The word matjes is derived from the Dutch meisje (girl) and means something like girl or young herring. Matjes is made from young, not sexually mature herrings that have a high fat content of around 18 to 20 percent.
After being caught, the heads and entrails are removed first, with the exception of the pancreas. The fish is then left to mature in a wooden barrel for a week, complete with salt, skin and bones. An enzyme from the pancreas, together with the salt, transforms the herring into herring and gives it its typical taste. Matjes is therefore not raw fish, but fish that has been partially fermented by an enzyme.
Matjes season is short
Genuine matjes must not have formed any seeds or eggs. Depending on how mature the fish are, the start of the season varies from year to year and sometimes begins in mid-May, sometimes as late as mid-June and only lasts about two months in total. After that, the breeding season of the fish begins. For the rest of the year, only “wrong” herring or herring in herring style is available for the popular herring rolls or the classic herring salad. These are normal herring fillets that are artificially tenderized with the help of enzymes.
Prepare matjes “housewife style”.
Matjes is generally enjoyed cold. Perhaps the most well-known method of preparation is “housewife style”. Cut the onions, pickles and apple into small pieces and mix with sour cream or yoghurt, cream, some vinegar and lemon juice if you like. Garnish with fresh dill to taste. Either put the matjes in the sauce or serve separately. Potatoes in their skins are traditionally served with this dish. The preparation with a piece of bacon made from finely diced onions, parsley, fried bacon cubes and butter is also popular. Green beans go well with it.
Is matjes healthy?
Matjes contains many healthy minerals and vitamins, including vitamin D in particular. The fish is very fatty and rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Matjes and Bismarck herring: What’s the difference?
Unlike Matjes, Bismarck herring does not only use young herring, but also fish that have already spawned. It is therefore also in season at other times. The most important difference, however, is in the manufacturing process: Unlike Matjes, which matures in salt and its own enzymes, Bismarck herring is marinated in a vinegar broth that gives the fish its characteristic sour taste.
Matjes rarely comes from Germany
The Matjes available from us comes mainly from the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway. In Germany it is hardly ever caught and produced. Only a few companies, for example in Glückstadt and Emden, have specialized in this. The start of the season is celebrated in some northern German cities with large folk festivals.