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Springtime brings blossoms, buds and lush greenery. It also is the time when people of the Jewish faith celebrate Passover, an eight-day commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt. During Passover, no leavened products are eaten, and many special dishes are prepared.

On the first two nights of this holiday, a ritual meal or “Seder” is served and the story of Passover is told. Various foods are eaten which symbolize parts of the story, and Gefilte (pronounced “geh-fill-ta”) Fish is a welcome addition. These are balls made from ground fish, chopped onions, eggs and seasoning. Gefilte Fish is low in fat and cholesterol (only one egg per pound, or four balls of fish), and is simply delicious!

While Gefilte Fish is sold in jars or cans and can be found in most grocery stores, the best type is homemade. Preparing Gefilte Fish from scratch is an undertaking of tradition and love, and almost a lost art. The following recipe is an authentic version, handed down for over five generations, and yields Gefilte Fish just like Grandma used to make!

To make forty pieces of fish, you will need two very large soup pots and the following items:

10 pounds ground fish (50% Whitefish, 20% Pike, 20% Trout, 10% Buffalo)--retain heads (eyes removed) and bones for flavor
8 pounds onions, whole
4 onions, chopped
12 eggs
2 pounds carrots
Paprika
Salt
Pepper
8 ounces seltzer water

Purchase 20 pounds of the above fish at a fishery or at the fish counter of the local grocery. Have fish ground at the store or grind yourself, and make sure the skin is not included. This should produce the 10 pounds of ground fish needed for this recipe. Ask the store associate to package separately 4 heads (eyes removed) and all the bones, as these will be placed in the bottom of the pot for flavoring and to create a fish gravy called Yuch (pronounced “yoo-kh”).

Arrange 2 heads and half of the bones in each soup kettle. Peel the 8 pounds of onions and scrape and cut the carrots into 2-inch pieces, and divide equally between the pots. Add cold water until the pots are ½ to ¾ full then sprinkle in salt, pepper and a generous amount of paprika. Cover and bring to a boil, and then reduce the fire.

Place chopped fish in a wooden bowl and using a hand chopper, chop in one egg at a time and the 4 chopped onions, alternating with seltzer water. Add salt, pepper and paprika to taste.

Make fish balls and drop into the water in the soup pots. Dipping hands into a bowl of cold water in between forming balls will keep fish from sticking to your hands. Sprinkle more paprika on top of the fish and leaving the pot uncovered, bring the water back to a boil. Reduce fire and simmer 35 minutes covered and 35 minutes uncovered. Shake the pots a bit as they cook so the balls don’t stick together.

Cool the fish and remove carefully with a spoon, so as not to break the balls. Pour the liquid gravy (Yuch) through a strainer, remove the carrots and save them. Mash the bones and onions and press through the strainer into the Yuch.

Yuch may be stored in separate containers and fish in aluminum foil pans, covered. To prepare for serving, pour some of the Yuch over the fish, cover and bake at 325 for one hour. Cool and serve cold, garnishing with the carrot pieces. Gefilte fish may be eaten plain or accompanied by grated horseradish, matzah farfel (pieces) and Yuch.