Gefilte Fish is one of those foods that have a rep for being "Jewish". There are, I think, literally thousands of ways to make Gefilte Fish, and of course everyone swears by their Grandmother's recipe. Unfortunately I never met my grandparents and have no clue if they actually made Gefilte Fish. But my mother did make it. It was one of her "dishes" to make on Thursday night or Friday until the arthritis in her fingers became real bad.
This is not my mother's recipe. My sister, Francine, has that one, and of course being a male I am not privy to the secrets of the recipe! Hah!
But this recipe works and I get praises for it all the time. Gefilte Fish is one of those things that will require a bit of experimenting to get it "perfect". It also requires your sense of smell, your sense of touch and your eyes to get it to that perfect stage.
Most recipes for Gefilte Fish will call for you to combine Carp with some other type of fish. Usually for people in the US - Whitefish or Yellow Pike. In Israel we have other types of fish. While I was in Machaneh Yeudah - (Shuk) - and waiting on line to get the fish, a woman next to me ordered a bunch of fish but no carp. But she said it was for Gefilte Fish. So I asked her how she makes Gefilte Fish with no carp? She said that she hates Carp, because Carps are "scavenger fish", and she just combines other fish into a Gefilte Fish recipe. If this works for her that is great. But traditional Gefilte Fish is made with Carp.
Below is how I make Gefilte Fish. I want to state here that when I said I was going to make Gefilte Fish from scratch for the Seder, one very good friend said: "What is wrong with the jars they sell in the Supermarket?" Well nothing and everything. And you can purchase rolls of Gefilte Fish already made and then just cook them in water with onions and carrots and salt to taste. It does make life easy. But here is Gefilte Fish from Scratch - Teddy's Gefilte Fish.
- KitchenAid or Food Processor
- Large Mixing Bowl
- Fairly large pot to cook the Gefilte Fish
Weighing the fish is difficult. As I buy it either from the tank or fresh it is weighed while still whole, and before the Fish-Man (hey a new word!) kills, fillets and skins the fish.
- 3-5 kilo Carp (7-11 pds of whole fish, obviously depends on how many people you are serving. I bought 3 large Carp for Passover.)
- 1.5 kilo Pike, Whitefish or another fish of your choosing (this is optional and not required). Real Gefilte Fish can be made from Carp alone.
- 3/4 - 1.25 cups of Matzah Meal (again depends on how much you are making)
- 4-6 Eggs (go easy on the eggs!)
- Honey (3-5 Tablespoons) - (Glitziana's - Polish Jews descendants from Galitzia and the shtetles will use sugar. I thoroughly despise the addition of sugar into Gefilte Fish and I think it tastes Yuck. Though sugar is a very common ingredient in most Gefilte Fish recipes. Those of Russian descent will not find sugar in their recipes. This is, I think, a cultural, socio-economic factor as Sugar was extremely expensive for those in Russia.)
- Salt - 2-3 Tablespoons
- Black Pepper - 1 Teaspoon
- 1 Teaspoon of Garlic powder (if you are adventurous!)
- 5 Peeled Carrots
- 2-3 Medium Onions cut in Quarters
- Take the Carp heads, scales, skin and all else (from all the fish - only the heads of the Carp though) but NOT the actual meat of the fish and place it in your pot. Add a tablespoon or so of salt. (This creates the "fish jelly" that many people love with the Gefilte Fish.) Put it on a medium flame for 30-45 minutes.
- Dump the Onions and Carrots into the pot.
- The first thing you must do is grind the fish meat. You should have fillet pieces of fish and they must be ground well. Make absolutely sure no bones are in that fish! My small Passover Food Processor did the trick very well. You do not need a fancy Kitchen Aid!
- Now we add the eggs. One at a time. Mix them well. (Remember the number of eggs are dependent upon the amount of fish you are making)
- Now the honey. Mix well.
- Now the salt, black pepper and garlic powder.
- Now fill a small bowl with water. Take it over to your oven top where the scales and heads are cooking. Bring over the mix you just made as well. Dip your hands in water (so the mixture does not stick to them) and create small patties or balls. As you make them drop them into the pot. Dip your hands in water between every two or three. Now close the pot but leave a little open for the steam to come out. Let the balls cook for 45-55 minutes on a medium flame. (If the water starts boiling turn down the flame to low and let them simmer.)
- Use your sense of smell now. In around 20-30 minutes you should "smell" the Gefilte Fish.
- Right before you are done, turn the flame up to high and let them cook for 3-5 minutes under a large flame and then turn it off.
- Now let that pot sit for at least ONE HOUR. It must cool down.
- After it has cooled, take a big spoon (the serving kind preferably with holes in it so the water strains out) and one at a time put your Gefilte Fish into a bowl or platter for the refrigerator. If you eat the Carp heads take these out from the pot as well. Fish out the carrots (and if you still can the onions).
- Now take that pot over to the sink and put a clean pot into the sink. Over this pot put your strainer (colander). Pour out the "Gefilte Fish Soup" from the original cooking pot into the strainer (which will catch the bones and scales etc.) while the "soup" will go into the clean pot. You probably do not need all of it. This will make your "Gefilte Fish Jelly." Put the fish and the "jelly" in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours.
- Right before serving place the Gefilte Fish on your serving dish and add some of the "jelly" over the fish or next to it.
This takes shopping, time, patience and concentration to get right. Thus it is a five on scale of difficulty. You get Gefilte Fish right - you mastered a great deal! You may ask me the best way to mix the fish when you are adding ingredients. Well the best way to do it, is to wash your hands real well, and use your hands. It gets mushy and sticky - but after trial and error that is the best way to mix all those ingredients in and get it just right. Remember this is Parve - and can be served with a milk or meat meal. (Though when we eat fish with meat, we always eat the fish before the meat.)