Surströmming is a hero of many short videos showing people going delirious over its smell. Leaving behind those reactions are purposely exaggerated to get clicks, the smell is certainly not delicious.

Why people has chosen such method of food preservation? Does fermenting fish give any advantages over smoking or drying? Does fermented fish hold longer? Or it's about the protection from bears? Or maybe it's more cost effective (less effort or resources)?

Why would I, as drop-out, choose to ferment fish for preservation?

  • 1
    I think this could receive better answers on the cooking SE. Sep 6, 2022 at 7:06
  • Fermenting is a widespread old technique (beer, vinegar, kimchi, ...). One thing is that it does not need lots of fuel, so can be scaled up fairly easily.
    – Jon Custer
    Sep 7, 2022 at 18:37
  • I have heard of fermented fish which would not be usable for food if preserved in any other way, not sure of the fish which is fermented is suitable for food, I would not touch it.
    – Willeke
    Sep 7, 2022 at 18:42
  • Main advantage: It'll be less likely that you have to share the food with anyone else.
    – Max
    Sep 12, 2022 at 8:13

1 Answer 1


Although I cannot give you any good source for this, it is claimed that surströmming (fermented herring) was invented by accident.

The traditional way to preserve herring is salt. Salt, however, was quite expensive in the baltics, far from salt mines and seas with high salt concentration.

So someone took a chance and used too little salt when storing their fish, which resulted in fermentation in the barrel. Then he or she was hungry enough to eat the fish later in spite of the smell and found out that it was objectively edible and subjectively good.

The value of this in an outdoor context is questionable. Fermenting herring takes some time and the product should be stored cold. If you want to preserve herring in the wild and have access to salt, simply use enough salt for preservation, not just enough for fermentation.

  • Fermenting as a way to save salt? Interesting thought. And potentially healthier? Sep 8, 2022 at 19:41
  • Apparently Wikipedia agrees: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surstr%C3%B6mming
    – Guran
    Sep 9, 2022 at 6:39
  • Fermenting fish is definitely very advanced DIY food stuff. For comparison, there are tons of warnings for making traditional Alaskan food (example), due to the high number of inexperienced people who don't know what they are doing and get poisoned. Sep 10, 2022 at 9:08

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