Fish Stew (Kalamojakka)

The Saturday after Thanksgiving I made a Finnish feast for all of us with a lot of help from my daughter and her boyfriend.   For appetizers we had homemade Finnish cheese (which took us the better part of a day to make), pickled herring, smoked lake trout from the UP of Michigan, pickled beets, Finn Crisp and an awesome smoked white fish pate that my friend made for us.

For dinner we had meatballs (a recipe with ground beef, fresh bead crumbs, heavy cream, allspice, onion and a milk gravy), baked ring bologna (makkara) which is apparently a Finnish staple, potato patties with bacon and onion fried in bacon grease, green beans, sliced tomatoes, limpu bread and Kalamojakka.

For dessert we had rice pudding with blueberry soup and my mummu’s orange cake.  We lost my Dad January 1st of this year.  This dinner was the perfect tribute and he would have enjoyed every bite!

The star of our dinner was the Kalamojakka.  I think it was almost everyone’s favorite thing.  Followed closely by the orange cake which I blogged recently.  We actually made the mojakka the night before and slowly re-heated it for our dinner.  Like most soups, the flavors improved as all of the ingredients came together.  This was one of my Dad’s favorite meals and one I remember my mummu making very often.   My Dad and my grandpa were both avid fishermen so we always had fresh lake fish at our house.  Trout, coho, walleye, perch.  And because nothing ever went to waste, the Kalamojakka was made using all of the fish including the heads.  My grandpa would eat the meat from the cheeks.  It was probably the tastiest bit!

Ingredients:

1 to 1 1/2 pounds of cleaned fish (such as trout, pike or perch)

2 tsp of salt

2 medium onions, chopped

1-2 tsp of fresh dill weed

4 cups of water

4-5 russet potatoes peeled and diced

2 cups whole milk

4 T butter

Trim the tail and fins from the fish and slice into steaks.  Put the fish in a dutch oven and add the salt, one of the diced onions, dillweed and four cups of water.

Bring to the boiling point and simmer (without boiling) until the fish flakes when pierced with a fork but does not fall apart.

Remove the fish to a platter and strain and reserve the stock.  Return the stock to the dutch oven, add the diced potatoes and the other diced onion and cook in the stock until the potatoes are tender.  While the potatoes and onion are cooking and once the fish has cooled enough to handle, remove the skin and bones and set the fish aside.

Once the potatoes are tender add 2 cups of milk and the fish to the potatoes and stock in the dutch oven.  Simmer slowly for about 20 minutes making sure not to boil.  Add the butter and garnish with more fresh dill and salt to taste.

Ladle into bowls and enjoy with some good rye bread.  This would be the perfect time to wear your “Winner, Winner Kalamojakka Dinner shirt!!!

I purchased a loaf of limpu from the Trenary Home Bakery when I was in the UP several weeks ago and saved it for just this occasional.  I even managed to find butter from Finland.

NOTE:  This soup uses no thickening agent like cornstarch or flour so you will find that while the taste resembles chowder it is a lot brothier.   Also, when my mummu and my Dad made it, they would never had added the dill.  In fact, my Dad would have asked me “what is the green stuff in the mojakka?”

You definitely do not have to be Finnish to enjoy this soup.  And, if using the heads while making the broth makes you uncomfortable, by all means toss them.  However, I think the stock is richer when you’ve cooked the fish with the bones and the skin.

Many of the recipes for our Finnish Dinner were adapted from my favorite Finnish Cookbook.

 

Smoked Fish Spread

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For those of you who have visited the Upper Peninsula  of Michigan (the UP) you know that smoked fish is a “thing.”  As soon as you cross the Mackinac Bridge you start to see little shops with signs hocking smoked fish.  Smoked whitefish, Menominee, salmon, and my personal favorite, smoked trout.  You can buy a whole fish or a slab.  It’s great to eat just as is.  Your fingers get a little greasy and they smell a little fishy but we don’t care.    The fish also makes an excellent spread.  Easy to make.  And you won’t smell as fishy!  My Dad used to make us smoked fish from his fresh catches and I will always remember his as being the very best.  My very favorite.  But Dad is nearly 89 and isn’t fishing much anymore.  So when I visit the UP I frequently get fish for our family and for friends from one of the little shops.

Ingredients:

2 cups (approximately) of smoked fish flaked

4 oz cream cheese at room temperature

1/2 cup sour cream

3-4 green onions sliced thin

2 T capers

2 T lime juice

2 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (1 tsp if you want more kick)

Cracked pepper

Salt to taste

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Use a hand mixer and beat the cream cheese and sour cream together until it is smooth.

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Add the capers, lime juice, black and cayenne pepper, and paprika to the cream cheese, sour cream mixture and stir well to combine.

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Slice the green onions and flake the fish.

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Add the fish and onion to the creamed mixture and blend well.

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Taste before you salt.  Some smoked fish is saltier than others.

This spread is excellent on crackers or served with raw vegetable like celery and carrots.  Great with bread and butter pickles.  You’ll also love it served on another UP tradition.  Finn Crisp.  Rye bread is the most traditional bread in Finland and in some areas of Finland it is baked only a few times a year, then dried and enjoyed year round.  It is baked with a hole in the center allowing the loaves to be hung on dowels to dry.  I’m sure that Finn Crisp is modeled  after those loaves.

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Enjoy  the smoked fish spread and enjoy the Finn Crisp if you can find it.

NOTE:  You could add some fresh dill to this recipe or substitute some minced dill pickles for the capers.

 

Smoked Trout Pate on Old Country Trenary Rye

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I just returned from a week in the Upper Peninsula spending time with family and friends. It’s absolutely beautiful but it’s also the land that time and the internets forgot. So no blog posts while I was away.

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One of the highlights of this trip was the annual Outhouse Classic held in the wee town of Trenary. Where they race outhouses built on skis on a rough, snow covered track. The festivities also include beer tents, coolers full of turkey legs for your gnawing pleasure, and, of course, pasties.

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Trenary also has a somewhat famous bakery whose specialties are Trenary Toast (a dry cinnamon sugared sweet bread perfect for dunking or making milk toast) and an old country rye bread that’s very hearty. The bakery also had an outhouse entry.

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On to my pate.

The UP is known for all kinds of freshwater fish from inland lakes as well as the Great Lakes. My dad used to make the best smoked fish I’ve ever eaten. He no longer makes it but it’s available at several small specialty groceries on the sweet side of the Mackinac Bridge. For my return home I bought smoked trout and whitefish, old country rye bread, ternary toast and lots of pasties. For lunch today I decided to make a real simple pate served on the rye.

Ingredients:

8 oz smoked trout, skin and bones removed

4 oz cream cheese

1 tsp prepared horseradish

1 tsp dill

2 T fresh lemon juice

1 T grated onion

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Because I haven’t been home for awhile I had no fresh lemons but I always keep extra lemon juice in mini zip locks in my freezer. Fresh dill would also be preferable but improvise, improvise.

Combine the cream cheese and trout in a food processor. Make sure you’ve gotten all the bones out. Getting a bone in the pate might even be worse than egg shells in your deviled egg.

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Grate the onion and add the onion, dill, horseradish and lemon juice to the fish/cream cheese.

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Pulse until its a nice, creamy consistency. It’s as easy as that!

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I served up our smoked trout pate with rye bread, beets my daughter did in her pressure cooker, and home canned dilly beans.  I added some balsamic reduction to the beets to brighten up their flavor. It would also be good with sliced, hard boiled eggs, tomato slices, green onions, or crisp apple slices.

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Enjoy.

NOTE:  If you’d like to order bread or toast from the Trenary Bakery you can email trenarytoast@tds.net Or call them at 1-800-TOAST-01. That was unsolicited but I do like promoting the UP.

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