Nova Scotian Solomon Gundy herring is indeed the most popular of all our marinated products. The one question that is asked over and over again is “Where does this name come from?”
When the owners of Mersey Point Fish Products first moved from the Netherlands to Canada they were also intrigued by the name and the taste.
It tasted like the marinated herring you could typically find in the North European countries, like Denmark, Norway or Sweden. The biggest difference between the marinate of these countries compared to the marinated herring from the Netherlands is the sugar content. The North Europeans prepare it a lot sweeter.
As for the name! It proved to be hard to find one explanation. As a matter of fact a number of explanations were given to what it meant and to where it came from. It was said that the German immigrants who moved to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia brought Solomon Gundy to Canada. Others said that it arrived with the Jewish immigrants and still others claimed that the British brought it over.
On trying to dig a little deeper it seems that the word came to the English language from France in the seventeenth century, from the French salmigondis, of which older spellings in that language were salmiguondin and salmingondin. And before this it is thought to have come from Italy from salame conditi, which is Italian for pickled meat; it gives the description of a dish composed of chopped meat, anchovies, eggs, onions with oil and condiments. This was a common way of preserving food in medieval Europe.
By the time the words and the process reached Britain, it made the change into Solomon Gundy. At that time, a Solomon Gundy was likely to be a plate of pickled meats or fish with onions and condiments.
There are many recipes for salmagundy in seventeenth and eighteenth century European books, and just about anything goes for as far as ingredients are concerned. Herring and anchovies seem to dominate though.
There has been much speculation that the name is connected with the children’s rhyme, Solomon Grundy. However we have not really been able to establish whether there is an actual connection. We did hear from several people in Nova Scotia that their parents and grandparents would tell them the following;
On Monday the Herring was caught, gutted and salted.
On Tuesday the Herring rested in salt.
On Wednesday the Herring was striped and put in vinegar brine.
On Thursday onions and spices were added to the Herring in brine.
On Friday the Herring rested in the brine.
On Saturday the Herring, onions, spices and brine were packed in bottles.
On Sunday the Herring was eaten and given away as gifts
And that was the end of one tasty batch of Solomon Gundy.
The children’s rhyme, first set down by James Orchard Halliwell in 1842 goes as follows:
Solomon Grundy, born on Monday,
Christened on Tuesday,
Married on Wednesday,
Took ill on Thursday,
Worse on Friday,
Died on Saturday,
Buried on Sunday.
We leave it up to the individual to figure out if there is a connection.