Eat More Fish – Rollmops

Rollmops, pickled herring fillets, rolled (hence the name) into a cylindrical shape, often around a savoury filling, are particularly popular in Europe and South America. The filling is usually slices of onion, pickled gherkin, or green olive with pimento. Rollmops can be served held together with one or two small wooden skewers. Rollmops are often bought ready-to-eat, in jars or tubs. The marinade additionally contains water, white vinegar, and salt and will also possibly contain sugar or other sweetening agents, onion rings, peppercorns and mustard seeds. Rollmops can be eaten cold, without unrolling, or on bread. After the jar has been opened, they will usually keep for two to three weeks if kept cool or refrigerated.

KylieVeasey131104103711The name “rollmops” is German in origin, derived from the words rollen (to roll) and Mops (German name of pug dogs, but also “blockhead”). The word Rollmops is singular in German, the plural being Rollmöpse. In English, however, the term rollmops is often treated as the plural of a supposed singular rollmop. The form rollmop herrings is also sometimes used.

Pickled herrings have been a staple foodstuff in Northern Europe since Medieval times, being a way to store and transport fish, especially necessary in meat free  periods like Lent. The herrings would be prepared, then packed in barrels for storage or transportation. Rollmops grew popular throughout Germany during the Biedermeier period of the early 19th century and were known as a particular specialty of Berlin, like the similar pickled herring dish Bismarckhering. A crucial factor in their popularity was the development of the long-range railway network, which allowed the transport of herring from the North and Baltic seas to the interior of  the country.

The fish was pickled to preserve it and transported in wooden barrels. In pubs in Old Berlin, it was common to have high-rising glass display cases known as Hungerturm (meaning “hunger tower”) on the bar to present ready-to-eat dishes like lard bread, salt eggs, meatballs, mettwurst, and of course rollmops. At the present time, rollmops are commonly served as part of the German Katerfrühstück (hangover breakfast) which is believed to restore some electrolytes after a particularly heavy bout of drinking!

There are two basic methods of pickling fish.The first, and old-fashioned way, involves packing salted-down fish into a crock or jar and covering with boiling brine. If this method is practiced, home-picklers are advised to freeze fish for at least 48 hours beforehand, in case tapeworms are present in the flesh. The other method, gently poaches the fish in boiling brine before putting the fillets into a crock pot. This eliminates the need to freeze first, which allows fish to be pickled at prime. In the unlikely event that the flesh contains parasites, heat will destroy them. This method is used  for pickling fresh catch. When pickling fish, use only high-grade distilled vinegar, course pickling salt, fresh spices, and earthen crock or glass jars as metal containers may cause discolouration or give a “tinny” taste.



  • 120g sea salt
  • 1 litre water
  • 1 pound herring fillets

For the pickling solution

  • 375 ml water
  • 500 ml good cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp of granulated sugar
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 8 whole allspice berries
  • 6 whole black peppercorns
  • 4 dried bay leaves
  • A pinch of red chilli flakes
  •  20 cornichons
  • 20 silver skin pickled onions
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced


Firstly, place the salt and water into a large non metallic container and stir until the salt has dissolved this can take up to 5 minutes. Add the herring fillets, ensuring they are submerged. Cover and pop in the fridge overnight. Combine water, vinegar, sugar, cloves, allspice, peppercorns, bay leaves, and red pepper flake in a heavy based saucepan set over medium high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid comes to a boil. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate overnight.
Remove the herrings from the brine and rinse thoroughly under cold running water for 1 minute. Submerge the filets in clean cold water and place back in the fridge for 1 hour. Drain and rinse the herring fillets. Pat dry. Lay the fillets in a single layer, skin side down and brush each with the Dijon mustard. Place a cornichon or a pickled onion on the filet. Roll up each filet and secure with 1 or 2 toothpicks. Alternate layers of rollmops and julienned onion in a glass jar.Pour on the chilled pickling mixture, cover and refrigerate for at least 3 days. When you are ready to eat your roll mops , drain the pickling solution and serve with crusty bread.



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