The harsh climate in Finland has shaped the cuisine of Finland as in former times fresh produce was not available throughout the long winters. Turnips, and later on potatoes became the staple vegetables.Very few herbs were available to spice up dishes as these were only available in summer time. Fish and meat were often preserved by marinating or drying. Most of the traditional dishes are prepared by oven-stewing for a long time,which produces hearty meals. The forests and lakes of Finland have been the major source of Finnish food and has given it it’s distinctive tastes. Today fresh produce is more readily available and there has been an emphasis placed on simple fresh foods in Finnish cuisine. International foods have also made their mark and appear on menus in the restaurants alongside traditional Finnish fare.
Fish plays an important part in Finnish cuisine,as one might guess from a nation dominated by water. Fish such as Salmon, Pike, Perch and Herring, are served fresh, smoked, pickled, dried salted or cold smoked. These fish are often served cold although when freshly cooked are served with boiled potatoes. Crayfish, found in streams and lakes, during late summer are very popular.
Summer and autumn produces tender new potatoes, fresh peas, and numerous varieties of wild mushrooms and picking mushrooms is a popular activity. The mushrooms are used fresh for cooking, in stews and soups or simply as a side dish, but they are also dried or pickled to preserve them through the winter. Meat will include Reindeer, Elk and even Bear meat and Moose. Small game meats such as grouse, duck and hare are also popular. Berries are the main fruits in Finland, as they are found in abundance in the forest. They produce a fabulous assortment such as Blueberries, Cloudberries, Crowberries and the famous Lingonberries, which form the basis for many jams and jellies , which are not just for deserts, but are also served alongside meat dishes.
Breads tend to be dark and quite heavy. Rye Bread being the mainstay of the Finnish diet. Other grains are barley, oats and wheat and these are often mixed.The sweet breads (Pulla) are eaten with coffee or as a desert, the most popular being cinnamon rolls. Breakfast in a Finnish household will be quite a substantial meal, as lunch normally only consists of a sandwich , salad or a bowl of soup, the main meal of the day being in the evening. Bread with cheese or cold cuts of meat, yogurts, cereals, especially porridge, berries or jams, and lashings of coffee. The Finns are the worlds largest consumers of coffee and will have plenty of coffee breaks during the day, often accompanied with a cinnamon bun. The evening meal will consist of meat served with potatoes, rice or pasta.
Water is the most usual accompaniment to a meal but a mix of buttermilk and milk, (piimä, a fermented milk) is also popular. Of course coffee is served everywhere and consumed throughout the day. At Christmas, glögi, a hot mulled wine is very welcome and there are also non-alcoholic versions available. Other drinks include Beer (sahti), Sima a sweet mead, and kilju, a sugar wine traditionally made without flavouring. Liqueurs are flavoured with the many berries available, these are delicious.
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