Cypress Grill and the Jamesville Herring Festival
The small town of Jamesville, NC still celebrates spring with a Herring Festival on Easter Monday. A parade, complete with floats, a band, and the crowned Herring Festival Queen kicks off the festivities
About the Herring
Through the centuries blueback herring, also known as river herring, have found their way from the Atlantic Ocean, through rivers, creeks and canals to spawn in the lakes and the sounds of coastal North Carolina. Those that survive return to the sea, the young fish wait until the following fall to make their exodus to the Atlantic Ocean.
The tradition of spring herring fishing goes back long before the first European settlers arrived on the shores of the Carolina Coast. American Indians fished the coastal waters for thousands of years before their arrival. The native fishermen taught the newcomers how to make nets woven from plant materials, and how to use traps called weirs that are still incorporated by today's commercial herring fishermen. The bow and dip nets of ancient times are made from more modern materials, but follow the same pattern as those used by Indians long ago and many recreational fishermen still use them to catch herring. Some nets were simply a big chicken wire basket with a cord attached. When the fish swam into the net and the fisherman felt them bump he just yanked the net out of the water by the cord.
Folks Line Up at Cypress Grill of Fried Herring
Cooking and Preserving Herring
Herrings were preserved in the old days by packing them in salt brine or pickling them in a vinegar and spice concoction. Before cooking the salted herring the fish must be soaked overnight in fresh water to take out the saltiness, changing the water at least twice. The fish are then rolled in meal and fried in hot lard. Herring have many fine bones and are eaten bones and all. Fresh herring are fried the same way, only after cleaning the fish the sides are notched every half an inch down the length to ensure the fish are cooked through and the bones can be eaten.
Recipe for Herring Roe and Scrambled Eggs.
Six strips bacon
1 8-ounce can Herring roe drained, or 1 cup chopped cooked fresh roe
2 tablespoons bacon drippings
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Fry bacon, drain on paper towels, keep warm in oven. Pour off and reserve drippings. In same fryer, put 2 tablespoons bacon grease, add roe, salt and pepper. Brown slightly. Beat eggs. Add salt and pepper. Add 2 teaspoons bacon grease to browned roe, pour in eggs and mix scramble roe and eggs. Cook until eggs are partially done. Remove from heat, cover for a minute. Serve immediately topped with bacon. Serves 4 to 6.
(Recipes courtesy of Eddy Browning, food columnist for the Washington Daily News)
Fried Herring at Easter Monday Herring Festival
Let the Festivities Begin
On Easter Monday in Jamesville the air is filled with the fragrance of fish frying in deep fat and the streets and riverfront are lined with vendors. Visitors and residents browse through an array of arts and crafts, while the kids beg for balloons and pony rides. And of course, you'll stand in a long line for a plate of hot, fried herrings with hushpuppies and slaw from the Cypress Grill.
Located on the banks of the Roanoke River, the herring was once an important source of income for this small community. A "fishing machine" was used to harvest the fish, which were then processed and salted for distribution. No longer an industry in that sense, the festival brings large crowds to Jamesville, population 612, on that one day a year.
The Cypress Grill, which is open only during the spring herring season, draws folks from miles around to enjoy the delicacies. Situated directly on the riverbank, fishermen catch the herrings with nets, which they pull with boats. The fish are brought onto the riverbank, cleaned, carried into the kitchen and cooked. You can't get any fresher than that.
NC Herring Festival, Jamesville, NC
- NC Herring Festival :: Jamesville, North Carolina
NC Herring Festival :: Jamesville, North Carolina
2014 is 65th NC Herring Festival
The NC herring Festival in Jamesville, NC, which will be held April 18-19, 2014, draws hundreds of people to the banks of the Roanoke River and downtown streets on Friday and Saturday night prior to Easter Sunday.
Friday night features live music and a street dance. Saturday starts off with a pancake breakfast, the 5K Herring Run, an Egg Hunt, another street dance and fireworks. Vendors will be there selling arts and crafts and food throughout the weekend. There will be an Easter Sunrise service Sunday morning,
Cypress Grill Burns Down
After 70 years of serving up fried herring and herring roe Cypress Grill burned down the night of July 22, 2018. There are no plans to rebuild.