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December 22, 1989 - Image 92

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-12-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

I COOKING I

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West Bloomfield Plaza

Mon.-Sat. 8:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
Sun. 9 o.m.-6. p.m.

Limit 2 lbs. With Additional Purchase • Expires

REG. $35 VALUE!

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WEST BLOOMFIELD STORE ONLY

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WISH ALL THEIR FRIENDS AND CUSTOMERS
A HAPPY CHANUKAH

84

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 22, 1989

Special to The Jewish News

I
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AMERICAN BULK FOOD COUPON

lb.

Herring And Chanukah:
A Scottish Tradition

ETHEL G. HOFMAN

WEST BLOOMFIELD STORE ONLY

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n Scotland, long before
the markets were flooded
with flash frozen, process-
ed, out-of-season foods from
faraway places, herring had
the proud reputation of being
what we would term "soul
food" to both Jew and gentile.
Scottish Jewish families
rarely indulged in bagels
(even fresh baked came out
like jawbreakers); salmon was
preferred caught fresh from
the streams, instead of cured
as in lox; and fruited soda
bread was the answer to a
yeasty babke. Herring took
pride of place on the menu
since there was always a
cheap and plentiful supply.
For winter, the plump fish
were salted and stored in a
barrel; in summer, it was easy
enough to run down to the
fishing boats and buy what
we needed. If the catch had
been heavy, the herring were
given away.
A.J. McClane, in his book
The Encyclopedia of Fish
Cookery (Holt, Rinehart and
Winston, 1977), notes that
"herring were once a silvery
legion that roamed the Atlan-
tic and Pacific Oceans in un-
countable billions?' Today,
herring have been exploited
by fleets armed with com-
puters and electronics, and
the supply is severely
depleted, pushing up the
price. But in Scotland, up un-
til the 1940s, half a dozen
fresh herring could be bought
for less than 50 cents.
Every summer morning,
the arrival of the herring fleet
at the piers signalled a frenzy
of activity. Thousands of gulls
screamed overhead as women,
wrapped in leather aprons
and flashing knives like
swords, made short work of
gutting the silvery cargo. The
fish were packed between lay-
ers of salt in wooden barrels,
then rolled over to the
"cooper" who rammed on the
covers and sealed it all with
metal bands. The term

"fresh" was aptly applied to
herring packed in this man-
ner, for only minutes elapsed
between the fish jumping in
the troughs to the time it took
to pack and seal.
This old-fashioned method
has now given way to factory
machines and timeclocks but
there's many a bone and fin
that's been overlooked, only
to turn up in a jar of commer-
cial tidbits. In the United
States, it's almost impossible
to find a fresh herring since
most of the catch is pickled or
semipreserved. The rest is
used for animal feed and is 41
termed "trash fish."
A pity! Herring is a plump,
flavorful and nutritious fish
lending itself to simple
ingredients and every cook-
ing method. For my mother,
in her island kitchen, Chan-
ukah and herring were syn-
onymous. Maybe it was a
challenge to her Lithua-
nian/Russian heritage be-
cause each night, after the
menorah was lit, we feasted
on a different herring dish.
A barrel of salt herring was
kept out in the garage to last
the winter and each day, I
braved the elements to get a
"fry?" not necessarily to be
fried, but enough to feed our
family of five. My mother had
packed several 10-pound glass
jars with her homemade a,
pickled herring. Fronds of
dill, bay leaves and black pep-
percorns floated through, giv-
ing off a piquant flavor which
mellowed over the winter
months. These were stored on
shelves in the chilly porch at-
tached to the back of the
house and along with salt
herring provided the inspira-
tion for scores of quick meals.
So, for this Chanukah, pass
41
up the salmon and flounder.
Instead, wake up those taste
buds and stir memories with
some herring . . . cooked the
old-fashioned way.



I

HERRING FORSHMAK
(RUSSIAN CUISINE)
4 salt herring fillets
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

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