Wednesday, April 01, 2009
Grandma's Gefilte Fish
Every Passover, my grandma would make gefilte fish. The best part was the story about getting the fish. It was very Seinfeldesque - a story about nothing. It was always told with great dramatics, they didn't have the right fish, the fish wasn't ground enough. There was always a story. I think my sister had some assignment to document a process. My mom photographed my grandma making gefilte fish and they transcribed her instructions. My mom found the original cook book and copied the cover and recipe in one picture. That's the picture in yellow.
Grandma will be watching from above as James and I try to do our best. I hope our story doesn't end up with, "and we had to go buy a few jars of the scary gefilte fish from the store." Here is that transcript of my grandma making fish:
A running commentary from notes from the gefilte fish demonstration made during Grandma's demo
Buy fish at a live fish store; it should not have a lot of fillets in the display case; just whole fish on ice. Fish is ordered in advance; fish man grinds it, saving bones 5 head for the broth
Recipe comes From ORT Cookbook: Portal to Good Cooking (see photo)
Fish formula: 1/3 each: trout, pike, white fish [pickerel can be sub. For pike each pound of fish (before boning) yields half pound after
Demonstration started with 5 lbs. of fish, 2.5 Ibs. After boning add: 1 good-sized onion and 1 egg for every pound of filleted fish (After they prepare fish and grind it, have them weight it so you will know the amount you have)
Add .5 cup water, increase salt .5 teaspoon for each pound of filleted fish. (If still a little bland, can add some more)
Add 1 tablespoon of sugar, to bring out the taste .5 teaspoon of pepper
(Grandma used less pepper; she didn't like the mixture too peppery)
1 tablespoon matzah meal for each pound of filleted fish .25 to .5 cup of cold water for 2.5 pounds
(Depends of mixture of fish- If fish is firm or delicate, fatty or lean. Ratio of matzah meal and water can vary a little)
Prepare fish broth: My Grandmother cooked together fish bones, onions, carrots, parsley root, parsnip, fish heads-- all together in huge pot for 3 hours, then discarded bones etc. She liked to cook fish in broth without all those bones getting in the way. Quantities for broth: 3 large sized onions, 5 carrots cut in large pieces or quarters, salt, pepper
Chop onion fine in Cuisinart (can be a little mush), fine enough to be mixed with fish in mixer.
Mix 3 fishes together by hand first. (In the past, fish wasn't ground but chopped in a large wooden bowl using a double-blade rocker, then chopped together). 3 fish + finely chopped onions mix together First by hand, then in electric mixer, adding salt, pepper. Add to mixer bowl: eggs, cold water, matzah meal, mixing to blend with fish. DON'T OVER MIX OR ELSE IT GETS MUSHY!
(Eggs = large-size) Grandma liked to complete mixing by hand; more cold water, the stiffer the fish.
Let stand (refrigerated) 10 minutes or so to allow matzah meal to soften. (Feel should be cohesive, moist; test comes when you wet hands to form ball)
(No brown skins on onions; turn fish brown)cooked a second round of onions and carrots added to fish broth (peeled carrots sliced and served on top of fish-patties). Forming the pattie: mixture fairly stiff could be "stretched" by adding more water and matzah meal (doesn't taste as good)
Cooking fish-patties in fish broth: need enough broth to cover fish completely; can add more water, salt and pepper to taste. Add more water during cooking if necessary.
Bring pot of broth to a boil; drop formed patties into boiling water. Cook several hours in covered pot. [Cook briskly first half-hour,Then boil gently, not a simmer, on low.) Let cool in broth,taking care in removing so patties do not break.Patties: Each pound yields approximately five; six pounds: 30 or more.
Dip hands in cold water; form a ball, drop in boiling water. Fish coagulates immediately; immediately form next ball. Use soup spoon with long handle; amount fills hand. (Measures less than .5 cup, approximately 1/3 cup of fish for pattie (?)
Sorry that this rambles; I did‘t feel like re-writing, editing etc. This keeps the conversational quality of Grandma narrating while she made the fish.I can remember my own Grandma chopping fish is a large wooden mixing bowl, rocking that double-bladed rocker back and forth.