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Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Traditional Finnish Christmas menu, starting off with Rice Porridge and Fruit Soup

We had a very peaceful Christmas Eve, but I am a little behind in my blog posts!  My goal this Christmas was to make all of the traditional Finnish Christmas foods at some time in the celebration.  There were too many to make all at once.  I found a great traditional menu in Finnish here.  This is a Finnish home economics website, and the purpose of the menu was to provide completely homemade recipes to keep expenses down, which is perfect for me because I don't have access to pre-made Finnish foods.  It even included a printable shopping list!

Our menu for Christmas Eve and Christmas day included:

Rice Porridge (or Pudding)--Riisipuuro
Fruit soup--hedelmäkeitto

Beet salad with sour cream dressing--Rosolli
Pickled Herring
Cold Smoked Salmon
Boiled Potatoes
Christmas Rolls

Ham with Prune gravy--Kinkku + luumukastike
Rutabaga casserole--Lanttulaatikko
Carrot casserole -- Porkkanalaatikko
Potato casserole -- Imelletty perunalaatikko

Strawberry Fluff--Mansikkahyytelö
Christmas prune tarts--Joulutortut


So we started out Christmas Eve celebration with rice pudding and fruit soup.  The kids love this, their favorite part is trying to find the almond hidden in the rice.  Whoever finds it gets good luck.  The youngest found it this year, as usual!  

The fruit soup may be more traditionally made with just raisins, but my family likes mixed fruit better, the mixed fruit came later to Finland.  I used a bag of mixed dried fruit (containing pears, apricots, apples and plums) and added some extra raisins to it.  The dried fruit soaked for several hours covered in water before cooking.  I like to use some apple juice in place of some of the water just to sweeten it.

To make the rice porridge, I used sushi rice, don't use the regular rice that they sell in the U.S., it lacks the talc needed to thicken the pudding.  Pearl rice from the Mexican food section would also work.

First, I put 2 1/2 cups of rice in a pan and briefly washed it.  Then I added 2 cups of water and boiled it for 5 minutes.  Watch it carefully while boiling, this isn't much water, and it is really easy to burn it, like I did the first time!  At this point, add 7 1/2 cups of whole milk, and cook for 45 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly.  This dish takes a lot of patience!  It is very easy to let the milk caramelize in the bottom of the pan.

While standing and stirring and stirring and stirring...I started cooking the fruit soup.  After it boiled about half an hour, I mixed a couple tablespoons of potato starch (you could use corn starch) with a half-cup of water and stirred this in to thicken the soup.  This is how it looked:

At the end of the cooking time for the rice porridge, I added a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of ground cardamom, and a couple of Tablespoons of sugar.  The cardamom and sugar are my own additions, not traditional, but it really makes the porridge delicious.  Next, I added one almond, and it was ready.  The two younger kids like to eat their fruit soup separately and put cinnamon sugar on their porridge, just like their Famo and Faffa (Grandma and Grandpa in Swedish) serve it, the rest of us enjoy the fruit soup on top of the porridge.  Growing up, my husband's family ate rice porridge every Saturday evening, but we save it for a special Christmas treat.

We also enjoyed cold smoked salmon and pickled herring with crackers, it was a delicious start to the Christmas festivities!

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