Saturday, November 27, 2010

Our Thanksgiving in Finland

This photo shows Brooke's new knife, made here in Finland.

A Finnish woman I met worked in the U.S. last year and experienced her first Thanksgiving. She was glad to try something new but was not in love with either the turkey or the pumpkin pie. A cousin we have here said that when she was an exchange student in the U.S., Thanksgiving just never made much sense to her. Perhaps it's something that makes more sense if you grow up with the tradition. It's one of our favorite holidays, being that we are usually with family or friends, and we love the food.

Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Finland (usually only in the U.S. and Canada, in case you were wondering). So, it was a regular work day for Bryan and a school day for Analeise and Brooke.

While we do want to participate in Finnish culture while we are here, we also want to keep some of our traditions, so I did make a Thanksgiving meal. Our menu was very similar to what we normally have, with just a few changes:
  • Turkey Fillet, rubbed with a whole head of sliced garlic, fresh rosemary, oregano, salt and pepper
  • Mashed Garlic Potatoes seasoned with rosemary and smoked paprika (more info. below)
  • Green Bean Casserole (click here for the recipe)
  • Lingonberry-Cranberry Sauce. Lingonberries grow in Finland and are a cousin to cranberries, which do not grow here. I bought some sweetened, dried cranberries, chopped a handful and added them, with a scant handful of brown sugar, to a pot of lingonberries. That mixture was cooked, covered on medium heat for over an hour. Some orange rind was added at the end, as was the juice of a whole orange.
  • Candied Sweet Potatoes
  • Lovely breads (whole wheat and rye) Bryan bought at a local bakery
  • Salad with Ranch dressing made from a seasoning packet Aunt Kay sent (Thanks, Aunt Kay!)
The apples, mango and cooked sweet potatoes. We are lucky that these baking pans fit right in our sink. They come in handy during food prep.

For Dessert:
  • Apple/Mango pie with whipped cream. It turned out that six large apples didn't seem like quite enough, and I didn't want to go to the store. We had a slightly under-ripe mango, so I made a gamble by peeling and chopping that and adding it to the pie. The pie was otherwise made just like a regular apple pie (cinammon, sugar and dots of butter were put inside a double crust). The mango flavor was subtle but noticeable. Just like with the mashed potatoes, my family wants me to make our apple pies like this from now on.
  • Glögi (or Glögg in Swedish), a non-alcoholic one I bought made with fruit juices instead of wine, and sugar, cinanmon, cardamom, ginger, cloves and served with dried cranberries and tangerine slices in the cups. It is served hot and is worth making if you cannot buy it.

Turkey is not commonly sold in grocery stores in Tampere, except for at Christmas-time. Also, raw, whole birds are not the most common purchase here. At the places I regularly buy groceries, one offers raw whole chickens, but they have already been marinated in a curry sauce, which limits what I can prepare. It was lucky for me that with pre-Christmas (Pieni Joulua, literally meaning "Little Christmas") parties already being thrown around Finland, turkey fillet was available.

Also not commonly available here is pumpkin, either fresh or canned. In four shops, I found one pumpkin, but it was too large for pie and in bad shape, which is why we got lucky and had apple/mango pie.

The potatoes were one other thing I changed this year, and these are our new favorite mashed potatoes. Reading online that you can reduce the amount of fat in mashed potatoes by substituting buttermilk for whole-fat milk or cream and butter, I combined a couple of recipes and did the following, with very yummy results:
  • Chicken broth, a large sprig of fresh rosemary and four peeled garlic cloves were added to the water, while cooking the potatoes.
  • When done, the potatoes were drained completely and then mashed using warmed buttermilk mixed with some additional chicken broth and a small amount of smoked, hot paprika (Pimenton "El Angel" - Aunt Kay buys this Spanish paprika in NYC).
We hope that if you celebrate Thanksgiving, that you enjoyed this year's holiday!

Bonus Photo:

Aunt Kay sent a package of goodies from the U.S., which arrived on Thansksgiving, just in time to be included in our meal. Fun!

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