Curing the Herring

When the British herring fishing industry was at it’s height it was reckoned that for every drifter that went to sea about a hundred jobs were provided on shore. We do not know how accurate that statement was but certainly the herring fishing provided a lot of jobs ashore, not least the thousands of herring gutters in every fishing port round the coast ever since large scale gutting began in Scotland early in the 19th century.
It was the Dutch that originally devised the technique of removing the gill and long gut from the herring before curing them in barrels with layers of salt between each tier of fish. That secret enabled them to monopolise the whole European herring trade throughout the 16th and 17th centuries.
The main market for Scottish herring before the 19th century was in the West Indies where fish was in great demand as a cheap food to feed the Negro slaves on the plantations and the quality of the cure for that market was not important. When slavery was abolished by the acts of 1807 and 1833 the West Indian market for herring declined and eventually ceased altogether, hence the necessity to seek new outlets for Scottish herring.

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