Great Lakes Fish Is Staple For Jewish High Holy Days
Happy Rosh Hashanah to our Jewish friends and family. For those who do not follow this faith, Rosh Hashanah is basically the Jewish New Year, and is the first of the Jewish High Holy Days - This year, celebrated September 25-27.
This holiday is typically celebrated with festivities, and feasts in Jewish Communities. For early Jewish settlers in the Michigan area, it meant they needed the closest foods to what they had in their native country, which included... whitefish.
Whitefish are by far the most abundant fish in the Great Lakes. It can be used universally. Many Michiganders smoke it, which dates back to WELL before statehood, and could possibly be the earliest delicacy of the Mitten. But Jewish settlers saw the fish as a close alternative to the pike they used in their home countries to make a traditional High Holy Day Meal.
For years, whitefish harvesting seasons on the Great Lakes closely aligned with Rosh Hashanah, and other Jewish High Holy Days, so there was plenty for their celebrations.
Now, whitefish season practically runs year-round, so long as the Great Lakes are clear of Ice, but the abundance of whitefish is still a staple.
For Rosh Hashanah specifically, whitefish is made into Gefilte Fish. Originally a German dish, "gefuelten hechden" translated to specifically "stuffed pike." The fish would be de-boned, and then poached and mashed, flavored with herbs and seeds, stuffed back inside the fish skin, and roasted.
This dish was an early delicacy of German Catholics during Lent, but made its way to Eastern European Jews. When Jewish families came to America, and settled around the Great Lakes, pike wasn't as easy to come by, but whitefish was very easy to catch, and very abundant.
Today, Great Lakes whitefish is still used for this culinary creation, but also for smoked fish dips, and whitefish salads sold in Jewish delis.
So to all our Jewish friends and family, "Shanah Tovah."