Not mom’s gefilte fish


With COVID numbers down, and more family and friends expected at Passover seders, hosts seem to be going all out this year with homemade cooking.

They likely won’t be making homemade matzah. But America’s gefilte fish experts — Gefilteria’s Jeffrey Yoskowitz and Liz Alpern — say the traditional Ashkenazi dish doesn’t require so much work.

And if you ever wonder about those glass jars with gray fish swimming in a slimy substance with a few token carrot pieces thrown in, Yoskowitz tells JNS that while people think the jelly stuff is collagen, it’s actually due to additives. Store-bought fish also often contains cottonseed oil, which is cheap and unhealthy.

The co-founders of the Gefilteria, which reimagines Jewish classics through workshops and pop-ups, are the co-authors of “The Gefilte Manifesto.”

Yoskowitz, 37, of Brooklyn, said making the fish is a dying art, and he is hoping to jump-start a revival.

“People stopped making it at home and have been told that it’s labor-intensive,” he said. “But it’s really easy to make. There are different ways to make it. But from start to finish, using fresh fish, you can make it in an hour-and-a-half. And it’s so much better when you make it from scratch.”

Interestingly, he does not use carp. He says to buy fresh filets — possibly whitefish, tilapia or other options — and grind the fish yourself. He noted that American carp is from the Great Lakes and is a bottom-feeding fish.

He said due to jarred fish, which contain carp and mullet, gefilte fish got a bad rap. He noted that what’s eaten now is the stuffing; in the old times, it was pushed into fish skin.

“Gefilte fish is the butt of so many jokes,” he said. “It’s been laughed at for a long time.”

He said his grandmother made it when he was younger but after she passed away, the ball was in his court.

“I felt helpless,” he said. “We weren’t going to eat it from the jar. So I said, what if I make it?”

It led to him getting involved in Jewish food as a whole, and now, he and Alpert have pop-up events as part of the Gefilteria, recently doing one in Philadelphia. The Gefilteria’s food has been enjoyed by celebrities such as “Top Chef” Padma Lakshmi.

Popular comedian Sebastian Maniscalco had a bit where he talks about going to a Passover seder.

“Jews have no idea what the hell they are doing in the kitchen,” he says in his routine. “These people have no cuisine: celery, crackers, jam. I’m like, we’re losing people.”

“After breakfast, they fall apart, the Jews,” he says. “After a bagel, cream cheese, lox … where they going? They got nothing. They have nothing. Has anybody ever said to you: ‘We went to this Jewish restaurant last night. The gefilte! Amazing’!”