Like fish for breakfast, do you? And no, we’re not on about fish and chips. We’re on about kippers. Not slippers. Kippers! Got that? Good.
What Are Kippers?
It’s a whole herring split in half along the dorsal ridge that’s salted and then cold-smoked over oak woodchips.
The result? Probably the saltiest breakfast in all of history. And a very pungent one!
It’s one of those common British dishes you’ll come across here, although it’s also popular in Ireland and some parts of North America.
You’ll also find it referenced in pop culture, such as with Ace Rimmer from Red Dwarf above there.
What’s the History of Kippers?
The dish has its roots in working-class lore. Prior to WWII, it was a high tea or supper time treat. These days, it’s more of a breakfast dish.
But as you can see from this clip from 1972 (the location is unknown), the processing of kippers is a big deal and a popular one, to boot.
“Kipper” likely comes from Old English “kippian” (which means to spawn). Although in Iceland, they have a term “kippa”, which means “to pull”.
There’s also a term from Germany called “kippen”—”to tilt”.
However, as with many smoked foods the kipper possibly came about by accident. Peasants may have hung their food close to fires during the night.
They’d then wake up to find a pleasant treat the next morning. And a legend was born.
There’s, in fact, a story from 1599 where a fisherman from Lothingland in Great Yarmouth discovering smoking herring by accident.
Another tale hails back to 1843 in Seahouses, Northumberland, where fish were left overnight in a room with a smoking stove.
However, “kipper” as a term has been around long before those stories they’re believed to be inaccurate.
And that would indicate the humble kipper has been part of British cuisine for a very bloody long time indeed. As well as with many other cultures.
It’s likely they’ve been around for as long as humans have used salt to preserve food. Which goes back to pre-history and any written records.
These days, you’re also likely to find them in debates around Brexit. One of the main ongoing arguments has involved British fish.
Thankfully, we’re now out of the EU and all those British fish remain Britain’s and those bastards within the EU won’t get any of our bloody British fish.
God save the Queen! And God save the kipper.
How Do You Make Kippers?
Unless you want to go through the whole process of smoking a herring, it’s best to buy one from a supermarket.
You can then pan fry the thing or put it under the grill.
Word of warning though, as the things tend to stink your home out for the rest of the day (if not for days afterward).
But if you’re happy to indulge, go ahead and knock yourselves out. Smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back for breakfast.