as it has been for everyone else in Seattle. This was the first time in years that their solstice feast feautred it. All night, we had one person after another come up to we organizers of Alaska Herring Week and thank us profusely, talk about their family’s history of fishing, about their boats and their pickling plants. They waxed poetic about their favorite places to get herring in Sweden, Denmark and Germany, about childhood memories and more. They came and shook our hands, and they gave us a rousing ovation. It was a delicious feast, but it was more so a moving experience. Putting herring back on their plates was not about sustainability or economic development to them. It was about history, about culture. It was about home. Alaska herring on their Midsommar Smörgåsbord brought them home. And that is why we do Alaska Herring Week.


COCKTAIL: Sill & Dill From The Swedish Club (RECIPE)

Sill & Dill – Herring & Dill Martini – from the Swedish Club for Alaska Herring Week 2017! Photo by Zachary D. Lyons.

A herring cocktail, you say? Why, yes! It is!

Meet Sill & Dill, a herring and dill martini from the Swedish Club for Alaska Herring Week 2017! They are serving it in their bar on Wednesday, June 21st during their Fried Herring Dinner, and on Friday, June 23rd during their Midsommar Smörgåsbord, but if you want to try it, you had better make reservations in advance, as tickets will sell out!

Wanna make this at home? You’ll find the booze and pickled herring at Old Ballard Liquor Co. Here’s the recipe:

Sill & Dill
A Herring & Dill Martini

by Maureen Mullen, Bartender, Swedish Club


  • 3/4 oz Old Ballard Dill Midsommar Aquavit
  • 2 1/2 oz Old Ballard Well Vodka
  • pickled herring
  • 1 lemon
  • dill fronds

Combine and ice spirits, stir and pour into coupe. Garnish with pickled herring, a lemon twist and a dill frond.

RECIPE: Fried Herring and Mash Potatoes from the Swedish Club

Fried Herring and Mash Potatoes for Alaska Herring Week for Wednesday Dinner at the Swedish Club. Photo courtesy the Swedish Club.

The Swedish Club, on Dexter Avenue North, is one place you would absolutely expect to find grand herring dishes any time, whether or not it is Alaska Herring Week. So it is no surprise that they are going all in for Alaska Herring Week 2017! Of course, there is the added benefit of Alaska Herring Week coinciding with the Summer Solstice, or as they know it, Midsommar. After all, the longest day of the year is a big deal in a country so far north.

The Swedish Club will feature multiple traditional herring dishes during Alaska Herring Week, beginning with their Wednesday Dinner on June 21st, featuring this lovely Fried Herring and Mash Potatoes! And here is the recipe, should you like to try making it at home! (And stay tuned for more of their featured herring dishes.)

RECIPE: Fried Herring & Mashed Potatoes

For 4 servings, you’ll need:

  • 8 fillets of Herring
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 pinch of white pepper
  • 1/2 cup dark rye flour
  • 1-2 tbsp butter for frying
First, brine the herring fillets in this mixture:
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • Brine for 2-3 hours and pour off

Rinse the Herring and pat dry with paper towels. Salt and pepper the fish and dip both sides in the rye flower.Fry the Herring a couple of minutes on both sides in butter. Serve with mash potatoes, lingonberry jam, vegetables or small salad.


If there are leftover fried Herring, you can pickled it with this brine:

  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1.5 cup water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 whole allspice
  • 1 sliced yellow onion
  • 1 sliced carrot

Heat up all ingredients except the vegetables until sugar has dissolved. Let it cool down a bit before adding the onion and carrot. Pour it over the fried Herring. It will keep for at least a week in an airtight container in the fridge, and you can enjoy the Herring on dark rye bread or Hardtack
(Crackers). It’s a perfect lunch on a hot summer day.