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Gefilte Fishing
April 10, 2006 10:19 AM   Subscribe

Though it makes the list of weird food, Passover means the week of the gefilte fish. Not particularly pretty in either preparation or final form, the dish appeared in written records as early as 1350, and its popularity has waxed and waned ever since. At least this year, there are no records of gefilte fish issuing prophecies, though there is a screensaver. With Easter and Passover on the way, are there any other dubious holiday food traditions out there?
posted by blahblahblah (49 comments total)

 
Back when I ate meat, geilte fish was the only fish I enjoyed. Now, that I don't eat meat, there are all sorts of weirdm delicious Jewish foods I still enjoy. Ladkas! Knishes! And, of course, Hamantaschen!.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:27 AM on April 10, 2006


Ah, it's that time again. Time for me to ignore the plate of stinky blobs and pass it on to the next family member at the Seder table. I love fish of all types; sushi, a nice grilled salmon, seared tuna.. but I have never been able to go near the blobs.

Please expect the best Jew-food ever made is my mom's Kugel.
posted by ninjew at 10:34 AM on April 10, 2006


Gefilte fish, eh? Don't mind if I do. With just a dab of the purple horseradish, please.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:36 AM on April 10, 2006


Gefilta fish is just one half of the equation. Gefilte fish without chrein (white horseradish in vinegar) is a crime. My great uncle makes it every year and it power. Clears the sinuses in a second.
posted by PenDevil at 10:36 AM on April 10, 2006


Rather satisfying with the purple horseradish. Ranked in order from least tasty to most tasty:

1. My homemade gefilte fish
2. The kind from the jar
3. The fresh stuff from the local Jewish grocery store

Making it myself was perhaps the worst culinary disaster of my adult life. In a jar, it's insipid and fairly unpleasant. A well-prepared, fresh gefilte fish is worth seeking out.
posted by rxrfrx at 10:38 AM on April 10, 2006


I can't be the only goy who likes to nosh on gefilte fish. And matzoh bree (sp?).
posted by bardic at 10:39 AM on April 10, 2006


(Incidentally, I thought I'd tell the story of the worst gefilte fish I've ever tasted. I pulled it out of my mother's refrigerator around Passover last year. It was dry, mealy, and so bland as to have almost no flavor at all. That was when I discovered that I had grabbed the plate of special gluten-free matzo balls by accident.)
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:39 AM on April 10, 2006


What's this purple horseradish nonsense? It's white or nothing!
posted by PenDevil at 10:40 AM on April 10, 2006


Btw, gefilte fish secret for those who don't want to make it on their own, but want to brag that they did: Get a can of a good brand, such as Old Vienna, and pour the fish and jelly into a stock pot. Add carrots and onions and lots of white pepper. Boil, turn down to a simmer, and cook covered for 45 minutes. Then chill the fish back down. Surprisingly good.

Oh yes, and purple horseradish.
posted by blahblahblah at 10:44 AM on April 10, 2006


Speaking of the seder, my favorite section of the Seder plate is the Karpas (usually parsley, then dipped on the salt water). Bittersweet tears, indeed.
posted by ninjew at 10:44 AM on April 10, 2006


Oh, and gefilte sushi.
posted by blahblahblah at 10:53 AM on April 10, 2006


Hopefully the aforementioned fish will make an appearance at my Anti-Seder this year, but the prospect of making it myself is a bit daunting... And what's with the blobs? Seriously, except for the jarred crap, I've only known it to come in loaf form. Mmmm....
posted by greatgefilte at 11:00 AM on April 10, 2006


'purple horshradish' is not purple. it is magenta, because the other ingredient mixed with horshradish is beet. If you haven't made your own, or havent tried *fresh* horshradish from your local deli (NOT out of a jar/bottle), you are really missing something good.

surprisingly, martha stewart, the goyiest tref goy that ever lived, has a good recipie for both gefilte fish and beet horshradish.

now if you all will pardon me...i must finish cleaning the kitchen for chumetz before erev yom revi'i.

(btw, am i the only jew that actually *gains* weight during passover?)
posted by naxosaxur at 11:04 AM on April 10, 2006


Another vote for the purple horseradish. And I'm with ninjew on the salt water dipping....tasty. I also like the bitter herb...mmm....a nice chunk on a piece of matzoh, just wonderful.

And Astro Zombie, I think you mean latkes.
posted by inigo2 at 11:04 AM on April 10, 2006


No, I meant the character on Taxi played by Andy Kaufman, who my family cermonially eats every year on Pesakh.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:08 AM on April 10, 2006


for those who are grossed out at the idea (as implied in the FPP language), just remember, think of it like a fish burger. it's not that weird
posted by poppo at 11:08 AM on April 10, 2006


The weirdest passover food is definitely regel krusha (רגל קרושה), which translates as "calf's foot jelly", which is even more disgusting than it sounds.
posted by Sharcho at 11:09 AM on April 10, 2006


i'm partial to charoset myself. nuts to gefilte fish. nuts to sweet kugel (salty ok). matzo ball soup is good, but it's just chicken soup! how could it be bad?
posted by jcruelty at 11:15 AM on April 10, 2006


You people are all heretics. How can you taste white chrain and still prefer the inferior purple imitation of chrain?
posted by PenDevil at 11:16 AM on April 10, 2006


Hopefully the aforementioned fish will make an appearance at my Anti-Seder this year, but the prospect of making it myself is a bit daunting... And what's with the blobs? Seriously, except for the jarred crap, I've only known it to come in loaf form. Mmmm....
posted by greatgefilte at 11:00 AM PST on April 10 [!]


Despite the finely honed Jewish cooking passed down the generations in my family, the gefilte still comes from a jar.
posted by ninjew at 11:17 AM on April 10, 2006


Ever since being a kid I have always loved gefilte fish, I can't say why. But I can say the rest of my family always stares at me while I enjoy it.
posted by cavalier at 11:19 AM on April 10, 2006


still prefer the inferior purple

The beets provide much-needed color for a dish that would otherwise look like one of those "Regretable Foods" from the '50s.
posted by rxrfrx at 11:33 AM on April 10, 2006


And the carrots don't count.
posted by rxrfrx at 11:33 AM on April 10, 2006


for those who are grossed out at the idea (as implied in the FPP language), just remember, think of it like a fish burger. it's not that weird

Yeah, what's the big deal? It's not like it's haggis or anything.
posted by scratch at 11:40 AM on April 10, 2006


Thanks for the idea blahblahblah!

And yes, Kugel should be savory. The only sweetness I want at my Seder table is the Charosis (which I, of course, mix with my maror).
posted by sourwookie at 11:47 AM on April 10, 2006


Sharco re: "calf's foot jelly"
"The gelatin you eat in Jell-O comes from the collagen in cow or pig bones, hooves, and connective tissues."
You have probably been eating it all your life disguised by color and sweetening.
posted by Cranberry at 11:51 AM on April 10, 2006


for those who are grossed out at the idea (as implied in the FPP language), just remember, think of it like a fish burger. it's not that weird

I think "Jewish spam" is a much better analog. It's highly processsed and has been sitting on a shelf for a very long time. The texture is also a little unerving. And I say this as a fan.

However, if you like the pickled horseradish, it's a great delivery vehicle. And after an hour of pre-food seder, your guests will eat anything. As a plus, anything you put on the table afterwards will seem delicious in comparison.
posted by allan at 11:53 AM on April 10, 2006



I think "Jewish spam" is a much better analog. It's highly processsed and has been sitting on a shelf for a very long time. The texture is also a little unerving. And I say this as a fan.


Your analogy only applies to store bought stuff.

My mom, along with with the moms of many, and some of the commenters above, make it from scratch. Not the same.

Long live my mom's gefilte fish
posted by poppo at 11:58 AM on April 10, 2006


Classic Jewish Food Archive
posted by blue_beetle at 11:59 AM on April 10, 2006


Please expect the best Jew-food ever made is my mom's Kugel.

I must submit my mother's own Shikse Kugel, which although is far from the traditional dish is quite delicious. After my mom (Irish Roman-Catholic) married my dad (Russian Jew), Nana tried to teach my mom how to make Kugel.

In short, my mom thought it was a great recipe except it need about 8 cups more sugar, a couple more sticks of butter and maybe some ricotta cheese, lol. The result was less the subtly sweet side dish Nana had always made to an over-the-top buttery sweet tooth extravaganza.

If I remember right, Nana had a fit, but was eventually able to accept the dish, like my mother, as being what they were. =)
posted by illovich at 12:00 PM on April 10, 2006


Gefilte fish is weird, and I probably wouldn't eat it had I not grown up with it.

One thing I can say about it is that it kinda trained me to eat sushi, since it involves dipping cold fish in something spicy.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:11 PM on April 10, 2006


Even though some try to class up gefilte and make it from whitefish and pike, it can be made from carp.

Mom, what happened to the goldfish?
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 12:19 PM on April 10, 2006


Even though some try to class up gefilte and make it from whitefish and pike, it can be made from carp.

A carp which, like many others of their day, my great-grandparents used to keep alive in the bathtub until it was needed.
posted by amro at 12:40 PM on April 10, 2006


It is true that the fish is "not pretty." But then, having been a pig roast's I can report that seared pig flesh is also not pretty. But both the fish and the pig taste great
posted by Postroad at 12:44 PM on April 10, 2006


i'm partial to charoset myself

for years, I was the designated charoses maker in the house. i used my mom's copy of Aunt Fanny's Junior Jewish Cookbook which is adorable, and if I had any descendents, I would pass it on to them.
posted by pinky at 12:45 PM on April 10, 2006


amro: The Carp in the Bathtub
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:53 PM on April 10, 2006


The jelly it comes in is really gross, but the fish is great covered with enough horseradish to completely hide the taste.
posted by mike3k at 12:57 PM on April 10, 2006


Every year I'd give they pinky-gray lumps a try. Every year, I'd get halfway through one and give up. My Jewish Grandmother was cursed with the such-a-bad-cook-she-could-burn-a-self-basting-turkey gene, and my mother never attemped to make it from scratch. Maybe it's their fault, not mine.
posted by piratebowling at 1:14 PM on April 10, 2006


Any of you guys ever try a bagel?

It's like an unsweetened donut, only heavier. It's got a hole in the middle, though. Kooky.

I like 'em with ham and cheese.
posted by Cookiebastard at 1:17 PM on April 10, 2006


My husband's mother used to make her own gefilte fish. It tasted great, but the smell while it was cooking was enough to make you plotz. blech. My mother's specialty was Passover "rolls" - leaden balls made out of matzo meal and a zillion eggs, beaten well, and baked. They tasted great out of the oven, but you could play baseball with them the next day.

My personal favorite is Barton's Fruit slices. Or chocolate covered raspberry candies.
posted by Flakypastry at 1:21 PM on April 10, 2006


Of course, the real meal of the day on Passover is blood matzoh. Yum! Can't wait!

Hard to believe that this was once the most dangerous time of the year for Jews. Doesn't seem that long ago, really.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:28 PM on April 10, 2006


Over here in East Europe, gefilte fish still means just that: stuffed fish. Once you get south of Poland (Galicianer Land) people still make a fish-loaf and then stuff the forcemeat back into the emptied fish skin, preferably a pike, and chill the whole thing so you can dance around with it on a platter when you bring it out. There actually used to be a klezmer dance for bringing out the fish. . The fish, however, is usally boiled carp. Up north in Poland and Litvak land, they make fish balls...

A couple of years ago I tried to make home made Gefilte Fish. Bought carp, armed myself with a good Hungarian hasidic recipe, and set to boil the frigging daylights out of that fish. First of all, I don't like carp - the number one fishy treat of East Europe - and boiling it and making the fish yukh (yes, fish stock is called fish yukh in Yiddish...) took the better part of a day. At the end of it, I couldn't bear the smell. Most of the fish went into the garbage. And that, tayere khaverim, is why we Yidn prefer wo buy it in jars.

Khreyn (horse radish) is a different animal. If you can get fresh horse radish root, grate it (open the windows, send out the children, and expect to break into coughing fits) and add some vinegar, salt, and grated apple. Beets are for sissies (or Galicianers) Mmmmm. I kvell....
posted by zaelic at 1:49 PM on April 10, 2006


I should mention, since this is possibly the only occaision I have ever encountered on Metafilter in which this has any context, that the Romanian word for Carp is Crap....
posted by zaelic at 1:51 PM on April 10, 2006


Love and Knishes has a lot of good Ashkenazi jewish recipes, including one for gefilte fish, IIRC. My mother used it all the time while I was growing up.

But I must confess, I dislike the carp version, and prefer one of the nouvelle cuisine style recipes, like this one. Oh, so tasty!
posted by Araucaria at 2:23 PM on April 10, 2006


Gefilte fish may be good to eat, but they make for boring pets. My zeyde and I once caught a live gefilte from the Brooklyn Bridge, nursed it back to health, and kept it in an old Old Vienna jar on the windowsill in the kitchen. It never swam much, just kind of sat there like a lump eating the bits of matzo meal that we fed it. Ugly as all get-out too. When that sucker died, it took all the chrain (horseradish) we could stand just to make it palatable.

Unfortunately, due to pollution, the native gefilte population in the East River has completely died out. Gone are the days when you could see them frolicking around in the harbor close to Pesach-time. I think their last major refuges are in the Sea of Galilee, and somewhere off the coast of Fort Lauderdale.
posted by purple_frogs at 2:56 PM on April 10, 2006


My mom, along with with the moms of many, and some of the commenters above, make it from scratch.

Oy, that hurts!
posted by scratch at 3:51 PM on April 10, 2006


*purple_frog is teh wins*
posted by ninjew at 5:26 PM on April 10, 2006


I eat home cooked gefilte fish rather often - but the red beet sauce that it's baked on and the frozen globs of it that stick to the fish produces the most-nausea inducing smell to mankind. Also the red beet sauce gets glued to the fish too, which makes it just as gross. I try to wipe it off though. Anyone else have beet sauce on their gefilte fish?
posted by gregb1007 at 5:28 PM on April 10, 2006


When I was in medical school I was told a wonderful story by an infectious disease professor about an outbreak of Anisakis marina in a group of old Jewish women, who showed up one-by-one in the hospital with severe stomach pain. It turns out what connected these women to this exotic worm was that they all were in the habit of taking little tastes of their homemade gefilte fish mixed as they prepared it. Since they had all bought the same batch of contaminated herring from the same fishmonger ... they all ended up with something like this (still love that post!). Me - I'll stick with the old standby (oddly enough, available through amazon.com?!?

Mmm ... gefilte ...
posted by scblackman at 9:06 PM on April 10, 2006


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