Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Long Overdue Surstromming Encounter

So you probably thought you were getting a gluten free pancake recipe post huh? Nah ah! That's way too predictable. This Shrove Tuesday you are getting........ Surstromming!

oskars surstromming
See That Bulge?!
If you aren't familiar with my Surstromming quest hit that link to go back in time to discover how it all began.
So, this Saturday just gone, hubby to be decided that enough was enough, we were opening the Surstomming no matter what. It had been over two months that I had been in possession of the tins but despite my fascination with Surstromming I was very wary due to all the horror stories and videos I had seen in relation to it.

If you've read my previous post about it, you will know that this isn't your regular kind of food stuff. It's fermented herring that is supposed to be one of the most foul smelling foods in the world, but still, I've wanted to taste this stuff for years, the taste is supposed to be a delicacy.

Now, as we're preparing to open the tin, we're both a bit nervous. Say for instance that the tin explodes as we puncture it, or say everywhere gets covered with the stinky fermentation juice? There was lots of preparation prior to opening the tin. 

My OH had a look online about ways to open it and discovered that if you held the tin at a 45 degree angle, the juice shouldn't spurt everywhere. This was a good start. There was some dismantling of the cooker hood extractor fan to try and increase air flow and so we began.

Like A Scene From Twin Peaks
There were various attempts to puncture the tin during which I was nervously hiding behind him peeking looks like an excitable child. Finally the Swiss Army Knife perforated the ridiculously thick tin and a hiss of fermentation gas arose from the plastic bag. It was eggy.

We have watched countless people on YouTube from around the globe doing exactly what we just had. Except they do it outdoors. Some run away from the tin as if it were a bomb just about to go off, some throw up, it was all these encounters that we have watched and read about that made me say the following thing: "what a load of wusses".

It did pong, I'm not going to lie, but it was nowhere near as bad as what the reactions we had witnessed on YouTube garnered. The more the tin was opened the stronger the smell got, but still, I was waiting for the most awful smell in the world to make its presence known in our little kitchen but nothing. Just a very strong pong of eggs. The fermentation juice did bubble quite a lot though.

surstromming in tin
At Last!
I had been waiting for this moment for so long, after ten minutes of my OH cutting through the thick tin it was finally open and the surstromming were on show. The odour was still strong but again, still eggy, nothing more offensive than that. I think we were both a bit surprised by this, no gagging, nothing. We both either have defunct olfaction, are really hardcore, or it just wasn't anywhere near as bad as we were expecting. I'll go with the latter.

fermented herring
Worst Food In The World? Nah, It's Just A Fish!
Something that I want to note about the majority of people you will see on YouTube trying to eat surstromming, is that they take it directly from the tin and eat it. HELLO! Of course it's going to taste like sheeet, they don't gut the fish, nor do they fillet it. Bones and innards, lovely!

The fear was gone, the tasting was about to begin. I filleted and cleaned and I was left with something not dissimilar to the appearance of Schmaltz Herring and salted Anchovy.

Filleted Surstromming
Bearing in mind that the smell was nowhere near as bad as expected I was eager to taste. I had intended to go the traditional route and have potato with it, but I settled on some plain Sakata Crackers and sour cream. I of course tried it alone first for the full taste sensation. Must say, I'm quite proud, my OH tried it too, just a little, but he tried it despite saying he wouldn't and with no coercion from me might I add!

I'm quite confident in saying that I have good taste buds, I can identify foods easily. What I got from the intense flavour of Surstromming was very salty Camembert. You wouldn't choose to eat it alone as the taste is very overpowering but combined with other things it's a very interesting ingredient that doesn't taste remotely like fish. It's very cheesy and very salty but for me personally, absolutely not offensive in any way. If you have ever eaten and enjoyed Smoked Roe or Schmaltz Herring and don't have an aversion to French Cheese you might just feel the same.

As for the smell, well as soon as the tin was disposed of and the remaining Surstromming put into an airtight container, it was gone. No lingering in the air, nothing. There is a slight presence when the fridge is opened but I'm totally used to it now, and it doesn't appear to be affecting anything else. Those people on YouTube really are wusses.

I kind of came away from my Surstromming experience a bit disappointed. It is unlike anything I've ever tasted before, but I kind of thought that it would test me and it didn't. I ate it happily and would eat it again without question, it may not be something that I would have on a regular basis but it certainly shouldn't be considered to be one of the worst foods in the world. I'd go so far as to say I liked it.

So that was my Surstromming encounter, I was expecting it to be a bit like a bushtucker trial but it was nothing like one. I guess once you've seen people eating all manner of intimate animal bits, a little fermented herring isn't really going to be offensive. Surstromming tasters of YouTube you should be ashamed of yourselves!

Happy Pancake Day!

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