Kalakukko (Finnish fish pie)

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Kalakukko

APT Kalakukko is a Finnish fish pie and its production is divided into two separate stages: preparation of the dough base and preparation of the filling.

Preparation of the dough base

Mix the flours (mainly rye flour, a little wheat flour and perhaps some barley flour). Add water carefully so that the dough does not become too runny. Add salt and melted butter. For about 1 kg of flour, you will need about 80-100 g of melted butter for the dough. Shape the dough into a round or oval between 15 and 40 cm across and about 1,5 cm thick at the centre, thinning out a little towards the sides. The centre of the dough shape can be sprinkled with about 1 soupspoon (30 g) of rye flour to prevent liquid draining out of the filling from passing through the dough.

Preparation of the filling

Place the washed and dried fish in a compact heap in the middle of the dough shape. The filling can contain whole small fish such as perch, whitefish, roach or smelt. Large fish like salmon should be filleted before adding to the filling. Salt the layers of fish and put pats of butter between them. Cover the mound of fish with slices of bacon, and sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of salt on top.

The next step is to close the kalakukko. Draw two sides of the dough up over the filling. Use your fingers, moistened with a little water, to glue the two sides together water. The kalakukko is then fully closed by drawing up the other ends of the dough. To finish off, use a knife and some water to form a round or oval shape.

Kalakukkos used to be baked using the residual heat of the bread oven after normal baking. They were left in it overnight. Nowadays kalakukko is baked at 250-300 °C for between 20 minutes and one hour, making sure that the dough crust does not split. The crust is patched with more dough, if necessary. The kalakukko is then taken out of the oven and the oven temperature is reduced to between 125 and 150 °C. It is smeared with melted butter and may also be covered in aluminium foil. The filling begins to cook in the moderate oven; this takes between four and six hours. After baking, the kalakukko was traditionally wrapped in a newspaper or woollen cloth, where it would be left to mature for two or three hours. Kalakukkos are nowadays matured in an oven set at less than 100 °C.

Kalakukko must not be baked at too high a temperature, because it results in a rather dry kukko with a hard crust, the organoleptic qualities of which do not correspond to the traditional kalakukko. The temperature inside the kalakukko during baking rises to above 65 °C, thereby deactivating the decomposer enzymes and microbes in the fresh fish and other raw ingredients. Kalakukkos keep perfectly if they are well protected and stored in a cold place. The good quality and conservation of the modern kalakukko is ensured through careful watching, rapid cooling after baking, protective wrapping and a low storage temperature.

Traditional character

The way kalakukko is prepared is said to go back to when agriculture began to replace fishing and hunting. People in the region of Järvi-Suomi (lakeland Finland) were looking for a way of using small, difficult-to-prepare fish such as whitefish, perch, roach and smelt. The idea was to cook the fish inside a crust made of rye dough. Then, as pig farming became more widespread, it was discovered that bacon slices increased the energy value and gave the kalakukko more flavour. Kalakukko was a meal in itself which the Finns took with them to eat when working in the forest or on the land away from where they lived.

To make kalakukko, traditionally fish and meat are cooked together. The tradition of making kalakukko, which originated in Savo and Karelia, is said to go back to the Middle Ages. After the Second World War, part of Karelia passed to what was then the Soviet Union, and the population of the region was moved to other parts of Finland. Thus the art and tradition of making kalakukko spread throughout Finland. However, it is in the provinces of Savo and Karelia that the tradition of this dish remains strongest.

Description of the product

Kalakukko is a dish based on baked bread and is round or oval in shape. The rye casing is thick and impervious, its surface hard and firm as a result of being baked at a high temperature for a short time. The crust forms a kind of packaging and the filling can ‘stew’ whilst retaining its flavour and tenderness. The crust prevents the filling from drying out (and protects the micro-organisms present) during transport, storage and sale. The crust and filling combine to make kalakukko a meal in itself.

Reference: The European Commission

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