Definitions

gefilte-fish

Gefilte fish

[guh-fil-tuh]

Gefilte fish (געפֿילטע פֿיש, German: Gefüllter Fisch, English: filled fish) are poached fish patties or balls made from a mixture of ground deboned fish, mostly carp (common carp). They are popular in the Ashkenazi Jewish community.

Preparation and serving

In traditional recipes for gefilte fish, the fish is first deboned, often while still at the market. Next, the fish is ground together with eggs, onions and flour, matzoh meal or challah, and then stuffed into the skin of the deboned fish, giving it the name gefilte (filled or stuffed, compare the German gefüllte). The whole stuffed fish is then poached with carrots and onions. When prepared this way, it is usually served in slices. This form of preparation eliminated the need for picking fish bones at the table and stretched the fish further, so that even poor families could enjoy fish on the Sabbath.

Sometimes, gefilte fish are found in patty form. The ground fish mixture is shaped into balls or oval patties and poached in a fish stock made from the head and bones of the fish. The poached balls are usually chilled and served with or without the jelled broth, accompanied by a horseradish-vinegar sauce known as chrain (either the red variety, flavored with beets, or plain white chrain, which has a sharper taste).

Variations

Gefilte fish may be slightly sweet or savory. Preparation of gefilte fish with sugar or black pepper is considered an indicator of whether a Jewish community was Galitzianer or Litvak. Traditionally, carp, pike, or whitefish were used to make gefilte fish, but more recently other fish with white flesh such as Nile Perch have been used, and there is a pink variation using salmon.

Commercial gefilte fish is sold in cans and glass jars, and packed in jelly made from fish broth. The US Patent #3,108,882 "Method for Preparing an Edible Fish Product" for this jelly, which allowed mass-market distribution of gefilte fish, was granted on October 29, 1963 to Monroe Nash.

There are even frozen and vegetarian variations.

Symbolism

Some people believe that gefilte fish has become a traditional food to avoid 'borer ("selection/choosing"), which is one of the 39 activities prohibited on Shabbat outlined in the Shulchan Aruch.

Others say that fish are not subject to "ayin hara" ("evil eye"), so that a dish prepared from several fish varieties brings good luck. In the Bible, fish are symbolic of fertility: In Genesis 48:15-16 Jacob blesses Joseph and his sons by saying: "[Jacob] gave Joseph a blessing. He said, 'The God before whom my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, walked, is the God who has been my Shepherd from as far back as I can remember until this day, [sending] an angel to deliver me from all evil. May He bless the lads, and let them carry my name, along with the names of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac. May they increase in the land like fish.' "

Fish is parve, neither milk nor meat, and may be eaten at both meat and dairy meals (although some Orthodox Jews avoid eating fish and meat on the same plate).

See also

References

External links

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