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Finnish Cuisine  and Recipes

Finnish Recipes and cooking


Cooking by Country -  April 2007

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Finland is the fifth largest country in the European Union (EU) and is the most northerly state on the mainland of Europe.


The terrain is dominated by lakes (literally thousands) and abundance of forests which account for over 60% of land surface interspersed with mainly flat to rolling plains. Finland has a 1,250 km coastline on the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Bothnia, and Gulf of Finland and land borders with Norway, Russia and Sweden.


The climate ranges from sub-arctic in the north, particularly Lapland where temperatures get as low as -30C in the winter to temperate in the south and east reaching +23C during summer.


Ancient times and Influences on Finnish cooking


Archaeological excavations suggest that people were living in Susiluola over 100,000 years ago during the interglacial periods. Post-glacial, the oldest artefact to have been found so far, a fishing net has been carbon dated at c10,000 years old . This and many other sites show a population who survived main as hunter-fishers with elk, seal and beaver being hunted for their meat and skins. They were skilled in making spearheads from slate and were highly developed stoneworkers. It is believed these peoples first migrated to southern Finland from the East and gradually moved northwards.

The oldest signs of organised agriculture date to around 2300BC although until c1500BC fishing, hunting and trapping was still practiced by many, who lead a nomadic lifestyle based around the migration of reindeer. However people also began to settle along the fjords, inland waterways and on the coast and added cattle raising to their trapping and fishing skills. In the interior of southern Finland arable farming and animal husbandry had already become established.

In early times, Finnish cooking was heavily influenced by the severe climate. Fresh fruit and vegetables were not readily unavailable for much of the year and this gave rise to a reliance on tubers such as turnips, dark rye bread and fermented dairy products for much of the year. Very few seasonings other than salt were available as fresh herbs were also limited to the few summer months. For this reason berries have also always played a major part in the Finnish diet.

Preserving of meats and fish by means of drying or smoking was also practiced and in this regard, its interesting to note that the sauna played its part in this process from early times certainly from the 5th century AD and possibly much earlier. Not only was meat and sausages smoked in the sauna, but also malt was dried. Whilst originally a smoke stove was used for the dual purpose of a heating the dwelling place and as a sauna,  it wasnt at all ideal for cooking and by the 11th century, a stove and closed oven replaced the open smoke stove and the sauna became a separate room.

From the 12th century until the early 1800s, Finland was part of Sweden after which it became part of Russia. Both these countries have influenced Finnish cuisine including the Russians introduction of mushrooms to the cuisine. Finland eventually declared itself independent in 1917.


Current Day Finnish Cuisine


Finland's cuisine is still hearty although, as with many other western countries, haute cuisine and continental style cooking, including spices and herbs from both the east and west, has been incorporated. The use of ingredients such as rye, oats, barley and berries is still popular however the traditional use of tubers such as turnips as the main root crop has been superseded by potatoes since their introduction in the 18th century.

The majority of people eat three meals a day, breakfast, lunch and dinner, Breakfast consists of items such as porridge, open faced sandwiches, muesli, cereals, yoghurt and bread. Lunch is often just a sandwich for working people and is generally eaten much earlier than in many countries, at around 11am although hot meals are served in most schools at lunchtime.  Likewise, dinner is also served quite early, 5-6pm and is fish, meat, poultry or game served with a variety of fresh vegetables.

Everyday food still tends to be simple and fresh. All manner of fish is still very popular as are meats such as reindeer, moose, beef and pork, sausage products including a type of black pudding  and game. Fresh vegetables  and all dairy products remain popular. The tradition of serving berries such as lingonberries and cranberry sauce with meat stills holds today and bread is still an important item.


Recipes from Finland  - Click here for lots of Finnish Recipes

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