A Hecht is a pike or pickerel. A Sauerhecht is a pickled pike, much like herring in wine sauce. With considerable effort, H.C. Nickel secured this recipe from his mother Margaret (Megs) and tried it out at Melahn’s Resort on Lake George in northern Minnesota, to a mixed reception. His brothers-in-law, the Rev. Herbert Mueller and the Rev. Gerhard Mueller, ate it with great relish — the former eating it rapidly despite difficulty with small fish bones, the latter even drinking some of the broth. Younger people generally left the cabin during cooking and consumption. The skinny, snakelike Northern Pike of Lake George were perfectly suited to the dish.
Margaret (Megs) and Al Nickel
1 quart water
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 lb. bacon, chopped
1 heaping teaspoon salt
6 kernels allspice
10 whole black peppercorns
1 large bay leaf
large onion, sliced
rendered fat from 3 slices bacon
1 Hecht, cleaned and scaled, in one-inch steaks or fillets
Combine all ingredients except bacon and Hecht in a large pot and bring to a boil. Boil gently until onion is transparent. Add the Hecht and simmer until cooked through.
Fry the bacon until it just begins to color but is not yet crisp. Remove from heat, chop, and reserve.
When the Hecht is cooked through, add a little butter, the chopped bacon, and some of the bacon fat. Serve hot or chilled.
- Getting a suitable Hecht could require an AlumaCraft rowboat, a small Evinrude, and a tackle box full of Daredevils and Flatfish. Fortunately, any inexpensive, firm white fish will do — mackerel perhaps.
- Bacon fat — particularly in combination with vinegar — was routinely used in German immigrant cookery. Modern tastes and health concerns might recoil, but some of the fat is necessary for authenticity. Fat from three slices of bacon may be about right.
- Keeping qualities. The dish may have been kept in the cellar much like the crock full of sauerkraut. Twenty-first century practice would probably keep it in the refrigerator.