Soused herring is so much more delicate than you might expect from its name at first. In Germany, it’s typically served as matjes housewife-style with sour cream sauce.
Matjes are young herrings that have been preserved in a salt brine. They’re originally from the Netherlands where, until today, the best Matjes is produced. It’s no surprise that matjes is a staple of German cuisine nowadays. Its flavor isn’t unpleasantly fish. It’s very mild in taste perfumed with the flavor of the sea.
The matjes I can buy at my local stores are usually very salty so that I soak the fish filets in water before eating them to get rid of the salty taste. If you’re living outside of the Netherlands and also struggle to source high-quality low-sodium matjes then it’s very important that you don’t skip that step as well.
How to prepare the cream sauce for matjes housewife-style
The salt content of matjes is insanely high and you will taste it. That’s why the cream sauce should never be seasoned with salt. In fact, the cream sauce is a key factor as to why this dish tastes so delicious. It cuts through the saltiness of the fish.
The housewife-style sauce needs to be well balanced in flavor. It should contain a sweet component in the form of apples that is balanced by the acidity of the pickles, sour cream, and lemon juice. The raw onions should always be cut just before serving to prevent them from oxidizing. That way they will taste the best and still have a nice crunch to them.
Matjes housewife-style doesn’t need a lot of side dishes. It’s perfect with pan-fried potatoes or a slice of spelt bread on the side. A lot of people also like to eat it like a fish sandwich in between a bread roll bun.
Matjes Housewife-style (‘Matjes Hausfrauenart’)
- 8 Matjes fillets
- 7 ounces (200 g) crème fraîche
- 7 ounces (200 g) sour cream
- 1/2 cup finely minced cornichons
- 2 medium-sized apples, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons finely minced dill
- black pepper, to taste
- lemon juice, to taste
- 2 small red onions, thinly sliced
- a handful of dill sprigs for garnishing
- Taste your matjes. If it is too salty, rinse under cold water or leave it to soak inside a cool water bath for half an hour. Pat dry and set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the crème fraîche, sour cream, cornichons, apples, and dill. Season the sauce to taste with black pepper and lemon juice. Don’t add any salt as the matjes contains plenty of salt already.
- Arrange two matjes fillets on each serving plate and spoon a generous amount of sauce on top. Garnish with the onion slices and some dill sprigs.