Bubbe’s Gefilte Fish

Walking Matzah Ball Toy

As Hillary mentioned last week, Saturday night began the eight days of the Jewish holiday Passover. And to kick off this Passover blog Mr. Matzah Ball (pictured above) would like to welcome you to the world of Passover cooking. Where flour, corn and rice are off-limits and matzah meal abounds!

As with most holidays – regardless of religion – there are special traditions that every family follows. Last year, I shared our tradition of only eating soup for dinner and I mentioned learning how to make gefilte fish. This year, I’d like to give you a little more insight into the gefilte fish-making process… probably more than you’d like to know.

Gefilte fish is a boiled fish ball made from ground fish (this can be any type of fish, but most people use a combination of whitefish, trout, pike and others), matzah meal and seasonings. Up until my Bubbe (Yiddish for grandma) passed away, she and my aunt used to make the fish every year. Now, the tradition has passed on to me and my aunt who wisely jotted down Bubbe’s cryptic instructions a few years ago.

Gefilte fish recipe

The key to fantastic, flavorful gefilte fish is a good fish stock. Lucky for me, my aunt handled this part before I got there, so I walked in to a golden broth simmering quietly on the stove. And happily, all of the bones, heads and various other parts of the fish that add deliciousness had already been extracted. Here you can see the gorgeous stock and the remnant fish remains:

Fish Stock fish bones

We make fish on a pretty large scale, so our recipe makes a little over 50 gefilte fish pieces. We start with about 5 1/2 pounds of ground fish in a large container. To the fish we add eggs, onion, salt, pepper, ice cubes and matzah meal and mix to combine with an electric mixer.

Gefilte Fish Mixing

This is where it gets tricky. Every time I thought we were getting close, it would need just a little more mixing. The texture should be thick and sticky. If you run your finger down the middle, it should leave a stiff wake – kind of like what you look for when making risotto.

When the fish is ready, we use an ice cream scooper to portion out each ball. With wet hands, you must gently rock the the ball back and forth until it becomes an oblong shape. We’ve found that the best way to achieve a perfectly smooth shape is to rock your entire body back and forth. It’s silly, but it works!

Gefilte Fish Ball

When the ball is formed, gently lower it into the simmering pot of stock.

gefilte fish

Repeat until all of the fish mixture has been used up. We agreed that perhaps this pot was a little over-crowded. Next year we may split it up between two to give them room. But this is a pretty perfect example of what gorgeous gefilte fish should look like.

gefilte fish close up

As we had hoped, they turned out moist and flavorful this year – just as in years past. It’s true it may be an acquired taste and sound odd (and it’s definitely true that my hands smelled like fish for the next 12 hours), but it’s our family tradition and it’s not Passover with out gefilte fish. Bubbe would be so proud.



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  • http://www.recipe4living.com Hillary

    You’re right – your pictures DID turn out well! I find it so cool that you guys make your own. I’m sure it’s so much better than the jarred stuff. Have you guys ever tried the gefilte fish loaf? We serve that at our seders and it’s pretty delicious!

  • Cheryl

    I wish the Recipe4living newsletter had sent these recipes out in last week’s newsletter. Getting it on the last day of Passover didn’t do me any good for this year.

  • http://louie@comline.com Louis Horowitz

    Can you please send the recipe for your fish for passover? What are your ingredients and how much for 3 lbs. of fish Lou

  • http://www.chewonthatblog.com Maxine

    Hillary – I’ve never tried a gefilte fish loaf! That must be interesting!

    Cheryl – I’m sorry you missed the Passover recipes this year. You can always check back next year! :)

    Louis – My Bubbe would be very upset if I shared her recipe. But you can find an equally as delicious one here: http://www.recipe4living.com/Recipe/28338-PassoverPickledFish.aspx

  • http://www.cornerfishtank.net Corner Fish Tank

    Looks awesome. I always wondered how you made gefilte fish.

  • http://tlchealthinsurance.com insurance tips

    Ah, another drawback of getting old!

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