Holdfast Brown Bread and Fenrir Pickled Mackerel

A pair of the city’s finest Scan-leaning outfits tackle two Julbord classics: dense spice-laden bread and pickled fish.

By Benjamin Tepler November 20, 2015 Published in the December 2015 issue of Portland Monthly

1215 pickled mackerel bb7wdt

A Galisteo galvanized metal tray edged in rich copper, plucked from local accessory trove Budd & Finn, adds gleam to the table (available in four sizes, $50–100,

Fenrir Pickled Mackerel

(Serves 12)

Fenrir’s Ian Wilson fills the requisite Scandi “pickled fish” food group with mackerel, not the traditional herring. “There’s a ton of mackerel right off the Pacific coast—it’s way more consistent than herring,” he says. The swap yields clean, sweet, and sour bites of vinegar-cooked fish, served stripes and all.

  • 3 fresh mackerel, filleted and pin bones removed (ask your fishmonger to do this)
  • 7 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2½ cups white wine vinegar
  • ¾ cup sherry vinegar
  • ¾ cup cold water
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 shallot, cut into ⅛-inch rings
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp whole yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 3 cloves
  • ¼  bunch fresh dill, stems attached

BRINE Combine 1 quart cold water and salt to make brine, stirring to dissolve. Place mackerel in a 1-gallon zip-top bag and pour the brine over them, push out any air as you seal bag, and refrigerate. After 24 hours, drain the mackerel of their brine by opening a corner of the bag and pouring it off, leaving the mackerel inside.

PICKLE* Combine vinegars, water, and sugar in a bowl. Add to the bag shallot, peppercorns, mustard seeds, bay leaf, thyme, and cloves, and pour in the vinegar mix. Allow to marinate in the fridge for 3 days before eating. (Pickled mackerel will keep, refrigerated, for 2–3 weeks in its pickling liquid.)

SERVE Cut mackerel into bite-size pieces and serve alongside crème fraîche, fresh dill, and black pepper.

*No time to home-pickle? Wilson recommends Newman’s Fish Company’s white wine pickled herring, available at City Market (

Holdfast Brown Bread

(Makes 2 loaves)

Holdfast serves its moist, molasses-sweet pumpernickel-rye loaf during its multicourse meals with a pat of butter studded with flake salt. It’s so good that chefs Will Preisch and Joel Stocks send their guests home with loaves of the Nordic spice–laden treat, gift-wrapped with the recipe. Stocking stuffers, take note: you can give no greater present than this sweet, hearty brown bread.

  • 2 cups rye flour*
  • 1 cup graham flour*
  • 1 cup cornmeal*
  • 1 cup pumpernickel meal*
  • 1 tbsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp caraway seed, ground
  • ½ tsp dill seed, ground
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1⅓ cups blackstrap molasses
  • 4⅓ cups buttermilk

*Find flours and meals at Bob’s Red Mill.

MIX Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients. In another bowl, combine buttermilk and molasses, whisking until fully blended. Pour wet ingredients into dry, and stir until homogenous.

MAKE A WATER BATH Spray two, 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with cooking oil and pour the bread mixture inside, filling up two-thirds of the way. Wrap individual pans with foil. Place pans inside a larger pan, big enough to fit both. Fill with water halfway up the sides of the loaf pans.

BAKE Bake for 4 hours, or until a cake tester, inserted in the middle, comes out relatively clean. Let cool 25 minutes before inverting on a wire rack to cool completely. The bread is easier to slice when completely cold, but should be served slightly warmed. Wrapped in plastic, the bread lasts 3 weeks in the fridge and indefinitely in the freezer.

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