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Gefilte fish ingredients in short supply for Passover

Gefilte fish is a Passover staple.

Gefilte fish is a Passover staple. Credit: FLICKR / Vidalia_11

One unexpected victim of February’s record cold is gefilte fish, the Passover appetizer traditionally made from ground whitefish, carp and yellow pike. All three are freshwater fish from the Upper Midwest, and all three are in short supply this spring because the Great Lakes are still covered with ice, said Glenn Kaggen of Jericho, a third-generation fish wholesaler and owner of Classic Bay Seafood Inc. .

Passover starts at sundown on Friday April 3, and home cooks who are embarking on the laborious process of making their own gefilte fish should add “calling the fishmonger” to the list of tasks.

Kevin Holton, partner at Two Cousins Fish Market on the Nautical Mile in Freeport, said that he’s been able to get his hands on the gefilte-destined fish because of his relationships with vendors at the wholesale Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx. But supplies are limited, “down around 35 percent,” he figured. On a Friday afternoon he still had whitefish and carp, but yellow pike was sold out. He’ll be at the fish market before dawn on Monday, though. “We try to go every night,” he said. “We’ll get what we can, and it’ll be first-come, first-served.”

Marine Fisheries in Great Neck will start stocking the gefilte trinity next week, but a representative said that “people who haven’t pre-ordered it won’t get it.”

“Carp isn’t such a big problem this year,” said Kaggen. “It can come from warmer waters, or it can be fished through the ice. But whitefish and pike — big problem.” Kaggen said that this winter, 96 percent of the Great Lakes froze over, and there are still ice floes in the water. “Even though it’s opened up a little,” he said, “fishermen are afraid to set their nets. If the ice shifts in the wind, their nets are going to tear.”

Kaggen pointed out that it is home cooks who are hardest hit by the shortage. but noted that any mild white fish — striped bass, whiting — can be substituted in recipes for gefilte fish.

Long Island supermarkets show no signs of shortage, he explained, because commercial manufacturers such as Manischewitz (which owns Rokeach, Mother’s and Mrs. Adler’s) have the option of using freshwater mullet or bighead carp for jarred gefilte fish. Since it is a shelf-stable product, it can be made any time of the year.

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