Brathering is a German dish made from herring that are fried and then marinated. The flavor can be very sharp and strong, or it can be sweet and sour with the addition of sugar or other sweet ingredients. Most recipes call for the use of green herring, although any type can be used with similar results. There are some variations on brathering, such as including tomato sauce along with the pickling spices or using Asian ingredients such as soy sauce and ginger. The resulting brathering can be eaten with mashed potatoes mixed with bacon, pieces of toasted bread, or a cucumber and dill salad, depending on the spices used during pickling.
Before preparation of the brathering recipe begins, the herring must be correctly cleaned and prepared. This process involves removing the head, tail and entrails from the fish. The fish is then cut into two fillets, one from each side of the body. The fillets can be deboned by using a pair of needle-nosed pliers to grab the end of each of the small pin bones and pull them out. If the bones are not removed, they will soften or dissolve completely while marinating.
Once prepared, the herring fillets are dried with a towel and then breaded. They can be dredged in a light coating of flour or dipped in egg and then flour or breadcrumbs. The coated herring are fried in oil, sometimes with onions or other aromatic vegetables, until they are cooked through and have developed a golden crust. The finished fillets are then put to the side, but must be kept warm for the next step.
The marinade for the brathering can contain many ingredients, but it generally begins with vinegar that is heated in a pan. Classical additions are mustard seeds, onions, peppercorns, bay leaves, hot peppers and allspice. All the ingredients are placed in the vinegar, sometimes with additional water or even white wine, and cooked until hot. Some recipes call for the spices to be fried in oil first to develop their flavors, although this is not necessary. Once hot, the final canning process can begin.
Sterile glass jars are filled with the warm, fried herring. The hot marinade is poured into the jars so it covers the herring. After closing the jars, the brathering is allowed to cool to room temperature and then placed in a refrigerator or kept in a very cool location. The herring should be allowed to marinate for one to four days before being eaten, depending on the size of the fish. Freshly made brathering will keep for two weeks or more in a refrigerator, while commercially purchased pasteurized brathering can last much longer.