Solomon Gundy is an interesting name, especially for a type of food. It sounds more like something out of a comic book. However, don’t let the name fool you. If you take some time to get to know him (or it), you may be pleasantly surprised.
Truth be told, Solomon Gundy is nothing more than the name for Maritime style pickled herring spread over cream cheese and crackers. I learned this while traveling to Nova Scotia during the month of April.
In mysterious fashion, nobody actually knows why the dish is called Solomon Gundy. I asked the server at the particular restaurant where I tried it, I surveyed some locals, then I looked it up online. Nobody could give me a straight answer. Not even the internet.
However, I do trust my taste buds. And what I sampled should be passed along. So if you have a couple days to spare, and want to experiment with the method of pickling, this may be the perfect way.
- 6 whole salt herring filets
- 1 (or 2) bags of mini cocktail rye breads
- 1 container of your favorite cream cheese
- 3 cups white vinegar
- 1 cup white sugar
- 2 tablespoon whole allspice
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 5 medium onions (sliced)
The Night Before:
The process of doing a proper Solomon Gundy can take a couple days. It’s best to know this going in. That said, patience may be the main ingredient (that’s a joke).
To start, carefully slice the heads and tails off each herring, then soak the remaining parts (the eventual filets) in cold water for 12 hours. Overnight should work just fine. Keep in mind, it may be a good idea to change to water at least once during the process.
The Next Day:
Skin the herring filets and thoroughly clean them. Make sure to remove all bones and other unwanted parts, then cut them into one inch squares.
Next, prepare the pickling solution by mixing the whole allspice, the peppercorns, the vinegar, and the sugar with three cups of water (preferably in a mason jar or something similar), then pour the contents into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat after five or six minutes, then let cool.
In a medium sized mason jar (or similar glass container), alternately layer the herring and onion slices. When finished, pour the cooled marinade over the top of the herring and onions. It’s a good idea to repeat the process with another jar (to enjoy one sooner, and one later). Refrigerate overnight. Only one more night to go.
The Day After That:
Pull out your bag of mini cocktail rye breads (your favorite type of crackers will suffice) and lay them across a tray, then spread some cream cheese on each of them accordingly. From there, take one piece of herring and place it on top of the cream cheese. You can also add an onion slice, or more spice if you’d like, but be sure to try the first piece plain so you know the taste you’re going for.
For more of a Nova Scotia style delight, you can add some dulse (Maritime seaweed) on the side, or whatever type of seaweed you can get your hands on for an added anti-oxidant boost.
But be sure to set aside a good amount for later. Six herring filets should yield around one hundred pieces (at least two full jars) and pickling is an excellent method of food preservation.