This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
There is a fresh water herring abundant in Lake Superior; its fins however show it to be allied to the salmon family; it is white fleshed and the fillets are boneless, like brook trout. The Sea Herring is one of the most abundant fishes, but its season is so short that fresh herring is a luxury while it lasts.
In the Isle of Man and other great herring localities we have seen fried onions served as an accompaniment to fried herring and shad, and it is so generally appreciated that we think those who have not thought of the combination might try it without fear of a disappointment. After the fish are fried, they should be laid on a soft cloth before the fire, and turned every two of three minutes, till dry on both sides. It is well to keep old linen table-cloths to cut up for this purpose.
The herring house is a lofty shed, about thirty or forty feet high, divided into compartments by racks or horizontal bars of wood, across which the wooden spits, loaded with herrings, are laid as close as possible, from the top of the house to within six feet of the floor. A fire of oak-wood, or billets, as they are called, is then kindled beneath them, and is allowed to burn some six or seven hours. This is called a blow, from the effect it has in distending the skin of the fish. In order perfectly to cure the herrings, they must be subjected to ten or twelve such blows, or firings, an interval elapsing between each, to allow the fat and oil to drip from them, so that the process of making a red-herring occupies six or seven days. The bloaters, or blown herrings, are subjected to only one firing, and are much less dry. These are intended for immediate consumption, and, of course, do not require so long a time for curing.
In former days in England, it was the unbroken custom to serve, at certain seasons, a particular dish first; as a boar's head at Christmas, a goose at Michaelmas, a gammon of bacon, or a "red herring riding away on horseback" at Easter. This last was after the likeness of a man on horseback set in a corn salad.
Fresh herrings twisted in a round, placed in a deep pie dish with vinegar, pepper and a bay leaf; baked 45 minutes, served with the liquor.
Broiled herrings with mustard sauce.
Boneless sides of smoked herrings broiled in a paper case with a layer of stuffing between them.