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Enjoying Old Family Recipes Q12-1


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Debbie Santelli

Potatoes, fish, and bread were among the staples of my childhood. Actually, I loved the potatoes and the bread with plenty of butter. Fish was okay when Dad prepared it. Some of my happiest memories are of days spent helping him clean a bucketful of smelt or trout and then watching them sizzle in the old cast iron frying pan.

The not-so-good memories of fish involved two Swedish Finn ladies: my maternal grandfather's cousin, Agnes Båtman of Vörå, and long-time family friend, Elvira Nygård, born in Terjarv but living in Tacoma when I knew her. While it probably isn't true that they always prepared Fish Head Soup, it sure seemed like whenever they were in our kitchen the aroma was fishy and I could count on seeing fish eyes if I lifted the lid on the soup kettle.

This tasty Fish Stok recipe reminded me of Agnes and Elvira. Perhaps they also strained the stock, but I never gave it a chance I am thankful they taught me a great deal about other domestic tasks, including how to prime a well, how to "repair" the flavor of burnt foods, quilting, the value of a hug without words, and the art of pulla-baking.

According to Gunnar and Anki, we should not waste fish bones as “the fillets of bottom fish constitute only 10-15% of the total edible protein.” Fish stock can be used to poach halibut, lingcod, or red snapper filets in the oven; in fish soups, and for sauce for grilled fish filets.

Fish Stok

Anki & Gunnar Damström


1 gallon water
1/4 cup butter
4 lbs. fish bones, heads, & trimmings
1/2 lb yellow or Spanish onions
1/2 lb. leeks
1/4 lb. carrots
5 parsley sprigs
2 sprigs thyme


For fish bones select fresh halibut, rock cod, lingcod or red snapper. (If in Finland, use abborre, flundra, girs, or hornsimpa.) Do not use salmon. Remove gills. Freshness of fish determines quality of fish stock. Rinse bones for 10 minutes under cold, running water.

Melt 1/4 cup butter in a 2 gallon stock pot over medium heat. Gently simmer finely chopped onions for 10 minutes (do not brown onion). Add fish bones, trimmings, and water. Heat to a boil. Remove scum from surface. Add parsley and thyme sprigs.

Simmer for one hour. Strain fish stock through sieve. Return to pot and evaporate one-fourth to onethird of the contents, leaving threefourths to two-thirds gallons in the pot. Pour stock into plastic containers. Let cool. Freeze. The fish stock lasts up to one year in the freezer.

For a delicious fish soup for two, heat two pints (1/2 liter) fish stock to boiling. Add finely cut chives, a can of corn, and 1 lb. (1/2 kg) of fresh fish filets cut into bite-sized pieces. Boil for two minutes. Enjoy

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