What is the kippers origin?

The Old English origin of the word has various parallels, such as Icelandic kippa which means "to pull, snatch" and the Danish word kippen which means "to seize, to snatch". Similarly, the English kipe denotes a basket used to catch fish.

Another theory traces the word kipper to the kip, or small beak, that male salmon develop during the breeding season.

The exact origin of kippers is unknown, although fish have been slit, gutted and smoked for centuries.

According to famed food author Mark Kurlansky, "Smoked foods almost always carry with them legends about their having been created by accident - usually the peasant hung the food too close to the fire, and then, imagine his surprise the next morning when..."

One example of this legendary origin can be found in the story of John Woodger at Seahouses in Northumberland, England around 1843, in which kippering happened accidentally. Fish for processing was left overnight in a room with a smoking stove. We know this to be false because the origin of the word kipper is Old English; the English philologist and ethnographer Walter William Skeat derives it from the Old English kippian, to spawn.

We know smoking and salting of fish—in particular of spawning salmon and herring which can only be made edible by this practice—predates 19th Century Britain and indeed written history, probably going back as long as man has been using salt to preserve food. We also know kippered fish were eaten in Germany and reached Scandinavia sometime during the Middle Ages.

As a verb, to kipper means to preserve by rubbing with salt or other spices before drying in the open air or in smoke. So beef or other meat preserved in the same fashion can logically be called "kippered."

The Manx word for kipper is skeddan jiarg which literally translates as red herring.

There are many delicious ways to cook with kippers, we have a range of kipper recipes for you to try.


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