I have already described eating Karjalanpiirakka, but today I got to see them prepared and learned a little more about their history. The Carelians are a group of Finns who live in eastern Finland, along the Russian border. After WWII – big surprise – their traditional territory was split and part is now in Russia. (Veera’s stepmother Eija’s grandparents originally lived in what is now in Russia but relocated further west.) Karjalanpiirakka literally means Carelian Pies. Today the filling is rice, but historically it was barley. Eija learned to make them from a paternal aunt, but her earliest memories are of her grandmother who every week cooked up a weekly supply. Eija now likes to make them for special occasions.
First the sea salt was ground using a mortar. (Click on the photo above for a step-by-step photo essay from Salt grinding to breakfast!)
Then the filling was made of rice, milk, salt and water – it is cooked, until it is about the consistency of rice pudding.
The crust is made of salt, rye flour and water, kneaded until well mixed. Half of it was rolled into a ‘log’ about 3/4 ” x 7 inches. A very even log. This was cut in half, and the half was cut again into 4 or 5 pieces. Each was rolled into a small ball, flattened, and on a well floured board rolled out into a thin circle using a type of rolling pin that comes to a point at each end and fatter in the middle looking like two round 3-d triangles joined together.
A little plop of filling goes in the center of the crust. The edges are carefully folded up over the edge of the filling and pinched into little indentions using finger tips. The uncooked slipper is slipped onto the cookie sheet, then on to the next one.
It was quite late when we were doing this, talking together about Finland since 1917, how technology has changed in our lifetimes, Finnish food. It is a labor intensive process, and through probably mostly done alone, must be more fun when done in a small group of friends or family. Eija commented that it was a bit odd to be doing it at 10:00 at night, talking about history. Because of the stories she told I think she strongly feels the presence of her long dead grandmother when she is making them, so perhaps it was Erkki, Sebastian, Veera, Aija, me and her grandmother crowded around the table while she and Veera rolled and shaped the slippers.
Once the sheet was full, it was popped into the oven and baked.
When removed each slipper is dipped into a pan of hot water and melted butter, put on a plate which was put on the table and covered with a white cloth.
I think it is possible that they are often served with milk, as Eija asked if I wanted a glass.
Then we ate the hot Karjalanpiirakka!
Here is Veera’s translation of Eija’s recipe:
Preheat oven to 525F degrees. (275 celsius)
2 dl (6.763 fl Oz) of cold water
2 tea spoons of salt
5 ½ dl (2.325 cups) of rye flour
5dl (16,91 :D fl oz) of water
3dl (10, 58 oz) of rice (porridge rice)
1l (2,113 pints) of milk
1 ½ teaspoons of salt
Filling: Mix the rice in boiling water until water has absorbed, (around 7 -10 minutes).
Add milk and let the porridge simmer for around 30 minutes stirring every now and then. Season the porridge with salt.
Mix the ingredients of the crust by hand. Form a long bar of the dough and divide it into 25 pieces and roll them into little balls.
Flatten the balls by hand and roll the flat pieces of dough with a rolling pin to thin flat crusts using flour to prevent them from sticking to the table. (crusts are suppose to be around and littele smaller than a cd) Fill the crusts with porridge leaving plenty of room on two sides (but not top and bottom) to turn two sides of the crusts on top and pinch the crust with fingertips in the filling first from the center to top and then from center to bottom. Cook the piirakkas in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
Dip the baked piirakkas in hot milk or water with melted butter mixed in.
Collect them in a container and cover with cloth and let them soften for a little while. Serve the piirakkas with warm eggbutter. (Hard boiled eggs crushed and mixed with butter)