The mission of Suomen Sillikonttori is to restore the honour of the Finnish herring industry
Although Suomen Sillikonttori is a relatively young company, the roots of its founder, Matti Ruuska, reach back decades in the herring industry, and the history of the name is even older.
”When I had sold Boyfood company which I had founded in the 1970s, I was sorry to see soon afterwards that the Finnish herring industry was moving abroad and my life’s work was going for nothing. When Scanfood, a company focused on herring and Baltic herring processing, came up for sale, I thought that maybe I still had something to give for herring processing. I bought the company and named it Suomen Sillikonttori” says Ruuska and continues:
”The name originates in the golden age of herring fishing in the 1930s. I employed Ville Haapanen as a managing director. He had already earned credit at Boyfood. Other key positions are also occupied by old hands from Boyfood, and newer employees are also true professionals in the fishing industry.”
The best end product from fresh raw materials
The vacuum-packed herring fillets of Suomen Sillikonttori are already found in most of well-stocked grocery shops. As regards consumers, the focus of Sillikonttori is specifically on vacuum-packed fillets and hand-packed artisan herrings.
”We fetch fresh vegetables from Vihannes-Laitila every morning and use them in the production of the day. We want to produce herring by using the best and the freshest raw materials”, Ville Haapanen says.
”Our herring supplier produces over half a million barrels of salted herring during a fishing season of more than three months, and we get only less than seven thousand barrels of them. I have been cooperating with the supplier for decades so we can select the best herrings”, enlightens Matti Ruuska and continues:
”Our supplier prepares for us the raw material that we exactly want or we control the salting of herring, which is done when the herring is at its best or its fat content is at its highest.”
Getting rid of seasons by means of herring temptation
The herring seasons are obvious in Finland. At Christmas Finns prepare their own herring fillets for Christmas table and in summer they buy jars of pickled herrings for new potatoes.
”As late as the 1960s and 1970s herrings ran out during spring. Ships full of fresh herring then arrived at the same time as new potatoes were lifted, due to which herring and new potatoes have become a feast in Finland. Formerly, the arrival of herrings was a media event which was specially waited for”, says Ruuska.
The most recent launch by Sillikonttori is herring temptations created by top chef Matti Jämsen who combines the best herring cubes with delicious sauces. Herring temptations can be a way to make the younger generation also interested in herring. The consumption of herring is still quite conservative and you must grow to eat herring – a herring temptation could lower this threshold.
”Herring offers endless possibilities of use, for instance, in the world of tapas and cocktail snacks. We would like to make herring popular all year round through new ways of using it”, says Haapanen.
Respect for warm herring dishes
The strongly salted herrings of the past years have been left behind and the salt amounts of herrings have now decreased by half. Though a day-long soak is not needed anymore, Ruuska and Haapanen remind us that a rinse or a quick soak of a herring are good tricks to remove the extra salt from the surface.
In restaurant dishes the herring is a little forgotten raw material. In Sweden they serve fried herring with onion sauce in many restaurants still on every Monday, and herring is still on offer in the buffets of ferries between Sweden and Finland. However, Ruuska and Haapanen are of the opinion that herring can be used in many delicious warm dishes which would also be excellent additions to restaurant menus.
”When the herring casserole is made with matjes herring fillet, it does not differ much from Jansson’s casserole seasoned with anchovy. The variety of herring is not brought out enough and you do not necessarily understand what a great addition it is, for example, to certain meat dishes”, Ruuska points out.
Ruuska’s own favourite herring dish is simple – lightly salted herring is soaked for a couple of hours, chopped and served with sauce made of spring onion and crème fraîche and with new potatoes. Haapanen’s all-time favourites are glazier’s herring (pickled herring) and a herring casserole made from boiled potatoes.
”A herring casserole is easy, cheap and quick. And when you do not tell to children that there is herring in it, they will enjoy it for sure”, Ville laughs.
See Krouvi herring recipe of restaurant Göran:
See also other herring recipes for Suomen Sillikonttori:
- Herring casserole of matjes herring from Suomen Sillikonttori
- Lemon herring of matjes herring fillet from Suomen Sillikonttori
- Matjes herring tartar of herring fillet from Suomen Sillikonttori
- Sillikonttori’s herring and potato cake