In the wholesale fish business, scrod is the smallest weight category of the major white fish. From smallest to largest, the categories are: scrod, market, large, and whale. In the U.S., scrod haddock or cusk weighs 1.5–3 lbs.; scrod cod 1.5–2.5 lbs.; and scrod pollock 1.5–4 lbs. The exact weight categories are somewhat different in Canada.
Historically, scrod was simply a small cod or haddock, "too small to swallow a bait" or "too small to be filleted", which was usually prepared by being split and lightly salted ("corned"), and sometimes quickly air-dried. They were generally broiled and served with butter. Starting in the mid-20th century, it came to mean a small haddock or cod that is filleted or split.
Fish are scrawed when they are prepared in a particular way before cooking. This scrawing consists in cutting them flatly open and then slightly powdering them with salt and sometimes with pepper. They are then exposed to the sun or air, that as much as possible of the moisture may be dried up. In this state they are roasted over a clear burning coal or wood fire. Thus prepared and smeared over with a little butter they are said to be 'scrawed'.
This corresponds to its earliest documented meaning in American English: "a young or small cod fish, split and salted for cooking".
The term has attracted a number of jocular false etymologies. One treats it as short for the "Sacred Cod" carving that hangs in the Boston State House." Various acronyms have been suggested, though acronyms were hardly ever used in the past: "seaman’s catch received on deck," supposedly any whitefish of the day; for "small cod remaining on dock"; "select catch retrieved on [the] day."
Scrod was apparently often used to mean simply fresh fish of the day, since menus were made up before the day's catch was brought in.
A young cod, split down the back, and backbone removed, except a small portion near the tail, is called a scrod. Scrod are always broiled, spread with butter, and sprinkled with salt and pepper. Haddock is also so dressed.
|— Fannie Merritt Farmer,|
The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, 1896
Historically, scrod was as much a method of preparation as a kind of fish. An 1851 recipe calls for the fish to be salted and left overnight, then broiled, skin side down first.
Today, scrod is cooked in a variety of ways, including frying or broiling, after splitting or filleting; for example, "in famous Boston restaurants, scrod is simply a tail piece of filleted haddock or cod dipped in oil, then bread crumbs and boiled [sic] in a moderate oven" (1949).
In literature and history
Seth Peterson, a boatman, fisherman, and friend Daniel Webster, described the 19th century orator and statesman (per biographer George Curtis) as having greatly enjoyed scrawed cod:
He loved codfish best—he liked to have them scrawed—to have them split open, corned a little over night, and broiled for breakfast. I've fixed him more than a thousand.— S. Peterson
- United States International Trade Commission, "Certain Fresh Atlantic Groundfish from Canada", USITC Publication 1844, May 1986 full text
- Ian Dore, The New Fresh Seafood Buyer's Guide: A manual for Distributors, Restaurants and Retailers, 2013, ISBN 1475759908, p. 155
- Dictionary of American Regional English, s.v.
- Merriam-Webster, 2014, "scrod", Merrian Webster Dictionary, s.v., accessed 22 January 2014.
- English Dialect Dictionary 5 (R–S), 1904, s.v., quoting from Notes and Queries 10 July–December 1854, p. 418, November 25, 1854
- English Dialect Dictionary 5 (R–S), 1904, s.v.
- Douglas Harper, 2014, Online Etymology Dictionary s.v., accessed 24 November 2017.
- Oxford English Dictionary, 1st edition (1891), s.v.
- "Omni Parker House Hotel founded in 1855. - iBoston". www.iboston.org. Retrieved 2015-12-08.
- "Yankee Magazine". Retrieved December 8, 2015.
- Jeri Quinzio, 2014, "Food on the Rails: The Golden Era of Railroad Dining," Rowman & Littlefield, p. 112, see , accessed 22 January 2014.
- Keith M. Denning et al., English Vocabulary Elements, 2007 ISBN 0198037538, p. 60
- Fannie Farmer, The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, 1896, p. 148
- "A housekeeper", The American matron: or Practical and scientific cookery, J. Munroe & Co., 1851, p. 173
- Chicago Tribune, 25 February 1949, § ii, pp. 4, 6
- Oxford English Dictionary, 1st edition, 1911 s.v.
- George Ticknor Curtis, 1872, Life of Daniel Webster, Vol. II, 4th ed., New York: D. Appleton and Co., p. 663 and 664 (footnote), see , accessed 22 January 2015.
- Harris, Patricia (2007). 1001 Greatest Things Ever Said About Massachusetts. Lyons Press. p. 245. ISBN 1599210967.
- David L. Gold, 2009, Whence American English Scrod and Grimsby English Scrob', in "Studies in Etymology and Etiology: With Emphasis on Germanic, Jewish, Romance and Slavic Languages," Alicante, Spain:Universidad de Alicante, pp. 555–558, see , accessed 22 January 2014.
- Melanie Crowley and Mike Crowley, 2014, Query "From Cosmo Cavicchio [The word scrod means… Can you verify that?]," in Words to the Wise: Your Etymologic Queried Answered, Take our Word For It, Issue 128, p. 2, see , accessed 22 January 2014.
- Anon., 2014, "Origin Of Scrod," at Celebrate Boston, see , accessed 22 January 2014.