Little Islands at High Seas

A few weeks ago, right after schools were out my husband went on a trip with six other hunters. The male Common Eider or Haahka in Finnish, were migrating back to the south as the females remain in the north to take care of the young. The males leave as soon as the the ducklings have hatched. The females and their young will migrate at the end of September or in October. The Common Eider is a rather large sea duck that breeds in the Artic or northern temperate regions. So these photos are my husband’s and I suggested that perhaps next year I might come along and be their photographer. The scenery is quite beautiful and untouched. The rock islands with their round forms are shaped by the sea and the Ice Age. They protude out of the Baltic Sea. The men had the most perfect weather. Some years I have heard, it has not been so and the coast guard has been needed to escort on the way back home.

sea marker on the balticOn the island is a tiny white brick cottage and a large sea marker that looks like light house. A little way aways is another small island that has another sea marker. Together, these two markers showed the way in past days for sailors, as on one side of the islands there is a deep passageway and on the other side it is rocky and shallow. white cottage baltic seaThe only problem with me coming along is that the small white cottage was already at full capacity with seven gentlemen. I might have to take a tent with so that we would all fit but I promise to not bother their hunting during the days.

hunting at sea 2On their trip the men made soup using the Common Eider and some wild chives that could be found growing amongst the rocks. What a sturdy plant to survive such harsh conditions. I’m sure it tasted wonderful after being out in the wind and sun for the day.

haahkakeitto ja villi ruohosipuliLast weekend, my husband suggested that he make a stew with the Common Eider. I don’t mind letting others having a turn in the kitchen. Sometimes it is nice to eat a meal made by someone else. Everyone loved it. The children had sleepover guests that day and even they helped themselves to seconds. Children do not feign being impressed. They usually give the straight truth, either in their expressions and sometimes verbally. There is a trick when cooking the Common Eider. It needs to be boiled in a pot a water for fifteen minutes three times, pouring the water out each time and replacing with fresh water. The fat of the bird has an unpleasant flavor. After this has been done the flavor of the meat is wonderful. The recipe below is an traditional recipe used by the people living on the islands and Finnish coastline. Antti did make slight alterations with the herbs and spices he used but otherwise he followed the recipe quite closely. The original recipe in Finnish can be found here.


Common Eider Stew, to be served with boiled potatoes

Two Common Eider breasts
curry, according to taste
NoMU Spanish spice mix (paprika, chili, sugar, black pepper, cumin, oregano, basil, parsley, turmeric, cinnamon, mustard, garlic,cloves)

The original recipe says to boil the meat in water for fifteen minutes two times, pouring out the water after the time is up and replacing with fresh water. The third time the water may remain and the meat is simmered at low heat for three hours. Skim of any foam that forms. After the meat has simmered for three hours and the foam has been removed the meat may be removed from the bones. The broth can be saved for later use. Cut the meat into chunks.
In another sauce pan, brown the meat adding herbs, vegetables and spices. The stew is ready once the vegetables have gently softened, about fifteen minutes. Add cream if desired but do not let it come quite to a boil. Remove from heat and serve with potatoes.
common eider stewNow it is midsummers here in Finland and the other nordic countries. Not only is it a religious holiday to remember John the Baptist but is also a time of spending time with family. I remember one friend telling me of her childhood memories. At midsummer, her and her siblings would row across the lake as the sun was low in the horizon at their cabin. Everything had been cleaned, even the sauna which is traditionally cleaned for midsummers or Juhannus. Small birch trees brought from the forest roots and all are planted in pots and placed on both sides of the doorway. It is also a time of old tales, traditions and a few superstitions. There is an old tale that says if young girls gather seven flowers of different kinds and place them under their pillow they will see in their dreams who their spouse to come is. I suppose it might work with just as much success for boys as well if they care to try.

rock formationsHappy Midsummers!


  1. The stew sounds delicious, a bit labor intensive:) The scenery is beautiful…7 guys and you in a tent? Hmmm Antti takes very nice pictures:) Love…

    1. 😀 LOL No Gramma, the guys slept in the cottage and I would be by my lonesome in the tent…there are two bunk beds and rest slept on the floor. Good thing you could even get the door open! Yes, the stew is a bit labor intensive at first with the water changes but after that it’s not too bad.

  2. The stew looks delicious and what gorgeous photo’s the landscape is just beautiful that first picture almost looks like a painting it’s so perfect. The name common elder is that the breed of duck? I’ve never heard before. Finland looks so beautiful.

    1. I love all of the shapes of the rock formations of the first photo, with the little white cottage tucked in and the large sea marker. The Common Eider (Somateria mollissima) is a breed of a duck. According to Wikipedia it can be found also on the northern coasts of North America. I have never been to these outer islands and would love to go someday. I guess there are plenty of places to travel to that are quite close to home. 🙂

  3. The pictures are lovely. Those hunting trips sounds like a lot of fun, a good way for male bonding. The pictures are glorious, too. 🙂

    1. Thank you Imelda, I’ll pass along the compliments to my husband. It might be that I will not be invited along as it traditionally has been an all-guys trip. 🙂 That’s okay…we’ll just have to make our own trip someday!

  4. What a beautiful place, I’ve never been much of a duck hunter but if that’s where I was going I bet I could manage to convert! Around here, the guys go sit in a swamp! 🙂 I have never heard of the 3 water changes in cooking any bird meat before. But since my duck hunting husband brings home some other (in my opinion) unpleasant tasting ducks, (not many Eider in Wisconsin!), I think there might be some experiments in order this fall!

    1. Yes, good idea! I’ll have to try it out for some of the stronger tasting birds in the fall as well. It might work for the Goldeneye. We’ve had really good success grilling the common mallard for just a few minutes per side so that it is medium on the inside and turns out wonderful. Like a dish straight from a good quality restaurant!

  5. What beautiful little islands. My New Zealand recipe book has similar instructions for cooking muttonbird (shearwater). I have not tried it. Interesting to learn about the connection between midsummer and John the Baptist.

    1. Yes, aren’t they pretty! I suppose the many of the sea birds have the unpleasant flavor due to the fat that they carry. Interesting to learn about your muttonbird.

    1. I love the blue as well and am so happy that they happened to have good weather. We have had many days of cold and gray and now and would be ready for another bout of blue skies! I think ordinary duck would work but it does not need to be cooked and rinsed three separate times.

  6. Wow! This is such an amazing area! I love the photos. It’s like traveling through my screen. I sure would love to rent that little cabin by the sea for a few days. I would write, read, and spend my days taking beautiful shots of this amazing country of yours…

    1. It would definitely be a peaceful retreat if the seas decided to cooperate. I think you would really enjoy the islands off of Turku. The ones in pictures above are even more farther out.

  7. The fun thing when someone visits your site and leaves a comment, is that you become curious to theirs. And my goodness, is this a beautiful blog. This very first post I found myself on, makes me instantly want to look into travel options to that beautiful spot on earth. I will keep up with your blog, and again: thank you for visiting mine!

    1. So true Francine! I discovered your blog when exploring Celia’s collection of In My Kitchen posts. So interesting to read about your travels. Thank you for stopping by and for your lovely comment!

  8. Beautiful scenery, Laila! Thrilled to be back reading/visiting your site and definitely not what I was expecting to find but interesting as always!

    1. I’m sure you would enjoy the stew. The recipe can be definitely used for other water birds as well. Not all birds need the extra rinses with water though 🙂

  9. This is so beautiful. What an interesting recipe and preparation of the common eider. Changing the water three times to cook out the fat, it is amazing that was even figured out! Your posts are always so wonderful.

    1. I was wondering if the changing of the water would work for beaver meat. It too, has a strong distinct flavor that is not always pleasant! Thanks so much for stopping by and for your lovely comment.

  10. Your husband’s photos are wonderful. I enjoyed hearing about the traditions shared at the time of the year, thank you for such and interesting post.

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