To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Finnish independence, I write 4 articles about typical Finnish food for the benefit of my English-speaking readers. This article is about food that Finns and others might enjoy in winter.
During winter you empty your freezer from the berries and vegetables that you collected there in summer and autumn. They are necessary to fight the darkness during winter, but also imported fruits are welcome, such as fresh oranges in January. To fight the cold, you need to fatten up. And that is what Finns do during winter and it is all culminated with a Christmas food extravaganza that leads to the New Year’s promise to slim down for summer. And how absurd that is: when January is the coldest month of the year, that is when Finns decide to spend a slimming month and often also an alcohol-free month although that is the month when the burning warmth of alcohol would certainly be needed!
February brings along a few special pastries: the Runeberg raspberry pastry is enjoyed to celebrate the national poet and the laskiaispulla is a bun with almond paste and whipped cream. In winter Russian bliny pancakes are heavy to digest but so good with roe and chopped onions. The burbot fish soup (“made” in Finnish) is quite popular, since the burbots are caught from holes in the ice during winter.
But as said, up until Christmas it is all a matter of heavy food such as stews and sausages, large brunches and pastries rich in calories. During December everyone is making their contribution to the Christmas table by conserving herrings, by baking gingerbreads or fruit cakes or by preparing casseroles that only need to be warmed up on Christmas eve. Popular casseroles are made of liver, (sweet) potatoes, carrots or turnips. A salad with beetroot, apples and gherkins is quite popular as well or some smoked or pickled fish. A speciality is a dried stockfish that is served with boiled potatoes and a milk-based sauce seasoned with allspices and cloves. But the crown on the Christmas table is almost always a grey-salted ham that has been slowly cooked in the oven during the night, or a turkey. A special sauce or mustard for which every family has their own recipe, is served with the ham. Usually along with peas. Since everyone is usually absolutely content after this, a dessert to speed up the digestion, is needed. The solution for this is usually a pill to speed up the digestion, or a cold soup made of dried plums and apricots.