Marinated or pickled herrings are not necessarily made from raw fish. In Germany, herring is fried before being marinated and is eaten customarily with boiled new potatoes, bacon and onions. Brathering is pickled herring served either as a snack with rye bread and butter or as the piece de resistance of a full meal in which case it is accompanied with boiled potatoes and clabbered milk.
In France, smoked herring is marinated in oil. I am not quite sure that what the Swedes call glassblower's herring or glamastarsill, apparently for no other reason than that it is put up in a glass jar, cannot be made with equal authenticity from fresh, salted or smoked herring. But in any case, it consists of herring cut into chunks and pickled in vinegar with carrots, onions, spices and sugar.
It is above all when herring is smoked that artistry makes it entrance because amateurs as well as professionals smoked herring a century or two ago. When Henry James bought the early 18th-century Lamb House near Rye, England, he found that he had acquired with it a "deese." This is a chimney like structure especially designed for herring smoking. Hot smoking, the method preferred in Scandinavia and Germany, cooks the herring which, thereafter, can be eaten as it is bought unless you wish to warm it up.
Cool smoking is generally used in England and France (except in Alsace, which follows German tradition). It does not cook the fish, which you must cook before eating it unless you like it raw. Cool smoking demands watchfulness or you will wind up with cooked herring. After all, as one old-time French writer put it, "A herring has only to look at the fire to be cooked." The 18th-century French gourmet Grimod de la Reyniere, speaking of cooking, not smoking gave a more precise measure: Hearing cooks in the time required to say an Ave, but a Pater Noster is too long.
The least subtle form of the smoked fish is plain red herring left ungutted, salted heavily and cool-smoked for several weeks over smouldering sawdust. In the 16th century John Heywood added it to the English language by writing, "She is neither fish, nor flesh, nor good red herring." It has now lost favor there. English herring smokers still make red herring but for sale in the Middle East.
The bloater might be described as a special case of the red herring because it is also cured whole and ungutted. It is only lightly cold-smoked and also only lightly salted, just enough to give flavor without drying to an extent which would produce toughness. Bloaters are, therefore, perishable and not meant to bekept long before eating.
Sometimes they look heavily smoked and completely dry. But this is a trick played on untutored buyers who are assumed likely to be favorably impressed if the product seems to have undergone a good deal of manipulation. In all probability, such bloaters have been artificially colored.
Go into an English food store and ask for a couple of Yarmouths and you will get a pair of bloaters. Yarmough is reputed to make the best bloaters and may even have invented them. The city is sometimes called Great Yarmouth in tribute to its centuries-old history as England's leading herring port.
Bloaters are at present becoming rare in England. The fact that they are not cleaned before smoking gives them a gamey flavor which seems to be out of tune with modern tastes.
Buckling is preserved whole, unsplit and hence ungutted, too, But since it is a German variant, it is hot-smoked and consequently cooked. The name "buckling" is a posthumous tribute to a 15th-century Dutchman, Willem Beukeis. He is honored as the invetor of the smoking of herring, which he was not. Fish were smoked long before the 15th century, but Beukels deserves some credit for the buckling even if it was originally granted him for the wrong reason. What he really did was to work out the system by which buckling are packed into barrels. They are wedged in according to a pattern that converts them into a solid block, leaving almost no room for air. If there were more of it, air would oxidize the fat of the fish and change their taste.