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Gefilte fish - How different is it if you don't put the fish heads in the bottom of the pot?

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Shayna Madel Mar 25, 2009 12:08 PM

My mother and her mother before her and anyone I know who makes gefilte fish from scratch always put(s) the fish heads/bones in the bottom of the pot. Mom said it helped with the flavor of the gefilte fish and it does stand to reason that that would be the case. Recently, chatting on a local neighborhood non-food blog, the subject somehow came up. In response to comments about the awful smell while the fish cooks, someone said his wife decided to not use the fish heads and the smell was much less offensive. He insists that the fish is just fine. I personally thought it would be bland, but I figure that everyone's taste differs, so who am I to say what other people like. But it got me wondering--has any one tried it both ways, with and without the bones? If so, do you notice any difference in either the smell during cooking or the taste of the fish?

  1. penthouse pup Mar 25, 2009 12:44 PM

    If you're referring to the process of making the gelatinous broth (in Yiddish, the "galla") fish bones and head are absolutely needed. Maybe your family recipe keeps the boil going too long...fish bones in a broth should not "smell"....

    4 Replies
    1. re: penthouse pup
      BobB Mar 25, 2009 12:53 PM

      I agree, the bones are there mainly to create the gelatin. Personally I consider gefilte fish to be primarily a vehicle for horseradish anyway, I don't expect it to taste like much on its own.

      1. re: penthouse pup
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        Shayna Madel Mar 25, 2009 01:31 PM

        I'm not sure how long my mother would cook the fish, and actually I am not sure offhand how long I cooked it last fall when I cooked it for the first time ever, but I am sure that it's not hours and hours, or the fish would be falling apart in the pot. Aside from the gel thing, I thought that the bones would flavor the water and the flavor would seep into the fish, rather than the flavor from the fish seeping into the water. Or even if the flavor from the water goes into the fish and vice-versa, I'm covered. The taste of the fish isn't actually that strong, but I would hate for it to have absolutely no flavor at all.

        1. re: Shayna Madel
          penthouse pup Mar 25, 2009 03:32 PM

          The flavorings from onion, carrot, black pepper--and depending on your cultural context--sugar certainly affect the flavor of the first. All broths made with bones add
          flavor as well.
          About the smell: maybe you or your mother never snipped off the gills? Gills will
          often make a broth bitter and probably will affect aroma...

          1. re: penthouse pup
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            Shayna Madel Mar 26, 2009 09:09 AM

            I figured that the bones have to affect the flavor, if all the other stuff does, so that's why I was suspicious about what this guy said.

            Never knew about the gills. I didn't and Mom probably did not either. And the smell isn't a spoiled type of thing. Just really, really fishy. But if I am not too grossed out by handling the bones, I may try the gill thing.

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