The Wisconsin Fish Boil

If you ever find yourself in Door County, Wisconsin (the thumb of the mitten, if you look at the shape of the state) in the summer, you’ll want to locate a good fish boil and partake in this unique tradition.

The Cajuns have their shrimp boils, and the New Englanders have their clam bakes, but Wisconsinites have their fish boils. A large cauldron is set over a fire and is filled with water that is brought to a boil. The boilmaster adds in red potatoes (another big Wisconsin crop) and Lake Michigan whitefish, along with salt. Lots of it. Those are the only ingredients you really need. Some places will add onions or corn to the pot. Sounds simple, yet the fish is delicious.

Once the fish is cooked, the oil rises to the water’s surface. The pot is allowed to boil over, and the oils cause the fire to flare, sending flames shooting high into the sky. Part of the fun of a fish boil is the show of cooking it.

Fish boils most likely came to the area with the Scandinavians who settled here. Some postulate that the fish boil might have started with the Native Americans who also caught and boiled fish. They, however, were interested in saving the fish oil. However it started, it became an easy and cheap way of feeding a large number of fishermen and loggers.

And the best way to finish the meal? With a slice of Door County cherry pie. But that’s a story for another day.

Have you ever been to a fish boil or other seafood bake or boil?

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