If you hadn't guessed from my Piparkakut recipe, I enjoy Finnish food, culture, and people. I had a chance to visit in 2003 traveling from Helsinki to Mantyharju to Rovaniemi to Pyha in Lapland and back. A beautiful trip filled with lakes, trains, reindeer, hiking, coffee, beer, and lots of great food. My travel companion and I stayed with Jaakko Matilla who led us berry picking in the countryside. Afterwards I pulled together a blueberry pie with the small blue berries (like the Maine variety) that no one has ever forgotten. The rest of the trip was filled with herring (creamed, pickled, fried, and stuffed in bread) and lots of liquorice treats.
Jaakko is visiting NYC this week, and I've been treated to an impressive ring of ruis rye bread from Nordic Breads NYC. I'm told is better than the kind in Finland. Jaakko also brought a bag of Salmiakki, or should I say Super Salmiakki candies. Salmiakki contains ammonium chloride (salmiac) which gives the already aggressive flavor of black liquorice a salty flavor. The candies are beyond chewy. The texture is more like a hard gummy candy that clings to your teeth and tongue with a vengeance. The flavor is only slightly sweet, nearly savory, liquorice with a bite of table salt taste and an unexpected menthol minty flavor. I'm eating them in small quantities. The flavor lingers on for an hour or more, jammed in my molars.
Reindeer in Lapland.
I haven't traveled abroad in a few years now. Jaakko has made it clear that NYC and America's new foodie tendencies toward organic foods, CSAs and sustainably produced foods would be welcome in Finland. I've been elected to help. I can't make promises but it's a thought to grow on. Finland must be doing okay. Jaakko tells me that you can split a whole or half reindeer meat share.