Due to the harsh climate, traditional Finnish cuisine included many grains and berries. Today contemporary Finns enjoy a wide variety of modern foods typical of Western Europe. Hunting and fishing are popular in Finland, with fish, moose and deer plentiful, but restaurants also serve reindeer.
Finns always have something to look forward to. Summer is the season they look forward to the most, but other seasons, too, have their delicacies and culinary traditions.
January is the month for burbot roe and blini, served with whipped cream or smetana and finely chopped onion.
Many consider winter burbot soup the finest fish dish of all. The Kainuu variety contains clear bouillon, potato, melted butter and chopped onion (Finnish fish soups, salmon included, often include milk or cream).
February is cold and calls for sturdy fare: casseroles, stews, hot meat, fish, cabbage, sausage or pea soup.
Thursday is, by the way, pea soup day nationwide. Pea soup is served at canteens, restaurants, homes and in the army always on Thursdays. The dessert that goes with pea soup is oven baked pancake or crepes with jam.
On February 5, the day dedicated to the memory of Finland's national poet Runeberg, bakeries sell cakes named after him.
Traditional dishes are served on Kalevala Day (February 28th), the day of the Finnish national epic.
Colorful Easter announces the arrival of spring. The Finnish speciality at Easter is mammi, malt flavored oven baked pudding.
Easter fare in Finland features egg, chicken and lamb dishes, and such traditional Orthodox dishes as pasha, kulitsa and baba.
What the children look forward to at Easter is Mignon egg, real egg shells filled with the finest chocolate. In April—May the fish spawn and swim into traps. The menu then includes perch, bream and pike.
The first of May is a carnival day in Finland with sima mead and bubbly (made of white currant and gooseberry). The sweet pastry that goes with the mead has the appearance of lightbrown frozen spaghetti and is called tippaleipd.
Summer begins in June. It starts the migration from the cities to country cottages on lakesides for weekends and holiday weeks.
Weather permitting, summer means being outdoors, grilling and smoking food and picking herbs from the garden.
The sauna is in constant use. A Finnish holiday maker takes a dip in the lake straight from the sauna, finishing the session with sausage and beer. The bologna sausage is said to symbolize the Finnish way of life, and beer is the favorite drink after a sauna. The secret of Finnish lager lies in the high quality water, tasty barley and long brewing tradition. Beer is also brewed in some small local breweries and a few restaurant breweries. Sahti, the Finns' own grain drink, is worth tasting, a view confirmed by British expert Michael Jackson.
As the summer advances, the first strawberries ripen and delicious new potatoes, no bigger than a finger tip, appear. These are served hot with butter and fresh dill. Tender rhubarb is the season's fruit for pies.
Midsummer, which coincides with the last weekend in June, is the biggest of the summer celebrations. The reflection of lakeside bonfires in the water, combined with good food, makes a perfect evening: there is sausage of course, special midsummer cheese, crepes, smoked fish...
In July, market stalls are laden with peas, strawberries, bilberries, cloudberries, cucumber and tomatoes, all at their best, ripened by long sunfilled days. Fresh vegetables cooked in milk make a delicious summery soup, followed by berries served with milk, cream or quark.
The gastronomic peak of the summer is the start of the crayfish season on July 21. Expatriate Finns time their visits to the old home country for this time of year to get together with friends at dill-scented crayfish parties. Unfortunately, these parties are becoming more and more expensive as the years go by as the crayfish stocks decline.
August is the time of harvest. The sea yields Baltic herring and flounder, and hunters go out for duck. It's also the season to wander in the woods and fill baskets with the fruit of the forest mushrooms, including milk caps, horns of plenty, boletus and different varieties of chantarelle.
By 'everyman's right', all Finns can pick as many mushrooms and berries as they like. Finnish forests abound in edible mushrooms and excellent recipes are passed on from one generation and cookery book to another.
The autumn colors set the forests aglow and the wetlands are red with lingonberries and cranberries. Elk-shooting parties get together for the hunt, and harriers eagerly await the chase ahead.
In October, vendace, whitefish and Baltic herring provide roe for the gourmets' tables. Red Finnish caviar is the best in the world.
Life in seaside market towns livens up for the fish markets. The stalls sell pickled and salted fish, fresh fish, bread, socks and mittens made of lamb's wool. New potatoes are at their best.
The autumn lamb and cabbage stew is particularly tasty. The season's Sunday roast is slowly cooked or ready bought lamb.
November marks the beginning of the dark season, but also anticipation of Christmas.
December is a time for friends. Open house parties are held to taste mulled wine, a spicy drink made of blackcurrants.
Restaurants serve the season's dishes and friends and business colleagues show their gratitude for the past year by inviting each other for a pre-Christmas lunch.
Restaurant Christmas buffets serve herring, salmon, ham, sausages, pates and casseroles. And lutefish, cod soaked in Iye solution, served with a thick milk-based sauce, melted butter and potatoes and seasoned with pepper.
Traditional Christmas sweets often have prunes as an ingredient, e.g. Finnish Christmas pastries, which are filled with prune jam. Another traditional Christmas time cookie which fills the kitchen with its spicy aroma is gingerbread.
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This page modified January 2007
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