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Filling the barrels and inspection

Branded herring barrel from Angus, 1887

Once the herring girls had filled the barrels they were left to stand open for several days - this was known as pining. During this time, a chemical change occurred between the juices from the fish and the salt and this caused the herring to shrink. The resultant brine was called blood pickle. The brine was then poured off and the barrel was filled to the top, this was known as top tiering. It was done particularly neatly, so that when the barrel was opened the fish looked good. The extracted brine was added to the top.

Excerpt from 1864 publication by J.M. Mitchell on the filling of herring barrels

When the barrels were full, they were inspected by a Fishery Officer. He checked that each barrel did not leak and that it was properly filled. If everything was in order, he gave it an official crown brand. Next, the cooper fitted the lid and the barrel was laid on its side. The bung was removed and the barrel was filled up with brine and then the bung was replaced. At this stage the barrel was said to be bung packed. Finally, using a hot iron, the cooper burned the name of the curer and the quality of the herring contained inside, onto the lid (example). With the inspection complete and the barrels sealed, they were ready for export.

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