View Full Version : Karjalan Paisti (Karelian Stew)

Gunnar Damström
10-04-11, 02:57
This is a very traditional Finnish dish. The name would indicate its origin from the Province of Karelia; however our forefathers all over treated themselves to this delicacy during the fall slaughter time. In our day and age we are privileged to have access to the raw materials throughout the year. There are thousands of variations to this recipe- this is my favorite.

To serve four you need:

2/3 Lbs (300 g) of chuck roast beef
½ Lb (200 g) lamb loin
2/3 Lbs (300 g) pork shoulder or neck (kassler)
4 sections of marrow bone, about 1” each
8 small yellow or boiling onions
4 small carrots (alternative: small parsnips)
4 small yellow potatoes, skin on
8 all-spice pepper corns
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp coarse salt
2 Tbsp butter

Cut the beef and lamb in four equal size cutlets. Cut the pork into four equal size cubes. Place in a jar and sprinkle over the coarse salt. Let stand covered at room temperature for one hour. Peal the carrots and onions (parsnips if you use them).

Place the marrow bone sections in a large pot, so that the marrow cone faces upward. Carefully wife off any excess salt from the meat. Melt the butter in a heavy cast iron frying pan over a medium-high heat. When the butter starts fuming, brown the meat a few chunks at a time. Place in the pot. Add the bay leaf, all-spice, onion, carrots and 4 Tbsp water. Cook at 215 oF (100 oC) for at least 6 hours. Boil the potatoes until soft. Drain and add to the pot one hour before serving.

To serve, place one of each component on preheated dishes, pour on some broth and sprinkle on some chopped parsley. Surprise-surprise: the stew looked kind of dry when last you saw it, did it not? Where did all that gorgeous broth come from?

June Pelo
10-04-11, 04:33

I know you're a master chef -and you're tempting us with all these recipes. I have eaten this one and it is good, especially with parsnips which are sweeter than carrots.

10-04-11, 22:47
Thank you for your recipe contributions, Gunnar. I'm going to try making Karjalan Paisti. Do you have any sources that tell about what our early Finnish ancestors ate, through out the seasons of the year? I expect that things that could be stored, such as root vegetables, and dried mushrooms, and various dried meats and fish made up most of their diet from before the times that traders introduced them to exotic spices and other durable food stuffs from far away; such as all-spice, bay leaves,... and coffee!
Sometimes, foods that the body hasn't had enough time to adapt to, can cause problems. For instance, wheat is a relatively recent addition to the diet of hunter/gatherers. Modern species of wheat (GMO?) can contain higher levels of gluten than Old World species.

Gunnar Damström
11-04-11, 01:24
I don't have any sources, but I could try to give an idea. We need to look at different periods. Since prehistoric times livestock was kept (pigs, horses, cows, sheep). Due to difficulties keeping fresh meat, slaughter was limited to late fall (pig at Christmas time). Game meat was important (hare, moose (elk), lynx, grouse, etc.) Seal meat was very important during the winter. Grain has been cultivated since prehistoric times (barley, rye). Catholic monks introduced the herb gardens in the 1200's. Thyme, marjoram, parsley, dill, chevril, sage. Pepper and laurel leaves probably did not appear in the chefs arsenal before the mid 1700's. In the mid 1700's the fares were already very elaborate (I have copy of Kajsa Wargs Kokbok, 1759 edition). Rutabaga and turnip were important staples at least since the 1200's (kept in earth cellars for frechness). They provided the vitamine C. Potatoe was introduced in the later part of the 1700's. Salt was a precious commodity in the olden days. When salt became more available, my guess: late 1600's, salted meat and fish became important. Sun dried cod halves must have been introduced in Finland at the end of the medieval time. Lutfisk was probably a much more common fare than nowadays. So, in conclusion, remove the potatoe, all-spice and bay leaf and salt and you probably have a Karelian Stew model 1200. Add the salt and you got a 1600 vintage. Add the potatoe, all-spice and pepper and you got the 1750 verision, which is pretty much what we have today.

11-04-11, 17:42
Thank you for your insights, Gunnar. So then, meals were pretty much the same; morning, noon, and night; assuming there was enough food for all three?

"Seal meat was very important during the winter." My grandfather sailed on the sealing and fishing boat named Gjøa; which later Roald Amundsen bought to make his trip through the Northwest Passage. Something I recall my dad saying must have been what he heard from his father... 'at times, the only vegetable to eat was sea weed, 'harvested' from the stomach of the seals they caught.'
Uff Da!
Suppose better that, than nothing.

June Pelo
11-04-11, 17:55

I noticed you mentioned all-spice; and that brings to mind that my father always added it when he made stew. You didn't mention bloodbread, which my father said they ate on the farm when he was growing up in the early 1900s in Nedervetil. As a child I can remember my father getting a bucket of fresh blood from the butcher and he added flour and salt and baked it in loaves. It looked like chocolate cake and didn't taste like blood - in fact, it had no taste. It was our Saturday evening meal - he broke it into pieces, added diced salt pork, potatoes and milk or water to it - the way his family cooked it in Finland. And our relatives there still eat it - they said they can buy the dried bread in the market. While my father was still living, they sent the bread to him. There was no problem getting it through Customs, but I don't think it would be that easy today. I can't spell the Swedish name he used for it...

Gunnar Damström
11-04-11, 18:44
Come to think of it- I possess quite a number of sources that could be used to compile a picture of what our forefathers were treated to for dinner. Most I inherited from my parents. Among them are some real treasures, such as Kajsa Warg: Hjelpreda i Hushållningen för Unga Fruntimber, second edition, Lor.Ludv. Grefing Printshop, 1759 (Advice in maintaining household for young females). I will contemplate preparing an article on the subject for the SFHS Quarterly. Again, fresh meat from livestock was a rear fare on our forefathers dinnertable. Keeping livestock was problematic due to the need to harvest and store fodder for the winter. You kept what you needed to produce wool, daiyproducts, leather and such. You slaughtered in the late fall to minimize need for winter fodder and winter cold provided a refrigerator that helped keep the meat. Smoking was very common. In my Helsingfors childhood home blood pancakes was a common fare, and we children cherished it. You heaped on Lingonberry preserve. You will still find redy made blood pancakes in some grocery stores. Bloodbread (svartbröd) is another delicacy still availble in the fall.
Gjöa was built by famed Norvegian boatconstructor Colin Archer in the latter part of the 19th century. One of his boats, Pitkäpaasi was purhcased by the Imperial Pilot Administation about 1905 to serve as a pilot sloop (don't quote me on the year). Currently it serves, restored as a live museum, available for rent (crewed) by the National Marine Museum in Helsingfors.

June Pelo
11-04-11, 19:12

You mentioned Kajsa Warg - do you know when she was born? Warg is my mother's family name from Karleby and I have a number of Kajsa Warg names in the 1700s. My father's family butchered in the fall, and I think they salted the meat and kept it in a barrel in the winter. His grandfather made boots of the hides. Dad said that peddlars with their wagons came around periodically, selling cone-shaped sugar, coffee, fabrics, and odds and ends. Svartbröd isn't the name Dad used for bloodbread - it started as kam.... I can say it but can't spell it. And I heard about the lingonberries and cloudberries they picked. My relatives served cloudberry shortcake when I was there - and also served it over ice cream.

Gunnar Damström
11-04-11, 20:04
Wikipedia; född 23 mars 1703 i Örebro, död 5 februari 1769 i Stockholm.

Gunnar Damström
11-04-11, 20:38

Might you dad have called it paltbröd?


11-04-11, 20:43
...Svartbröd isn't the name Dad used for bloodbread - it started as kam.... I can say it but can't spell it. ...
Svartbröd is something I relate to Åland – an interesting type of bread, quite complex process to make. Good and rich in taste - with a little thicker than usual layer of butter on top...

The bloodbread was used as an ingredient in what we called "steik" in my childhood - a kind of bread stew. Quite good memories btw. Could this be the dish June remembers?

(see also the old thead (http://finlander.genealogia.fi/showthread.php?1914))