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 Salted Cod

Mrs Beeton Recipes Index Page

Estimated Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Estimated Cooking Time: 15 minutes (small): 20 minutes (large)

Servings: Dependent on size of fish

Non-standard Cooking Utensils: Pan large enough for the fish


1 Cod

150 ml (¼ pint) vinegar

Cooking Method

1. Wash the fish. Place it in a pan of cold water that covers it. Add the vinegar.

2. Leave the cod like this overnight.

3. Place the fish in a pan of cold water which just covers it. Bring it to a simmer.

4. When done, drain the fish and put it on a napkin garnished with hard-boiled eggs cut in rings. Cooking time varies with the size of the fish. Ten minutes after the water is simmering should be sufficient for a medium sized fish.

The Jugular, characterized by bony gills, and ventral fins before the pectoral ones, commences the second of the Linnaean orders of fishes, and is a numerous tribe, inhabiting only the depths of the ocean, and seldom visiting the fresh waters. They have a smooth head, and the gill membrane has seven rays. The body is oblong, and covered with deciduous scales. The fins are all enclosed in skin, whilst their rays are unarmed. The ventral fins are slender, and terminate in a point. Their habits are gregarious, and they feed on smaller fish and other marine animals.

The cod should be chosen for the table when it is plump and round near the tail, when the hollow behind the head is deep, and when the sides are undulated as if they were ribbed. The glutinous parts about the head lose their delicate flavour, after the fish has been twenty-four hours out of the water. The great point by which the cod should be judged is the firmness of its flesh; and, although the cod is not firm when it is alive, its quality may be arrived at by pressing the finger into the flesh. If this rises immediately, the fish is good; if not, it is stale. Another sign of its goodness is, if the fish, when it is cut, exhibits a bronze appearance, like the silver side of a round of beef. When this is the case, the flesh will be firm when cooked. Stiffness in a cod, or in any other fish, is a sure sign of freshness, though not always of quality. Sometimes, codfish, though exhibiting signs of rough usage, will eat much better than those with red gills, so strongly recommended by many cookery-books. This appearance is generally caused by the fish having been knocked about at sea, in the well-boats, in which they are conveyed from the fishing-grounds to market.

Immediately as the cod are caught, their heads are cut off. They are then opened, cleaned, and salted, when they are stowed away in the hold of the vessel, in beds of five or six yards square, head to tail, with a layer of salt to each layer of fish. When they have lain in this state three or four days, in order that the water may drain from them, they are shifted into a different part of the vessel, and again salted. Here they remain till the vessel is loaded, when they are sometimes cut into thick pieces and packed in barrels for the greater convenience of carriage.

This fish is found only in the seas of the northern parts of the world, between the latitudes of 45° and 66°. Its great rendezvous are the sandbanks of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, and New England. These places are its favourite resorts; for there it is able to obtain great quantities of worms, a food peculiarly grateful to it. Another cause of its attachment to these places has been said to be on account of the vicinity to the Polar seas, where it returns to spawn. Few are taken north of Iceland, and the shoals never reach so far south as the Straits of Gibraltar. Many are taken on the coasts of Norway, in the Baltic, and off the Orkneys, which, prior to the discovery of Newfoundland, formed one of the principal fisheries. The London market is supplied by those taken between the Dogger Bank, the Well Bank, and Cromer, on the east coast of England.

In our preceding remarks on the natural history of fishes, we have spoken of the amazing fruitfulness of this fish; but in this we see one more instance of the wise provision which Nature has made for supplying the wants of man. So extensive has been the consumption of this fish, that it is surprising that it has not long ago become extinct; which would certainly have been the case, had it not been for its wonderful powers of reproduction. “So early as 1368,” says Dr. Cloquet, “the inhabitants of Amsterdam had dispatched fishermen to the coast of Sweden; and in the first quarter of 1792, from the ports of France only, 210 vessels went out to the cod-fisheries. Every year, however, upwards of 10,000 vessels, of all nations, are employed in this trade, and bring into the commercial world more than 40,000,000 of salted and dried cod. If we add to this immense number, the havoc made among the legions of cod by the larger scaly tribes of the great deep, and take into account the destruction to which the young are exposed by sea-fowls and other inhabitants of the seas, besides the myriads of their eggs destroyed by accident, it becomes a miracle to find that such mighty multitudes of them are still in existence, and ready to continue the exhaustless supply. Yet it ceases to excite our wonder when we remember that the female can every year give birth to more than 9,000,000 at a time.”

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