Full disclosure. Michael Levy, co-star of the coddie video, is my husband. I have been listening to him and his brother, Stevan, talk about coddies for several decades. It sounded too strange to be true, but I’ve found independent verification.
On their way home from elementary school in downtown Baltimore in the 1960s, they stopped at a drugstore for a coddie and a cherry Coke. Coddies were deep-fried balls of codfish and potatoes. They were served between two saltine crackers with a dab of yellow – always yellow – mustard.
Apparently, they were available everywhere: drugstores, bowling alleys, delis, bars and candy stores. They were not heated in a microwave. They were not refrigerated. These may be two of the reasons they are hard to find now.
My mother-in-law also had coddie stories. When she was growing up in Baltimore in the late 1920s and stopped at a candy store on her way home from elementary school, coddies cost 2 cents. When my husband and brother-in-law got them in the ’50s and ’60s, they were up to a nickel.
I thought coddies were a Baltimore-only thing but when repeating the story to friends, I was told that Gorton’s used to sell codfish cakes in a can and they were available up and down the East Coast. Gorton’s does not mention this on its website.
Apparently, coddies first were sold by Jewish immigrants from push carts on the streets of Baltimore in the early 1900s. A nice piece in the Baltimore City Paper several years ago tells the whole story.
Baltimore coddies are essentially potatoes and codfish. The ones sold in every store in Baltimore through the first half of the 20th century apparently were mostly potato. I use salt cod which needs to be soaked for 24 hours in advance. I've included parsley if you feel the need for a fresh herb, but it seems a little uptown for a coddie. My husband the coddie aficionado, ate these when they came out of the frying pan and loved them. He tried them again the next day at room temperature and said they tasted just like those of his childhood. Remember, you MUST have a dab of yellow mustard for the full experience.
- 1 pound salt cod
- 1 ¼ pounds potatoes
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley (optional)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Salt to taste
- Peanut oil (or other high-smoke-point oil), for frying
- Yellow mustard
In a bowl of water to cover, soak salt cod 24 hours, changing water every 6 to 8 hours. In a saucepan, place fish and cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil. Drain. Cover with water again and bring to a boil. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and break up with a fork. Let cool.
Peel, dice and boil potatoes until cooked. Drain and mash with milk to desired consistency. Cool.
Saute onion and parsley (if using) in butter until wilted. Cool.
In a large bowl, mix together fish, eggs, potatoes, onions (and parsley, if using), pepper and salt, to taste.
In a large, heavy skillet, heat oil to just below smoking point.
Make cod mixture into golf-ball sized balls and flatten slightly. Place in hot oil and cook until browned. Turn and brown other side. This takes almost no time so watch closely. On paper towel-covered platter, let coddies drain until cooled.
Serve between two saltine crackers with a glob of yellow mustard.