Tag Archives: tradition

Karjalanpiirakka, an amazing Finnish pastry

It’s raining here in Tampere. I wonder if the summer will ever come to Finland. I’m here to visit my parents for the weekend, but for now the best option is to stay on the sofa and read a book.

I’m home alone, because my father just went to bake 500 Karelian pies to be sold tomorrow morning at the market place – they really are a big hit! “We’ll sell them in 5 minutes”, he’s boosting.

My father’s origins are in the Eastern part of Karelia, a region that Russia invaded during the Second World War. All the Finns were “thrown out”, they were given about 24 hours to leave their homes, collect all the belongings they could and escape to what is now Finland. The Karelians were relocated all around Finland, the family of my dad in a town near Tampere, where she met my mother… So there’s something positive in the tragedy.

My dad travels a lot to Russian Karelia. Some people still speak Finnish there and he loves to revisit the familiar places – even if he was very small, when they had to go.

Because of the harsh history, Carelians feel very strong about their culture. Also my father belongs to a Karelian friendship association.

Karelians have a fame to be very hospitable. When we go to visit my Karelian aunt, she always fills the table with an amazing amount of food. So, it’s easy to understand why they have brought many delicacies to the Finnish gastronomy. The most famous food is probably the Karelian pasty or Karelian pie, which are now very popular around Finland.

There are many variations of the recipe depending on the region, village or even the house. Once, when I was taught how to bake these pies by some grandmothers, they almost almost got into a fight on which is the correct way to make the pie.

Anyway, the common recipe includes a thin rye crust with a filling of rice. You normally eat the hot pasties with munavoi, butter mixed with boiled egg. However, the pies can be eaten with almost anything: cheese, ham, salmon, vegetables…

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This is how it looks like! Or should look like. Some delicious, fresh Karelian pies.

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Karelian pies can also be made with mashed potatoes, like here, or with carrot. Credit: Ilta-Sanomat.

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This pie is called “Sultsina”. It’s a fine pie that used to be eaten with special guests. It’s normally filled with rice or semolina porridge. Credit: Yle.

I’ve visited Karelia a couple of times. It feels very special, as part of my roots are there. Here come some photos I took during my trip in 2005 – to get in the Karelian mood. As you can observe, nowadays the region is very poor.

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This is Aunus, a Karelian town on the Russian side. A very typical village path with a very typical grandmother walking on it.

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The Aunus river on a hot summer day. In the winter living here is completely different, very hard.

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The grandmothers in Russia are really something! Strong, wise women who take care of the household and especially of their boys and husbands, who in many cases like vodka a bit too much…

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A typical Karelian wooden house in Aunus region. 

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Easter the Finnish way – eggs, lamb and mämmi

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Easter decorations. Credit: Kotiliesi

This evening I’m off to Munich for Easter holidays, so I probably won’t get to experience all the Finnish Easter stuff. At least I can write about our Easter traditions – some of them are quite interesting.

Our Easter celebrations started last Sunday. On Palmsunday (Palmusunnuntai) children go from door to door dressed like Easter witches and doing “virpominen” by waving decorated tree-branches and wishing a good year with a rhyme. The kids give the branch away – if they receive sweets or coins in return. A bit like Halloween’s “trick-or-treat”.

I used to love this when I was small. We dressed up with my friends, went around the neighborhood and finally shared our “catch”. Good candies were worth a lot more than “boring” coins. Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs  we liked the most. And I still do, even if now the selection of chocolate eggs is a lot wider.

Unfortunately we didn’t receive any witches at our door last Sunday – well, we didn’t have any candies either – as in the city the entrance doors are locked and the kids can’t get in. 😦

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Little witches doing "virpominen". Credit: Yle

Tomorrow it’ll be Easter Friday. While I’ll be walking around Munich, I know many Finns stay silent at home. When I was a kid, my mom didn’t let me do almost anything this sad, gloomy day – even if my family wasn’t religious. In Finnish the day is called “Long Friday” (Pitkäperjantai) and it really felt so! According to tradition you weren’t even allowed to smile with your teeth this day.

At Easter you decorate your home with twigs and branches and grass you cultivated in jars or tins. You also hide cholocate eggs around the house and then children look for them. Well, my mom still does it for me and a colleague just told me that she hides eggs for his boyfriend. So the tradition goes on.

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Lamb is a typical thing to eat for Easter. Credit: MTV3

Special dishes include eggs in different forms, of course, and lamb – to celebrate the end of what used to be fasting for Easter. And it still is, for some.

A truly special Easter delicacy is “mämmi”. Foreigners normally hate this stuff that reminds closely… poo! If you are brave enough to taste mämmi, you’ll notice that it’s not that bad – with sugar and cream. At least I like it! Once a year, that is.

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Mämmi. You love it - or hate it. But you've got to taste it! Credit: Wikipedia

Another typical dessert comes from Russia, Pasha. This is heavy stuff, so taste it – but not too much. Compared to mämmi, this is a more “normal” thing to eat, I guess. 😉

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Pasha, the Russian contribution to Finnish Easter. Credit: Wikipedia

So, “Hyvää pääsiäistä”, Happy Easter! Have a rest and eat enough chocolate eggs.

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Shrove Buns – the last chance to eat greasy stuff in 40 days!

Oh no! Being ill with a flu almost made me forget what day it is today: Shrove Tuesday (Laskiaistiistai in Finnish). This means that today we go all take our toboggans and go to ride a slope (check the video of a bit longer ride in Northern Finland!) and after that the tradition is to eat pea soup, pancake and laskiaispulla –  the delicious Shrove buns! Well, I would say most of the people have skipped to first and even the second part as on Tuesdays they work etc but only few don’t want to taste a bun.

So, about the buns. Basically, you make normal Finnish buns but the fun part is that for laskiainen you can tune them according to your taste! And you can find them everywhere: in cafes, supermarkets – and offices. Today at my workplace we have buns for all the employees. Also in the restaurant near the office you can every year prepare a pulla with your favourite accompaniment – and they have quite a selection.

Tonight a friend is even organising a traditional “pulla party” at her place – and over 30 friends have said YES to pulla in the Facebook invitation. Also everyone has to tell in advance what kind of pulla they prefer. In the end, only you imagination is the limit…

In short, it’s hard to avoid a pulla overdosis today.

So how is this delicacy?

Here it is, laskiaispulla. So good - but only once a year.

There are two options on for to put inside  your pulla – and this truly divides people! You can either be strawberry jam person or almond paste person. If you come to Finland on laskiainen, you’ll definitely face with this difficult question! Also pulla contains whipped cream and some sugar on top. And, like I said, only the imagination is the limit on what to put inside your original sweet bun…

People even compete who makes the best pulla

Most of the people concentrate on eating and comparing pullas but there’s a deeper reason for Shrove festivities, of course. After today, Shrove Tuesday, a period of 40 days of liturgical fasting before Easter begins and during that time you can only eat simple foodstuffs. The Protestant Finns do not observe Lent anymore, but the Orthodox usually do. Some people use the fast as an excuse to eat healthier – maybe even I’ll try to quit eating candy. Hmm I must think about it.

Anyway, today is the last chance to eat a lot of heavy stuff, as people believed that food had to be very greasy today so that the pigs and cows would get fat in the spring. Now the tradition lives on only in laskiaispulla, I guess. And unfortunately it’s us getting fat, not the cows…

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