Traditional Fish Boil
Ephraim Travel Blog› entry 4 of 20 › view all entries
July 1st, 2007 – by: sweetsummerdaiz
More than 100 years ago, in the early days of Wisconsin history there were a few professions that prospered in the peninsula that most people were involved in; logging and fishing.
Fresh fish was plentiful from Lake Michigan and most people of the region ate a lot of it. King salmon and a variety of trout were the usual catch of the day during summer. Fisherman saved their money by eating what they caught and the tradition of the fish boil. In the 1960's some residents of the area who still cooked fish this way had the great idea to offer this "show" to tourists who populated the area in summers. Since a fish boil involved a visually interesting process of preparation and cooking ending in a spectacular fire the experiment of showmanship began and is still done today in about 14 hotels and restaurants throughout the peninsula.
A fish boil is exactly that; boiled whitefish. A blazing hot fire is prepared with a large vat of water hovering above it. A steel basket is filled with a bottom layer of peeled potatoes and whole onions with a top layer of whitefish steaks added. When the fire is at its maximum heat the basket is lowered in the boiling water and salt is added. The food cooks between 8 and 10 minutes. Then, kerosene is added to the fire to make the water boil over the top of the kettle creating a huge flame. This process of overflow removes impurities from the food that may remain such as fat and residual sand leaving only the perfectly prepared fish steaks and vegetables. This is such a popular tradition for visitors. The fish according has very little flavor as no other spices are used in the process except salt leaving it bland for my taste, but the preparation is fun to watch and really is a must see.
Fish boils typically cost between $16-$20 per person depending on where you go. Some restaurants have 2 seatings a night; others are continuous cooking another batch of fish approximately once per hour.
The photos pictured here are from the Old Post Office Restaurant which is located in the Edgewater Beach Hotel complex. The building actually was an old post office which was built in 1874. The boilmaster at this place was Earl. It is apparent that his show is very refined from years of entertaining tourists.
Cities in the peninsula even today have small populations not including the summer tourist traffic. In winter cities dwindle to barely a few thousand.
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