FISH AND HERRING
At Finnish Christmas dinner, fish may be served as a part of cold seafood assortment or cold cuts for hors d'uvre, or as a course of its own, like lutefisk with its trimmings.
In picture on right: fish platter salmon roe & smetana canapés and gravlax with mesclun salad, mustard dressing, dill, olive and lemon.
Christmas fish and seafood dishes may be cold or hot, and prepared in various ways by salt-curing, smoking, poaching, baking, pickling, marinating, etc.
Fish and seafood may also be mixed in salads or served in the form of pâtés.
Serving a whole stuffed fish, like a pike poached or baked in oven, is an old Christmas tradition of the fishermen of the Finnish southwestern archipelago.
Although salmon is commonly eaten throughout the year in Finland, it is also an essential part of the Finnish Christmas dinner.
Typical preparations of salmon include the raw, sugar-and-salt-cured gravlax and hot- or cold-smoked salmon.
Also other types of fish, like powan, are served freshly salted or smoked.
Picture on left: home-cured gravlax slices with dill.
Finnish fish roes are of top quality and an indispensable part of Christmas dinner. Most popular roes are salmon or vendace roe, the latter being considered a great delicacy, being quite an expensive product. Fish roe is usually served mixed with finely chopped onion and smetana, a Russian-origin sour cream.
Picture on right: bowls of salmon roe (centre left), smetana (top) and chopped onion (bottom right).
Herring pickled in various ways should always be included among the Finnish Christmas dishes.
Thinly sliced salted herring or Matjes herring fillets (= herring cured in a spiced sugar-vinegar brine) may be mixed with cream, mayonnaise or oil-based dressings seasoned and/or garnished with mustard, sugar, onion, green onion, scallion, dill, beetroot, hard-boiled egg, pickled gherkin, etc.
Fresh Baltic herring fillets are marinated or pickled with clear or creamy sauces made of vinegar, oil, cream, smetana or crème fraîche and seasoned with onion, garlic, scallion, carrot, apple, lemon, ginger, beetroot, orange, chilli pepper, bell pepper, peppercorns, horseradish, honey, lingonberries, tomato, mustard, fresh or dried herbs, fish roe, sherry, beer, gin, vodka... the list is endless, with new variations being created every day.
Among the oldest traditional Nordic Christmas dishes along with baked ham is lutefisk, although it has somewhat lost its popularity, at least among the younger generations.
Picture on right: piece of uncooked lutefisk.
Lutefisk, or lutfisk, is a Norwegian and Swedish origin dish of dried cod soaked first in cold water, then in a special mixture of water and potash lye and finally simmered until tender and flaky.
In the Nordic countries, lutefisk is served with various accompaniments, like boiled potatoes, béchamel sauce or melted butter, freshly ground allspice or pepper, coarse-textured mustard, mashed or boiled green peas, crisp bacon bits and drippings.
Picture on right: cooked lutefisk with various accompaniments.
Being a rather time consuming dish to prepare from scratch, lutefisk is nowadays sold ready-made in stores.
You will find recipes for some of the dishes mentioned above in here.
Read more about traditional Finnish Christmas here.