Whitefish shortage causing woe

A shortage of whitefish in the Great Lakes region, resulting partly from the winter deep freeze, is coming at an inconvenient time: the Passover holiday, when demand is high because it’s a key ingredient in gefilte fish.

Markets in Chicago and Detroit were among those struggling to fill whitefish orders before the beginning of the eight-day Passover celebration on April 14, and a representative of a commercial fishing agency said the shortfall extended as far as New York.

“Everybody’s pulling their hair out,” said Kevin Dean, co-owner of Superior Fish, a wholesaler near Detroit whose latest shipment provided just 75 pounds of whitefish although he requested 500 pounds. “I’ve never seen it this bad this time of year.”

Gefilte fish recipes typically call for ground-up fish and other components such as onions, carrots and eggs. Cod, pike and trout are sometimes a part of the mix, but whitefish is especially popular. And while gefilte fish (“gefilte” is Yiddish for “stuffed”) is available in cans or jars, for many, only homemade will do.

In the Chicago suburb of Skokie, Ill., Ira Kirsche of Hungarian Kosher Foods said his market ordinarily would get 200 to 300 pounds of whitefish daily this time of year but had to settle for 10 to 20 pounds. Justin Hiller’s family market in suburban Detroit eventually received the 4,000 pounds it needed to meet demand but it was a close call. — ap