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What is a Finnan Haddie?

By Terrie Brockmann
Updated May 17, 2024
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Finnan haddie is smoked haddock from Findon, a hamlet near Aberdeen, Scotland. Scholars believe it has been a local favorite since the 16th century. Although smoke-masters still make it in that region of Scotland, companies in parts of the United States and Canada also make it. The British and Europeans often eat the smoked fish as a good, hearty breakfast protein.

Originally, fishermen smoked the haddock over peat fires, but in modern times smoke-masters usually use cherry, hickory, or other hardwoods. The smoke-master fillets and brines the fresh haddocks before smoking them. Each person has his or her own brining recipe, but typically smoke-masters brine the fish in water, salt, and flavorings, such as bay leaves and black peppercorns. One of the secrets to making good finnan haddie is to cold smoke it, a process that leaves the fish raw but imparts a delicate, smoky flavor to it.

Although no one knows when fishermen from the Findon area started making finnan haddie, food experts do agree that during the late 19th century smoke-masters changed the method of preparing the smoked fish. Previous to the change, they heavily smoked the fish, resulting in a tough texture. The new technique resulted in a lightly smoked and more delicate fish. At this time, a railway connected Scotland to London, and smoke-masters sent their wares to London, where the fish became a breakfast staple.

As a breakfast food, cooks frequently serve the fish topped with a poached egg and with hot, buttered toast. Often people eat the fish with oatmeal, pancakes, or toast, adding eggs only if they are on hand. In modern times, eggs are readily available; therefore, it is more common to have the fish and eggs.

As Scotsmen relocated to the New World, they found good haddock fishing areas in the cold waters near the northern United States shoreline and in parts of Canada's fishing waters. They introduced the smoked delicacy to the region. In North America, cooks often use it for meals other than breakfast. It is common to have the smoked haddock in a cream sauce and served with mashed potatoes. Other methods of cooking it include baking, broiling, and poaching. Some people grill it or serve it fried in butter.

Other types of smoked haddock include Arbroath smokie, which is smoked whole. Finnan haddie is filleted before smoking. If a cook does not have any for a recipe, he or she can substitute another smoked haddock or another fish, such as smoked salmon. Often smoked fish may be very salty. To reduce the salt, gently simmer the fish in water and discard the salt-laden water. Cook the de-salted fish in one of the suggested methods.

One dish that is especially popular in England is kedgeree. Travelers brought the dish from India during the Victorian Age. It consists of rice, hard-boiled eggs, and cooked and flaked finnan haddie, to which cream or butter can be added. Cooks flavor it with curry powder and may add sultanas. Another well-liked dish is Cullen skink, which is a Scottish soup made with Finnan haddie, onions, and potatoes.

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