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At the time of the Mishna (200 CE), rabbis deemed it meritorious to eat fish on the Sabbath and Jews became accustomed to eating fish at festive meals. Due to the plethora of rivers in Europe, Ashkenazi Jews tended to cook with freshwater fish. Eastern European Jews would make a mixture of chopped fish, stuff it back into the skin of the fish, and boil it. The word gefilte means stuffed in Yiddish.
Gefilte fish is a loaf of chopped up fish, usually white-fleshed freshwater fish such as carp or pike. The chopped fish is generally mixed with onions, carrots and parsley. Eggs and matzah meal hold the mixture together. Below are ingredients for gefilte fish.
- 4 pounds (2 kilogram) whitefish (carp or pike), without heads and cleaned
- 2 large carrots, peeled
- 2 large parsnips, peeled
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 4 Tbsp. fresh parsley leaves, chopped
- 2 large onions, peeled and finely chopped
- 1/2 cup matzo meal
- 4 eggs
- 1-2 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 Tbsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. white pepper
- 1/8-1/4 cup canola oil (enough to hold mixture together)
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- 5 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 3 onions, peeled and sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and quartered
- 1-2 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1-2 tsp. salt
- 1/2-1 tsp. white pepper
- 4-6 cups water
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Saute 1 onion in 2 tablespoons oil, and set aside to cool. In a food processor, grind the fish and set aside in a large mixing bowl. Grind 2 carrots, 2 parsnips, 1 onion, 8-9 garlic cloves, and parsley.Continue to 3 of 10 below.
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Add the eggs, spices, and enough oil for mixture to hold together nicely. Mix well. If time allows, cover the fish batter and store in the refrigerator for an hour or two.Continue to 6 of 10 below.
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In a large soup pot, mix together the ingredients for the fish stock. Add water and bring to a boil.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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Boil the Fish
Gently place the stuffed fish pieces and the fish balls into the boiling fish stock. If more water is needed to cover the fish, add water to the stock and bring to a boil. Lower the flame, and cook on low for about one hour. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly. Cook on low for about another 30 minutes.Continue to 10 of 10 below.
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Cool the Fish
Remove the fish carefully from the stock onto prepared pans. Pour some fish stock on the fish. Slice carrots from the stock, and place a piece of carrot on each piece of fish. Let the fish cool. After the fish has cooled, cover and store it in the refrigerator until ready to serve. This fish also freezes well. If you freeze the fish, be sure to boil it again, then chill and refrigerate before serving.