Cultured Palate: Dishes from Finland
Long, cold winters in Finland mean that traditional Finnish dishes rely heavily on vegetables like potatoes, turnips, and carrots, with available meat added for protein and flavor. In order to warm their cold bones during frigid winters on the water, Finnish sailors relied on this dish, translated into English as “sailor’s stew” — a hearty dish of potatoes, carrots, onions, and either beef or fish. Although you can find this in restaurants in Finland, the ideal way to prepare this is over an open fire in a cast-iron pot, which makes it easier to find in someone’s home.
If you look at the dishes of Finnish cuisine, you won’t see much fruit. That’s because its remoteness and cold climate has made both importing and growing fruit quite difficult. Instead, Finns focus on berries, which grow in even the remotest areas, as the inspiration for their best desserts. Puolukkapiirakka is a pie made of lingonberries, which can be quite bitter if eaten on its own. Generally, the bitterness is cut with a generous dollop of whipped cream. Another traditional pie is mustikkapiirakka, made from blueberries.
Another popular berry dish is kiisseli, a Finnish dessert that’s a cross between jelly and soup. It’s thickened with cornstarch rather than gelatin, and can be served either hot or cold. Often red wine is added to make it even more decadent. Popular flavors of kiisseli in Finland are bilberry, prune, apricot, and strawberry.