As I’ve mentioned before, salmiakki is the Finnish word for salty black licorice. Generally salmiakki is in candy form, but you can find it in other things too, like this vanilla ice cream cone swirled through with dark gray salmiakki ribbons and topped with crunchy licoricey sprinkles. As it turns out, salmiakki and vanilla (white chocolate as well) make an excellent combination—the sweetness balances the harshness, and the gentle creaminess is complimented by the salt. Very nice. I actually bought another non-candy product in Finland that utilized the flavor of salmiakki—Salmiakki-Chili flavored Dominos, which are the European answer to Oreos—but I forgot to take a picture of them. D’oh. Just imagine black cookies (darker than Oreos) sandwiching a dark gray cream filling. Stormy and dramatic, and surprisingly good. My Estonian colleagues liked them, and most Estonians don’t love salmiakki.
One morning J’s mother put these darling breakfast boards out for us (I have no idea whether “breakfast board” is the actual name for these, but that’s what I would call this). Aren’t they adorable? And so Nordic, with the light wood and the yummy Karjalanpiirakka gracing the ceramic plate and the perfect ergonomically-designed mug? I guess the indentation in front is meant to be an egg cup, but J’m mother put one of her tiny homegrown strawberries in it. SO cute. (Unfortunately her strawberries didn’t do too well this year because the bees kept eating them :-().
Terva. I’m not really sure I can count this as a food. It’s tar– you can read about how it’s made here. In Finland it’s used to flavor drinks and candies and is also used in saunas. When Finland joined the European Union, the EU wanted to outlaw the usage of tar. Isn’t that hilarious? The Finns and other Nordic people have been making and using this stuff for centuries, and the European Union wants to tell them it’s bad? Ha. Needless to say, terva is still legal today. I did taste a bit of it “straight”– essentially I just touched that drop of extremely viscous tar to my tongue, and the flavor of extremely bitter wood smoke exploded in my mouth. Very powerful stuff. I love the smokey smell, though.
We got in some berry-picking this year as well! The first time we went out we got mostly raspberries and some lingonberries and blueberries, which J’s mother made into jams for us. The next time we focused on blueberries, since it seemed to be a good year for them– they were everywhere, and big ones too! We ended up with 4 plastic containers full, which we froze, then wrapped in an insulated bag and stuck into my luggage for the flight home. They actually made it back to Tallinn in good shape (as in, still frozen)! And now I have Finnish blueberries to last me through the winter. Love it.
And lest you think all I did in Finland was eat J’s parents’ food, here are some pictures of what we did to earn our meals.
I learned how to split wood! I was so excited. I didn’t think I’d be strong enough but J’s dad had a brand-new, super-sharp and lightweight ax, and J was a good teacher. You can see the concentration on my face, as well as the wood splitting between your very eyes.
There was also some of this. J has laughed at me many times in the past because the only lawnmower I’d ever used was the kind that propels itself forward. Lazy American :-D. But I proved that I can handle an old-school machine just as well.
And that, I believe, concludes my recap of this trip to Finland. But we’ll be there again at Christmastime, when I’ll surely discover more new foods and traditions.