Monday, August 23, 2010


Going to Bortell’s Fishery for fried perch last week brought back memories of my Mother’s perch dinners. In her youth, Mom was a concert pianist. She trained at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago under the famous violinist, Fritz Kreisler. The first radio station that opened in the Grand Rapids area went on the air with Mom playing a piece she had composed. When she married, like so many other women of her time, she gave up her career; but the passion she put into her music wasn't lost. With the same intensity that she played piano concerts, she fried fish. My Dad loved fish so my Mom would take the perch my Grandpa and others in the family caught and pan-fry them to perfection.

My Mom at the beginning of her career as a concert pianist.

I recently read in the paper that the fishing limit for perch out of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin was five a day. Back when I was young, in the dark ages, I don’t even think there was a limit. It was nothing for Grandpa to bring a pail of seventy-five fish home at a time. Although my Dad, brother and I fished, my Grandpa was the one who use to catch pails of perch off the pier in Grand Haven. After he retired he fished every day weather permitting. An old fisherman taught him the trick of skinning the whole fish so he did not have the messy, horrendous job of scaling all those fish. He had a special table in the back yard just for cleaning fish. The top of the table had a hole in the middle. On a shelf under the hole, he put a bucket so he could just scrap the guts and skin into the hole in the table so when he was finished the refuse was all the bucket.

My Brother counting fish on Grandpa's fishing table.  When he starts to clean them ,he will put the bucket on the bottom shelve under the hole in the top shelve.

My Mother would fry up great mounds of fish for dinner. She rolled them in flour and pan-fried them in butter. They were absolutely wonderful. I've never been able to do them as well, probably because I have never invested as much time and love as Mom did when she fried fish for her family. One night, Mom had big platters of perch and ready for dinner. A paper plate on the stove caught fire. Mom and Dad lived in an age when it was believed that there was a division of labor between what men did and what women did. Women didn’t put out fires. So Mom started yelling for my Dad. She was not concerned about the kitchen or the cottage. She just kept yelling, "Harry, my fish! Harry, my fish!" “Harry, my fish!!!!”

Dad always came to everyone's recuse.

Lake perch were frequently on our menu and Mom froze them in ice cubes trays in water so that we had them in the winter too.  When the St. Lawrence Seaway opened the Great Lakes were changed forever by ocean fish and eels that invaded the Lakes.  Perch fishing has never been the same.  Here are some pictures of the "OLD DAYS" when the perch were plentiful and there for the taking.

Fisherman and women lining the South pier fishing for perch.  One had to get to the pier early to get a space to fish.

My Brother teaching me to fish when I was four years old.  Fishing was serious business.

Every year my Dad (on the right) went on the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce Cruise of the Great Lakes on the cruise ships North American or South American.  Even while cruising they took time out to fish for perch.
My Grandpa wasn't comfortable around water as he never learned to swim; however, he would go out in a boat or out on the piers because his love for fishing over-came his fear of water.
Any time I go somewhere and enjoy the food, I have to figure out how I could duplicate the food at home.  I don't enjoy the mess of frying but Tom said he'd do the frying so we tried to duplicate the fish we had at Bortell's in Pentwater, MI.
Tom says this recipe is perfect.  I guess I can't do better than perfect.
Fillets of perch
Rice flour
Peanut oil or canola oil or a combination of the two.
Ingredients:  Peanut or canola oil, Lake perch fillets and rice flour.

Remove pin bones from the fillets with a needle nose pilers.  Dust the fillets on both sides with rice flour.  Let set while oil is heating.  Heat oil in a deep fryer or an electric frying pan to 365°.  Add a few fillets at a time and fry for about 6 minutes.  Remove from fryer.  Salt and drain the fillets.
Cut the fish fillets apart if still connected.

Check for pin-bones.

Remove any pin-bones with needle nose pilers.  This is not a food grade pilers, but the USDA wasn't around and it was the only one I had.

Dust each side of fillet with rice flour and let set while fryer is heating up.

Fry fillets at 365° for approximately 6 minutes.  Remove from fryer, salt immediately and drain.

Fillets draining.

Serve fried Lake Perch with Wanda's Lake Superior Tartar Sauce, Michigan Cottage Cook Post 7/30/10.  Enjoy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment