tableofcolors

Simple pleasures

Tag: elma

Hilja’s Letter

by tableofcolors

Today Finland turns 99 years old. The sun has been shining bright and it is cold. I can only imagine how cold it was during the Winter War, when Finland defended it’s independence from Russia, as it was an exceptionally cold winter and there certainly was a lack of luxury and comfort. Many foods were rationed and creativity was required to prepare meals. Some time back I received an email from my Grampa Jim. It was the letter addressed to Elma from her cousin Hilja from Finland, or that is how they speak of each other in some other texts. I thought today would be the perfect day to share it, as it gives insight into Finnish society and their ability to find a unity when it was needed most dearly. I find myself returning back to the letter and rereading it over and over again. It is so articulately written and intriguing. And her wise eyes that observed society around her and look directly at you from the photograph.

Hilja

Hilja the author of the letter to Elma (Grampa’s aunt)

History is so interesting, as it is the stories of people all intertangled. I fear that if these stories remain only in our memories, they are easily forgotten. I will tell you a little about Hilja. She was the foster mother of the late Einojuhani Rautavaara, a very well-known Finnish composer. In the letter Einojuhani is referred to Jukka, but Hilja says that they call him Eino now. It would be interesting to know if Hilja and Einojuhani are related. In my archives I have a photoPerhaps someday I will find that little detail. What I do know is that Hilja and Elma were very good friends, and I am amazed with her English. It would be so interesting to learn more about Hilja and her life. She tells a powerful story in her letter below.

Links for previous posts about the Anderson family and Aunt Elma can be found here:In my kitchen in the Bleak of the Midwinter, Elma, Following Elma’s footsteps, Keepsakes in my Kitchen, Easter Mummus, a Bobcat and our very own Wild Thing, Elma’s Travels, Some Mean Coffee, All the King’s Men, and Friendship in My Kitchen.

Elma Anderson and Einojuhani Rautavaara

Elma Anderson and Einojuhani Rautavaara

elma-s-letter

elma-s-letter-2

Hilja tells of President Kallio’s death, in the middle of a procession. It is possible to sense the unity of the people in a war-torn country and how they stood behind their leader who had shown the qualities of a true leader. I feel that sometimes we need to hit a low point in order to see what is important in building a new future for our children.

 You have read in the papers that President Kallio has been ill and he therefore had to retire. Already a new president was elected and everything was ready, and President Kallio was to travel out to the country to rest, when at the station just having bid farewell to his accompanying friends and government officials and representatives of Congress, a moment before stepping into the train, he fell dead in the arms of the Field Marshal Mannerheim who was walking at his side before the ranks of the armies of honor. He died a wonderful death, just at the crowning peak of his life. It is as if the Lord of life and death had willed all this in this remarkable way. Great multitudes of people were escorting him. It was just as though he died into the arms of his people. He was loved and respected, a noble-hearted man, whose heart last winter had to bear so much, and which now stopped beating at the moment when the Fatherland had already received a new leader, a new President.

                                                                                                                                                                       -Hilja

Today in my kitchen we celebrated the Finnish Independence day  with two lighted candles. The children made a traditional toffee fudge quite independently. They have grown so big that they prefer to bake without any help. The question that comes to mind is how to teach our children the value of our society today. The freedoms and priviledges we have. The equality, although never quite perfect as we are a society of humans and humans are not known for perfection, is still at a very advanced level. The privilege of education and personal safety. I am able to let my children freely bike and walk in the neighborhood. I would hope that our children would not take these rights and privileges for granted as many have paid a heavy price.

homemade-fudge

Toffee Fudge, recipe from the Children’s baking book Suomen Lasten Leivontakirja by Ulla Svensk

2 dl/ 1 c heavy whipping cream
2 dl/ 1 c caster sugar
1 dl/ 1/2 c brown sugar
3 tbsp molasses
1 tbsp butter
sprinkle of fleur de sel

Bring the cream, brown sugar, caster sugar and molasses to a boil. Allow the mixture to simmer for about 30-40 minutes, until it has thickened. Test if the mixture is done by dropping a small drop into a bowl of cold water. If it firms up, it is ready.

Add the butter to fudge and mix until incorporated. Pour the fudge into a small pan (15 cm x 15 cm) that is lined with parchment paper. Allow to cool in the refrigerator. Cut into squares and if preferred you may roll the squares into balls.

These make a pretty gift. Wrap the individual pieces of fudge into small pieces of cellophane and tie with string.

In my kitchen I have also been making treats that do not have refined sugar. The following recipe for raw chocolate is delicious. The original recipe I received from my friend Kaisa. As I did not have the recipe on me when out shopping I had to guess when buying ingredients and so my version is a bit different.

organic-raw-chocolate

Raw chocolate with nuts

You will need a set of molds for the chocolate.

2 dl/ 1 c organic cocoa mass
1 dl/ 1/2 dl coconut oil
1 dl/ 1/2 c raw cocoa powder
about 1 tbsp stevia
1 tsp mint or vanilla extract
assortment of nuts

Place the cocoa mass and coconut oil in a large bowl. Fill your sink with hot water and place the bowl in the sink. Melt the coconut oil and cocoa mass by stirring until it is all melted. By melting the cocoa mass in a hot water bath all of the nutrients are kept.

Stir in the cocoa powder, stevia and your choice of mint or vanilla extract. Place a few nuts in each mold if you wish. Spoon the melted chocolate mixture so that nuts are completely covered. Place in the refrigerator and allow to set. If you prefer, you may freeze your chocolate.

As it is Finland’s Independence day today, my kitchen has been filled with Finnish music.

Einjuhani Rautavaara is one of Finland’s contemporary composers. One of his most well known pieces is the Cantus Arcticus Op. 61 in which you may hear the audio landscape of the nordic and the calls of the wild birds.

This post is part of the In My Kitchen series that is currently hosted by the lovely Lizzy at her blog Good Things.

elma-s-letter-2elma-s-letter-2Tallenna

Tallenna

All the King’s Men

by tableofcolors

We told our children that we were planning a little trip while they are on summer vacation. One of them asked immediately, “Are we going abroad?” No, we were not planning to go abroad, but rather somewhere much closer to home and only a couple of hours away. We drove through the beautiful and vast lake country to Savonlinna which is actually situated on an island. The city of Savonlinna was founded in 1475 and along the same time the contruction of Olavinlinna was started.

olavinlinna

June has been really quite rainy, but we were lucky and the past weekend was perfect. I was excited to bring the kids to a medieval castle and see how it would affect their imaginations. We have been borrowing books from the library that tell of life in times past, of knights and castles and of course princesses. We took the tour that brought us through skinny passageways and uneven and steep steps. The castle was originally built to protect Finland which was then under the rule of Sweden from the East. The city of Savonlinna comes to life in the summer as the international Opera Festival is yearly held in the castle in July. Even as we were there, we could sense the buzz. Along the waterfront, there were people dressed in summer dresses and pressed shirts waiting for the evening performances to begin. And inside as I was photographing, delivery boys came in bringing in crates of water bottles and a box of flower bouquets perhaps for the performers.

all the king's men olavinlinna finland

The interesting thing is that Aunt Elma also visited Savonlinna and Olavinlinna as they were building the large stage for the opera festival. The Savonlinna Opera festival was initiated by Aino Ackté, who was an internationally renowned opera star at the turn of the 20th century. When we lived in Helsinki, we lived right by her summer home which I would often run or walk by several times a week.

Elma relates in her texts of her trip in Finland in the 1930s, that she arrived to the island castle of Olavinlinna by boat. Today there is a small bridge that allows for pedestrians to cross. She said that you could hear new times comes with the banging of the hammers as they built a theater to seat a thousand. The opera festival has three different stages. Two are inside the castle and one is outdoors encircled by the walls of the castles creating wonderful acoustics that Aino Ackté originally fell in love with. When we were there, there would have been an opportunity to go on a back stage tour, but as we had our children with, we thought that the day might become too long for them to do both tours, so we opted for just the basic tour of the castle.

opera stage

In the photo above, you can see the tent structure covering the outdoor stage. But Oh, Elma! I had to laugh when I was reading her accounts from her trip. I suppose it was quite exotic in the 1930s for someone to come all the way from America and as I understood she was introduced to the actors and stayed at the same place as well.

Aunt Elma's experiences 1930s

The castle walls with windows made for a picturesque theater and the large trees that surrounded gave it a green ceiling and natural curtain, and the midnight sun would give the light. Aino Actké, the prima donna of Finland, and other famous singers were in the program. Our guide, who was able to speak English showed us the armory, the womens’ room, the chapel and confessional and the dungeon that had contained Olaf for fifteen years (as to which Olaf is in question, I am not certain as St. Olaf after which the castle was named lived around the year 1000 and I was not able to find more detail). In the Savonlinna city they presented a play called Matkan pää or roughly translated The end of the Journey that took place during war time. It was too sad. Although it was late, they had to release the curtains in order to make ‘night’. In the morning as I came down the stairs, I met one of the actors. I was surprised and exclaimed, ‘I thought you died!’ ‘No’ He exclaimed, ‘It was only acting’. He then introduced the other actors to us. The director then explained to the others, when I spoke or acted in an unladylike manner according to Finnish standards, so that they would not get the wrong impression, ‘Look, she is American and so free.’ ‘Our Finnish made them laugh.’ I said that I had worn out a pair heels (heel of the foot) climbing in Olavinlinna. ‘My dear friend, not your heel (as in heel of your foot) but heels (as in shoes).

st olaf's castle finland

After our tour of the castle we walked to the local market square to buy a local delicacy called lörtsyt. Basically it is has a fairly thin yeast-raised crust that has meat inside. The version with the reindeer and blue cheese was the best.

savonlinna market square tori

waterfront savonlinna

From Savonlinna we continued on our way to Liperi which is about a half hour drive from Joensuu in Eastern Finland. We had reserved a room through airbnb that would house our whole family. It was a literally a pleasant surprise as the pictures on the airbnb site did not do justice. It was an old school that had been renovated and currently is a yoga and wellness center called Sun Ahonlaita. They offer among other things art and yoga coarses. As it is midsummer here and Finland is known for the amount of cabins that it has per capita, the permanent residents that live at the yoga center were not there and were perhaps visiting a family cabin. That meant that we had the old school to ourselves. The interior was colorful but peaceful at the same time. Our kids really liked the small sinks on the side of the hallway that were remnants of passed days. They were at the perfect height for them to brush their teeth and wash their hands.

Sun ahonlaita airbnb

Our room had four bunk beds with a total of 8 beds. One for each of us. Perfect! The gym turned yoga studio, living room and kitchen is in use for guests. Of course if others are there you will need to remember to be courteous. Since we didn’t have to share this time we were able to let the children run out their evening energy out in the yoga studio. I wouldn’t mind having one at home either!

yoga studio

yoga studio sun ahonlaita

And in the evening light close to 11 pm after the kids had gone to bed we enjoyed a some vendace baked into a rye crust that we had bought from the market square in Savonlinna. Really a perfect end to a perfect day.

muikku kukko vendence

Other posts about Elma: Elma’s travels, Some Mean Coffee, Easter Mummus a Bobcat and our very own Wild Thing, Following Elma’s footsteps, Keepsakes in my Kitchen, Elma, In My Kitchen in the bleak Mid-winter,

Elma’s travels

by tableofcolors

Last weekend we escaped for 24 hours. I have come to think that they are almost one of the best kinds of retreats. Certainly it does not offer the opportunity to travel somewhere far, but I have realized that often we don’t really explore all of the neat places that are close to home, not to mention that traveling close to home is often quite budget-friendly and usually organizing a babysitter is a fairly easy task. We drove a little over an hour East to Imatra which is almost right at the border between Finland and Russia. It was a place that Elma* had visited during her travels to Finland as well. She had come with great expectations, as there is a the State Hotel in Imatra that has been built in 1903 to represent a jugend-style castle. There had been two previous wooden hotels in the same location looking over the waterfalls and rapids but both had burned. It was a location favored by the Russian aristocracy and it can be called the oldest tourist attraction of Finland as even Russian Empress Catherine the Great visited in 1772. And so Elma had significant expectations. state hotel imatra salonIn her writings she describes the carvings of the animals that she thought were rather funny and the art that could be found in all of the rooms. She felt that she saw more art in one stay than in a normal year unless one visited art galleries. She described that the interior was rather simple with the crowning element in each room being a round green enamel wood-burning fireplace. The simplicity left room for the artwork, which in her opinion were not always of the highest quality, but were an improvement over the “The Lone wolf” print that could be found in nearly every waiting and sitting room in the USA (1930s) at that time.

state hotel imatraRight below the hotel is a small canyon that used to be full of rushing water. Today it is void of water except on certain days when they run water for show. I guess she had heard of it called the Niagara of Finland and wrote that they had heard too much and had imagined it to much wider and larger. But the nature in the area and in all of Finland found a place in her heart. She said that just five minutes outside of Niagara the spell is broken, but in Finland the enchantment continues all around.

imatra“In Imatra, the forest, roads and villages all give of themselves to afford an befitting view. Indeed, when traveling in any direction in Finland the enchantment does not break. In between there is changes (in landscape) but this natural picture has no gaps and it flows like a poem. The plentifulness of wood and the force of the water are ideal for the factory. Practicality and beauty are combined. The company’s railroad goes through picturesque forest and the factory looks like a large vacation home situated right above the river. The workmens’ wives use a shared laundry room, which they are able to use on certain appointed days along with the laundry machines and wringer. And while children play the talkative tongues of the mothers’ make this difficult work day a day of joy.”

saimaa fallsThe Imatra Falls enjoyed their peak in tourism during the late 1800s and early 1900s. St. Petersburg was only about 40 kilometers away and during that time Finland was an autonomous part of Russia meaning that travel across the border was simple and wealthy Russians came to Finland as it was so much closer than central Europe. But as often happens with the advance of technology and industry, a dam was built in 1929 which dried up the falls except for on certain days.

These two links show the Imatra falls in the old days. The one above is a slide show of old postcards that showcase the landscape of the rushing falls. The link below is series of old photos of people posing at the falls. Perhaps this is the scene that met Elma when she arrived in Imatra.

We didn’t stay at the old State Hotel, rather we stayed at the Holiday Club Saimaa which is about 16 kilometers outside of Imatra. The scenery is beautiful there and we enjoyed a walk along the shores of the Saimaa, Finland’s largest lake and Europe’s fourth largest lake.

saimaaJust a few weeks back the landscape was quite brown, but with all of the rain, there are buds and sometimes even small leaves on trees. The green is the fresh spring green, that comes and goes just as quick before the deeper greens of summer. Even the hotel restaurant, Le Biff had light greens on it’s menu as it had a separate asparagus menu which I tried.

asparagus tart starter le biff

Asparagus tart and small salad with pesto dressing

As a suprise, all diners that evening received little cups of fresh asparagus and pea soup before their starter. The flavor was fresh and peppery and so I decided to give it a try at home this week.

asparagus and pea soup

Fresh aspargus and pea soup

600 g/21 oz fresh or frozen peas (I used frozen)
One bunch of asparagus, trimmed and washed
enough water to just cover the vegetables (or half and half water/vegetable stock)
juice of one lemon
handful of parsley, chopped
salt
black pepper

Wash and trim the asparagus. I always use a vegetable peeler and peel the woody parts away on the stalk. Chop into bite size pieces and place into a medium size pot. Add the peas and cover with water. Alternatively you may use half water and half vegetable stock. Place on heat and allow to simmer until the asparagus is tender. Add lemon juice, salt and black pepper and a handful of chopped fresh parsley.

Using an immersion wand, mix until fairly smooth. I left a bit of texture. Serve as a starter or as a lunch with fresh crusty bread and garnish with black pepper.

fresh asparagus and pea soupquality time

*Elma is my Great-great Aunt and a colorful persona who lived in the Finnish quarter of Minneapolis and visited Finland in the 1930s.

Previous posts about Elma: Some Mean Coffee, Easter Mummus, a Bobcat and our very own Wild Thing, Following Elma’s footsteps, Keepsakes in my Kitchen, Elma, In my Kitchen in the Bleak mid-winter, Memories of times passed

historical resource: Historical pages of the city of Imatra

Easter Mummus, a Bobcat and our very own Wild Thing

by tableofcolors

It seems to me that children have always loved dressing up as someone that they are not. I remember as a kid that whenever I dressed up, I was transported in my imagination and play into another time period and another place. Often play was significantly inspired by the books we read and often we would play Little House on the Prairie. This past weekend on Palm Sunday was the day when children all around Finland dress up as little Easter Mummus or bunnies or, like in our case since we didn’t have any bunny costumes, we had one Bobcat and one Wild Thing. Earlier in the week the kids had decorated pussy willows  that they brought to neighbors in exchange for a small chocolate egg or treat. They recite a poem that wishes the people of the house fresh and well wishes for the year to come.

Easter mummusAccording to Wikipedia, the tradition of Virvonta, originated from Orthodox Eastern Finland. The decorated pussy willows would be brought to the church the day before to be blessed and symbolized the palm branches that were used to greet Jesus as he rode the donkey into Jerusalem. The tradition of virvonta has spread across the country and there are slight variations in different areas. In some areas the children are called trolls that drive away bad spirits. Basically they are all dressed the same with rosy cheeks and freckles and colorful mismatched clothes and scarves.

virvonta oksatI was looking through the old photos of Elma and concluded that certainly children liked dressing up back then as well. Elma had, as I have understood, made costumes for the kids. The kids are my Grampa Jim’s siblings, Reino and Margaret. I wonder what they might have played back then. They look a little chilly just as my kids do, as there is snow in the background.

Margaret and Reino in  Finn costumesAlthough Margaret and Reino are now much older, I think they look almost the same. Perhaps it is the eyes or the shape of face, but I think that there is a small child in all of us that never really ages.

Andersons

Andersons having fun. Elma, top row on the left

On her trip to Finland, Elma visited the Eastern part and Viipuri or Vyborg which today is a part of Russia. She said that Finland had a tradition of asking all sorts of questions from the two women travelers when they wold check into a hotel. Sometimes the questionnaires would be two pages long. She reckoned that it was a remnant of border control practices that were used during the war between Finland and Russia. registering in hotels Elmas letters

“Name and address, where are you going and where are you coming from?” “rank?” I said that I do not have a rank (in society) “Well what do you do?” “Oh–what kind of work do I do?” That was easy to answer to. “Age” At first we would diligently write our age, but when we realized that they did not check our answers, we just wrote down an age that we felt like and one that we thought we could get by with. When you have lived for half a century in one place, where everyone knows everything about us, we didn’t want to carry all of our past from home with us and so we became younger and younger as our trip went on.

Perhaps it was the little child in her, that giggled silently, bubbling in her chest trying to make its way out when she had written 27 in the age box, although some telltale signs of gray could be seen. I giggled too, but not silently and when I told my neighbor about it we had a good laugh.

tasting 2It could be entirely possible that she might have tasted these rahkapulla as I believe they have originated from Eastern Finland. Then again maybe not, since they are traditionally made for Easter but some home bakers will make them year round. I think she would have enjoyed them as much as our Isabella did.

Rahkapulla

Make a double batch of pulla dough that can be found in the link here.
Once the pulla dough has proved, lightly flour the counter and pour the dough onto the floured surface. Knead it a bit and divide it into 6 parts. Roll out each of the six parts into thick rods and divide that into 6 parts. Roll the small pieces of dough so that they forms small balls. Place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Allow to rise. Meanwhile make the rahka filling.

500 g/17.5 ounces quark or alternatively a thick Greek or Turkish yoghurt that has been drained could be used
2 eggs
1/2 dl/just under 1/4 c heavy cream
1 dl/ 1/2 c sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
zest of one lemon

Gently whisk the ingredients for the filling until combined.

After the pulla has proved, sprinkle with a little sugar and take a glass or cup and press it into each round pulla to make an indentation. Brush round edges of each pulla with eggwash. It is easier to do this at this stage. Spoon a generous tablespoon and a half into each indentation. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes at 200 C/390 F.

making rahkapullaMay you have a Happy Easter.

cutting easter grass

Following Elma’s footsteps

by tableofcolors

The other week, I had some business in Helsinki and I decided to take a couple hours after my obligations to take a little Elma tour. I know that Elma had visited in the summer and so you will just need to imagine that everything is green and maybe the sun would be out. The day I went, it was wet and there was a wind blowing. But I do think that the excursion was really quite interesting. It became interesting completely by accident, and I will soon tell you why. Elma had mentioned in her writing that she had eaten at the Kappeli Restaurant which is right in the middle of the Esplanade and overlooks the harbor. Across the walkway from the Kappeli is a bandshell and Elma mentions that the people were wandering about in no hurry at all.  “…There were children with their nannies, old grandmas knitting under the shade of the trees, and doves flew around in flocks creating a charming picture of the old world.” The building itself is quite decorative and is known for its glass rooms. I have eaten there a couple of times and have been intrigued with old decor. Fun to think that we have both visited the same spot.

If you are new to the blog, check out the links below for the story on Elma, my great-aunt.

 

kappeli

Elma artikkeli esplanade ja kappeli“We often would eat at the Kappeli, a restaurant made of glass with a small garden on the outside where we could sit for hours and men would lean on their canes. We found the canes quite amusing as they were a symbol of manhood. As soon as a boy has finished the Lyseo or high school, his relatives would gift him a cane. One could see such child-like faces and yet they would carry the canes with grandeur.  One such Finnish athlete said that he was intending to buy a new cane. I told him that in America only the weak that could barely walk would use a cane reluctantly. He wondered, but since he admired America, decided to not buy the new cane.”

lasihuone kappeliAs I was taking pictures of the Kappeli, I could hear squealing and screaming and of course I had to turn and see what was causing the commotion. I had forgotten that it was penkkari or penkinpainajainen day, or the day when the students in the last year of the Finnish high school or lukio are celebrating their last day before they start studying for the matriculation exams later in the spring. Each school has a theme and everyone dresses up accordingly. They all load up on trucks and drive through the city, screaming and throwing out candy much to the joy of my children.

penkkaritcandy and havis amandaElma does not go directly up north and visit the homes and farms of her parents but I decided that I would share that with you now in this post and return to other parts of her trip later, as I feel that the homes and communities that Ida and Isaac left behind forms the beginning of their immigration journey.

Kauvosaari 2In Elma’s papers was a sketch of Kauvosaari which is a part of Ylitornio. Her father Isaac was originally from there. “Kauvosaari is a small island in the middle of a river with a quick current. It is a loved place. The island has a forest, rock fells and glows purple with the atmosphere giving it the color purple. I found the stone foundation of the Kauvosaari house, but it had been brought to the land where it now stood large and vibrant, made with countless logs crossing with each other and painted red. It was still intact, good for still many generations to come. I picked the Lilly of the Valley where my forefathers have perhaps picked before me…”

source: wikipedia

Ylitornio and Raahe cirled in red, source: Wikipedia

It was quite common in those days for immigrants to first go to Norway often stopping for a while in Finnmarken or Tromso before continuing to the United States. Even today, some young people go to Tromso for a season to work in the factories handling fish, and in Finnmarken you can get by quite well with the Finnish language. It appears to be, that according to my Grampa’s cousin Matthew, there is documentation that the Kauvosaari brothers (later Anderson) immigrated through Norway. Perhaps in this documentation there is a year marked stating the time of immigration. I know that many left Finland during and after the years of famine in 1866-1868. It was the last famine of its kind and 8% of the Finnish population died during those years. By looking at the family photographs of Isaac and Ida, I am guessing that Anderson brothers left some years later.

Gramma A. home place @ Raahe

Ida Anderson’s home place in Raahe

Elma also visited shortly in Raahe. Raahe is small city with a harbor located on the Gulf of Bothnia. In Elma’s writings she describes her fourth of July in Finland and the experience of her mother Ida, when she first arrived in New York City.

“Although it was fun, it was the quietest Fourth of July I have ever experienced–my first in a foreign land. My mother’s first Fourth of July in a foreign land was completely different. She was fourteen years old when she arrived as an immigrant into the harbor of New York on July fourth. She thought the country was at war because of the noise and shooting happening from the ships. Her only thought was to get away from it all, and since she did not understand the language of the land she had to trust in only God, that she might survive.Elman artikkeli fourth of july

I wonder, was she alone when she immigrated. And how brave for a fourteen year-old to leave everything that is familiar for a new country and new language. Grampa said that she worked in a hotel in downtown Minneapolis as a cook and that is where Isaac and Ida eventually met. Perhaps in her home in Finland, that is in the picture above, her mother might have a large wooden bowl used for bread baking. Rye bread has been a staple in Finnish diets for years and it is made with a bread root. Some say that the rounded and plump versions were meant for eating right away and the flat shaped breads with hole in the middle, so it could be hung up to dry was for later when fresh bread was not available. Depending where in Finland one lived, bread was not necessarily made every week. If it was made more often, there might be some of the bread starter left on the sides of the bowl to dry for the next baking day and if bread was only made a few times a year a new starter was made some days before.

elma and ida

Elma and Ida

Some time ago I received two different bread starters from opposite sides of the globe. One is from Australia from the lovely Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial and the other I brought back from the US on my last trip last spring from my lovely Dad. Originally I had not thought of giving the starters names, but Celia asked if they could be named and so I posed the question to you last week. I have decided on Elma and Ida, as they are both travelers going long distances. The bread on the left is made with Elma coming from Celia. I have used strong bread flour with it and added some spelt and oat bran to the dough. The loaf on the right is made with Ida, coming from the kitchen I grew up in Golden Valley. Although neither bread is similar to the Finnish rye bread, I have added rye flour to the Ida giving them both a distinct flavour. My children have really fallen in love with the bread and I have been making a few loaves at a time several times a week. This way, I end up not having to do too much work as I have put my KitchenAid to knead the dough. And little by little I have been learning the trick, and the trick is patience and time. When there is no rush, it works every time like a charm. I had asked my Dad for some thoughts on baking bread as he as been doing it for years.

“I have always liked the concept of a sour dough. It is a slow food that
needs a bit of forethought and time. The whole idea is that every house has
its own sour and its own flavor. While it requires a bit of forethought it
is essentially an easy and simple process, but like most easy and simple
processes it has some rather complex biology that has to happen on a regular
basis.

Of course, the best way to start a starter is make friends with someone who
has a starter that has a flavor that you like.

You can of course start a sour yourself but it takes several weeks and
several “generations” to get it to be stable with a flavor that you will
like. I didn’t have a starter about 7 years ago, (maybe this one is about
Aleksi’s age?) but I figured if the Egyptians had figured this out 6
thousand years ago then I probably could too.

bread starters Elma and Ida

The most important ingredient to the process is patience. It is important to
understand that it is a biological process and that if you create the right
kind of environment you will get the right kind of biology. My opinion is
that it is important to keep your sour exposed to the air. You will get some
wild yeast from your environment as well as other organisms that are
specifically in your house and home. It is also important to understand that
you will get some activity but it will probably not be the right strain
right away and that it will take some generations to develop and cultivate a
dominant culture that both has a consistent and stable population as well as
generates a good flavor. Eventually by cultivating this sour in your home
you will get the flavor from your home environment. Every sour eventually
becomes different according to the environment of the home.”

two roots of breadbread risingCelia’s wish was that her bread starter could be passed on other interested bread bakers. And so if there is interest, I will gladly share some of either starter with you. Celia has wonderful step-step tutorials to baking with a sourdough in her blog. Check out the following links:

Bread #101: A basic sourdough tutorial

An over-night sourdough in pictures

If you have extra starter on hand, check out Celia’s link for these wonderful sourdough pancakes. I made them one evening for supper and they were popular with the children.

 

lucky charm bread

What I have been doing is a combination of fresh starter in the fridge according to Celia’s instructions and also allowing a thin layer of dough to dry in the bowl. Once completely dry, I have scraped it off and poured it into a plastic bag and kept in a dry place. I like have the dry starter on hand as a back up just in case someone was to spill my fresh starter. I make sure that the fresh starter is able to get air at all time and I have been using a Tupperware dressing shaker, that is tall and narrow and does not take up too much space. I leave the cap on the cover open for air and it has been working perfectly.  bread in a bag

 

 

Old Market Hall in Helsinki

Old Market Hall in Helsinki

Links to posts on Elma and the Anderson family: Memories of times passed, In my kitchen in the bleak mid-winterElma, Thing One and Thing Two, Keepsakes in My Kitchen,

Keepsakes in my Kitchen

by tableofcolors

In my kitchen this month I have more keepsakes. All sorts of treasures from old letters, Karelian pies that my children love, to two bread starters coming from opposite sides of the globe. The first starter is from my Dad and I brought it over when I last visited the States. The other starter I received from Celia’s kitchen in Australia. My children made it to the mailbox before me and thinking that the envelope was a belated Christmas card, they had managed to tear it open. It came with a lovely letter and simple instructions, and the request to give the bread root a name preferrably something that refers back to the original which is named Priscilla. Thank you so much for the mail Celia! So now I have two starters on the counter bubbling away. Would you have a suggestion what I should name these twin starters?

celia's breadroot

A little while ago I received a scanned article from my Grampa written by Elma (my great-great-aunt) in my inbox. The article tells of her story of when she came to visit Finland in 1930s. I have understood that one reason why she came to Finland was due to a broken romance. I have read it through a few times and have found myself smiling and even laughing outloud on a few occasions. The article has nineteen pages and so I will share some of the anecdotes over the course of a few posts. Back then, travel was not as common as today and so this was her first trip to Finland along with her first impressions. As she describes the places she visits I can almost imagine it since I have visited many of the same places as well. The cobble-stones that she mentions in the excerpt below are most likely the same ones still in place today. I could not even imagine walking over them in heels! Perhaps we have walked the same path along the Esplanade. She toured Finland for ten weeks and in those ten weeks she wore out two pairs of shoes out of the five that she had taken with and the only ones that really were durable were the ones patched up with Finnish leather. Elman artikkeli 2As they approached the Helsinki harbour, she tells of the emotion that many of the passengers experienced. It was emotion that she did not quite understand at the time, but as time and her trip went on, she started to feel the patriotism of her Mother’s and Father’s homeland. Later on she states that Helsinki kind of grows on you with its white cathedral in the background and the islands and land that just seem to appear out of the sea.

December 12, 2007 One relieved graduate with her Master's degree under her arm

Helsinki Cathedral: December 12, 2007 One relieved graduate with her Master’s degree under her arm

Upon arriving in Helsinki, it was not until the next day that they would actually step on land as they used small boats to bring the passengers from the ship. And a ship with passengers with 800 travelers would take some time indeed to unload. I suppose traveling in that time was something that was done with leisure. Not because they chose to, but because that was the only way to do it, as it was not possible to quick hop on a plane and visit Paris for an afternoon coffee as one of my friends once did. She had spent thirteen days on the ship and it had started to feel a bit like home. After making it on land she had been so hungry that she had headed to the first restaurant. I wonder if she ate at the indoor old market hall that is a red brick building that had been built in 1889. The old market hall building is the one with many people standing in front of it, perhaps holding an outdoor market as well.

Old market hall built in 1889 and the cityscape of Helsinki. http://vanhakauppahalli.fi/history/

Old market hall built in 1889 and the cityscape of Helsinki, year unknown. photo credit: http://vanhakauppahalli.fi/history/

“This restaurant was one where the women that worked in the outdoor market ate. They were dressed in blue dresses and wore white scarves on their heads and a small purse attached to a strap hung off their shoulder. I thought all women dressed in the same way, but I was told otherwise. I asked for a sandwich, and they asked what kind, ham? I choose the ham, and it was the best bread with ham I had ever tasted–not a sandwich as we know it, but a piece of bread with butter and slice of ham. Then I ordered a little bit of everything and drank an entire pot of coffee. It all tasted so good that I ate so much, I could barely walk after that.”

Elman artikkeli 4 saimaa

After Helsinki, Elma and Lyydi, a friend and travel companion headed to Eastern Finland and into Karelia that after the Winter and Continuation War belonged to Russia. She describes Saimaa which is located in Eastern Finland and is Finland’s largest waterway and expands over 4,400 square kilometers (2,734 miles) in the excerpt above.

“No one can explain the beauty of the Saimaa. With thousands of islands, it makes it seems as if it actually is thousands of lakes connected together. The sky above is the Finnish flag, blue and white, bluer and whiter than anywhere else in the world. The lake is at times a clearer blue and sometimes silver, but always crystal clear. The reflection of the islands in this perfect mirror and are green, blue and purple depending on the distance.”

Saimaa, September 2014

Saimaa, September 2014

Elma 5

Elma, date unknown

 

 

She does not mention if she ate the famous Karjalanpiirakka or Karelian pies. They are like little handpies that have a crust made of rye flour and filled with rice porridge. While they sell them here in all of the shops and bakeries, I believe that handmade and homemade ones are the best. But I would like to think that most likely she tasted them at some point. She does mention in her writing that often when visiting and eating, she would have to dine by herself as this was the custom of showing respect to the guest. She often would request to dine with the others, but they did not take note and just thought she was being humble and polite, trying to rather unsuccessfully refuse the honor of being the guest.

making karjalanpiirakkaThe karjalanpiirakka has very simple and inexpensive ingredients but it is fairly labor intensive. Often when we have made them for bake sales, we have a large group of people. One person has come earlier to cook the rice porridge as it is best to luke warm or cool for easier spreading. The rest of the crew shows up later to make the crust, which is actually quite simple and quick. Then an assembley line is set up. One will cut dough into portions that will then be divided into small disks to be rolled out by a group one. Group two will take the rolled out disks and fill the crusts with rice porride and crimp the sides. The third group will take care of the baking. The oven should be as hot as it goes as these traditionally have been baked in the wood burning stone oven that can be still found in most homes in Finland still today.

riisipuuro rice porridge

a wedding gift of ours: a double boiler pot intended just for porridge

Karjalanpiirakka, recipe from Hyvää Ruokahalua edited by Anna-Maija Tanttu
Rice filling

2 dl/just under 1 c water
2.5 dl/generous 1 c pearl rice
1 l/generous 2 pints of milk
2 tsp salt

Place the rice and water into a double boiler and allow to cook until the rice has absorbed most of the water. Add the milk and allow to simmer until thickened, or about 30 to 35 minutes. Mix in the salt and allow to cool.

Crust

2 dl/ just under 1 c cold water
1 tl salt
4 dl/1.7 c rye flour
2 dl/just under 1 c flour
1 tbsp butter or oil

Prepare the crust by mixing the salt and water together. Next mix in the flour. My tip is to not add in all of the flour at once, otherwise it will become too crumbly as mine did. Add in 2/3 of the flour and knead, adding the remaining flour as needed. Finally add in the oil or butter and knead until it becomes a smooth dough.

carelian pie dough collageDivide the dough and roll into thick rods that can be then divided into small disks to be rolled out. Roll out the little disks into oval shapes on a counter sprinkled with rye flour.

rolling out karjalanpiirakkaIf you need to take a break, make sure to cover the dough with cling film. Before filling the crust with the porridge, make sure to brush off the excess rye flour. Fill each rolled out disk with rice porridge leaving about 1.5 cm/generous 1/2 inch unfilled from the edge. Using both hands, crimp both side simultaneously going from one end to the other making an oval with rather sharp tips. I baked mine at 250 C/480 F for about ten minutes. Traditionally the karjalanpiirakka is dipped in a bath of hot milk and a knob of melted butter after baking. This is to soften the crust. I prefer the crispy rye crust and so I skip this stage, and I know that many others do as well. So it really is a matter of taste.

baked karjalanpiirakkaServe the karjalanpiirakka with egg butter. Hard boil 4-5 eggs for about 5-6 minutes depending on what you prefer. I prefer that the yolks are not soft but have a definite deep yellow color to them and are soft in texture. Allow to cool in a cold water bath for just a bit. Cut 100-150 g/3.5-5 ounces of butter into large cubes and place into a medium size bowl. Remove the shells from the eggs and using an egg slicer, slice the eggs twice making for small cubes. Using a fork, mix in with the butter. Add a sprinkle of salt to taste if needed.

two roots of bread

On my counter is a pair of bread starters bubbling away. Next week I will share some fresh sourdough bread and more of Elma’s trip as she visits Kauvosaari and Raahe the birth places of her parents Isak and Ida Anderson who immigrated from Finland to the United States via Norway in the late 1800s.

This post is a part of Celia’s In my Kitchen series that she hosts every month. In the sidebar of her blog is list of blogs from around the world, featuring what might be in their kitchen that particular month. This month she is featuring Kim, a fellow blogger who lost her home in fire. There is a link in her blog to a fundraiser to help her put a new stove in her kitchen and rebuild their lives.

note: At the end of Elma’s article it says that it is written originally in English by: Miss Elma Anderson of Minneapolis, Minnesota

Translate into Finnish by: Miss Lillian Kovala of Ashland, Wisconsin

and revised later by Laura (Mrs. Matt) Myllys of Minneapolis, Minnesota

The language is most likely quite old as it has come over with the previous generation of immigrants on the boats. Often in the new country, with a new language at its side the old language does not evolve in the same manner as in the home country, keeping many attributes of the past alive.

 

Elma

by tableofcolors

In my last post I started telling the story of the Anderson family. Writing it all down is proving to be an interesting challenge in a pleasant way. First off, everyone has a unique life full of twists and turns, anecdotes and little moments that live on in the memories of family members. But the question is where to start, what to tell and in what order. I have decided that similarly in the way that memories resurface often not following a chronological order, nor will these stories always follow the calendar. I feel extremely lucky that there are so many good quality photographs that have survived. And this is just from one side of the family. I know my Gramma Darlene has photographs and stories from her side of the family as well. Whenever I visit, I walk past the wall of frowning ancestors, as she calls them.

Anderson family about 1900

Anderson family, about 1900

But back to the Anderson family. Their oldest daugher was Elma. As I have understood Elma had a large personality and a big heart and loved children. She never married and perhaps back in her time she might have been called a spinster but today I am sure she would have called herself single. She worked as a stenographer or someone who typed letters and did translation work for the Finnish community. She lived above the store on 238 Humboldt and across the street was the church. I think that the church is beautiful in a very timeless manner. And I keep stopping at the photo as I go through them.

church on humboldtElma seemed to comfortable with who she was. She was not overly concerned with what others thought and I am imagining her to be a free spirit. She was an artist, a poet, told stories to children and listened to their stories in earnest. Although her mother was really quite short, Elma could not be called small. She had generous hips and was on the larger side and was quite athletic, walking, skating and swimming. She smoked in a time when women often did not smoke and I imagine that her office in downtown Minneapolis was filled with the clackety-clack of a typewriter and perhaps sometimes a cloud of smoke since she lived in a time when there were no designated smoking areas. The papers that she would run down to the post office probably had a signature scent that clung to them, that would then arrive in the recepient’s mailbox along with the papers. Really it was not that long ago that not every house had a typewriter or even a camera and now even our grade school kids might have smart phones that have cameras. So much has changed in one hundred years and yet the nature of people stays the same. My perception of the era of Elma, is that it was more proper and society perhaps had, maybe not more rules but different rules that had to be followed. When my Grampa told me that she would walk down to Cedar lake in her swim suit and bath robe I can only imagine that she was breaking some of those unwritten rules. Some would good-naturedly chuckle and smile. She was Elma after all. While I do not want to make implications on anyone, my Isabella keeps coming to mind. I have had people tell me that she is a free spirit with a mission. And she likes to pose just like Elma. But she is only three going on four and so I will let her grow into her own person and decide for herself who she will become.

Elma portraitElma 2

Elma 4

Grampa told me that she had great culinary skills and once when he was a kid their family visited her home. She made them a meal and promised all of the children that the first one to finish their plate would get a prize. Well, Grampa won! And it was a handkerchief that was white with a blue border and white stars. I can just imagine how proud he was with his light blue eyes sparkling, and he claims that he is still good at cleaning his plate. I don’t doubt that statement as they always seems to have delicious food.

Jim Wuollet

Jim Wuollet

I think Elma might have liked these gingerbread muffins. I know that it is past Christmas but I do think the flavors are fulfilling and perfect for any day in the winter.

gingerbread muffins

Gingerbread muffins

0.8 dl/ 1/3 c brown sugar
1 dl/ 1/2 c molasses
0.8 dl/ 1/3 c milk
1 dl/ 1/2 c oil
1 egg
1.8 dl/ 3/4 c apple sauce
just under 6 dl/ 2 and 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2-1 tsp cinnamon (according to taste)
dash cloves
1 tsp salt
100 g /3.5 oz marscapone cheese

A ball of gingerbread about the size of your fist

Frosting

1.5 dl/generous 1/2 c heavy whipping cream
1 dl/ 1/2 c thick Greek or Turkish yoghurt
1/2 dl/ 1/4 c powdered sugar
gingerbread muffins unbaked

Mix all of the dry ingredients in a bowl with a spoon. In another bowl, lightly whisk all of the wet ingredients and egg together. Make a well in the bowl with dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Do not over mix. Spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray and divide the batter amongst the 12 muffin tins. Using two spoons make a small well in each muffin and drop in a generous teaspoon of marscapone cheese. Roll out the gingerbread dough and make small cookies. Place one cookie on each dollop of marscapone cheese. Bake at 200 C/390 F for about 15-20 minutes or until a test skewer comes out clean.

Allow to completely cool. For the frosting whip the cream and then fold in the yoghurt and finally the powdered sugar to taste. It should not be too sweet and you should be able to taste the slight sourness of the yoghurt. Spoon a generous spoonful of frosting on each muffin and serve with coffee or tea.

gingerbread muffins 2

 

In age order: Elma, Emil, Ann, Wally, twins: Jean and Julie, and the baby Esther --1903

In age order: Elma, Emil, Ann, Wally, twins: Jean and Julie, and the baby Esther –1903