Great Lakes whitefish: Wild caught and close to home

A cookbook for a truly local food brings professional recipes to your table.

Lake whitefish were an important food source for Native Americans around the Great Lakes well before the arrival of European settlers. These early European explorers to the Great Lakes praised the lake whitefish for its fine flavor and abundance, and began to recognize its importance in the region.

Today, the Great Lakes commercial fishery for lake whitefish is managed for sustainability. In 2011, about 15 million pounds of lake whitefish were commercially caught in Lakes Superior, Huron, and Michigan. In Lake Michigan, 6.2 million pounds were harvested followed by Lake Huron at 5.5 million pounds. There were 3.3 million pounds of lake whitefish harvested from Lake Superior. The Great Lakes have a high quality commercial fish produced close to home that consumers can enjoy.

Great Lakes whitefish from Michigan’s highly managed fisheries is caught by small, family-based operations and processed close to home. This local food possesses an extremely small ‘carbon footprint’ that contributes toward its sustainability. By looking for the country of origin label on the packaged fish and identification of where the fish was processed, consumers can make choices to purchase locally caught and processed fish.

To get the most enjoyment out of Great Lakes whitefish, Michigan Sea Grant teamed up with the Northern Michigan University Hospitality Management program to produce a cookbook featuring nearly 60 lake whitefish recipes. The cookbook, Wild Caught and Close to Home: Selecting and Preparing Great Lakes Whitefish, offers special recipes from fishermen, chefs, and culinary educators in the Great Lakes region.

The cookbook offers an introduction to purchasing, handling and the health benefits of Great Lakes whitefish. Great Lakes whitefish boasts a long list of health advantages including a high quality, low cost protein option with beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. One 3-oz. serving of Great Lakes whitefish features omega-3 fatty acids including .35g of EPA and 1.03g of DHA. That is more than pink and sockeye salmon. Supportive, but not conclusive, research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

When you acquire of copy of the cookbook, you will see that you can enjoy a different lake whitefish recipe every week for an entire year. The cookbook is divided into sections based on preparation techniques that include frying, sautéing and stir-frying, pouching and soup making, broiling and grilling, roasting and baking, and smoking and pickling.

Copies of Wild Caught and Close to Home: Selecting and Preparing Great Lakes Whitefish are available at Michigan commercial fishery retail stores or through the Michigan Sea Grant online bookstore.

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