When visiting one of the largest supermarkets in Joensuu I was curious to find a small red bottle in the frozen meat section. One side said naudanveri the other side said Blod! On a side note this is an interesting example of the use of the two official languages of Finland; Swedish and Finnish, in an everyday scenario. However it was my first personal introduction to one of Finland’s traditional foods. I had heard rumours of verilettu or blood-pancakes from the other exchange student but never had it clicked that this food was no joke. The reality didn’t even stick when I saw photos on Facebook of Kim enjoying a meal of veriohukainen (the proper Finnish word for blood-pancakes, verilettu is slang). But I became curious about this Finnish delicacy asking the kids at school whether they liked or had eaten them.
So when I visited the Saarelainen family-my second hosts, Marjaana said that Anna had told her I wanted to try them. All along I had been unsure about whether or not I wanted to actually eat them but whether I wanted to or not I was going to try them. This feeling was a bit nerve racking and on Friday night the vile of frozen cows blood was brought home.
On Saturday morning I helped prepare them. It is a strange feeling pouring half a litre of blood into a red plastic bowl (I think red is used to avoid staining). The cow’s blood was dark and as the dry ingredients were added to the bowel the mixture thickened into a thick red paste.
The ingredients for Verilettu are;
· ½ l verta
· ½ l vettä tai vichjä
· 3 dl ohtajauhoja
· 2 dl ruisjauhoja
· ½ hienonnettua
· 1 ½ rkl voisulaa
· 1 rkl tumma siirappia
· ½ l cow’s blood *
· ½ l water or mineral water
· 3 dl ground barley
· 2 dl ground rye
· ½ finely chopped onion
· 1 ½ tbl spn melted butter
· 1 tbl spn dark syrup
· marjoram (oregano)
· white pepper
· *Available from your local supermarket freezer section in Finland-not so readily available in other parts of the world but ask your local butcher
To make the pancakes is a simple process, fry the onion in butter and add the dry ingredients to the blood. 200 ml water (with bubbles is better) is then added and the rest goes in just before cooking. I must admit I felt a bit strange adding the water, which reacted with the blood, making a watered-down blood colour of foam appear briefly.
We left the pancakes to set and I awaited 4 o’clock when the time would come for me to eat them. I will admit I was feeling a bit anxious as I helped fry them. The pancakes are cooked the same way as ordinary breakfast pancakes but they are smaller and need to contain small air bubbles. (This is why gaseous water is better then flat). Honestly they look like small flat and black volcanic rocks. I wasn’t quite sure about eating them.
When it was time to eat I decided to just attack them as I would any other food. Served traditionally with white sauce, lingonberries, and a mash of sweet and normal potatoes, I took only two at first not sure if I would like them but still wanting enough so that they could be arranged prettily on my plate. (I think three is an ideal number for an aesthetically pleasing blood pancake meal plate up).
I sat down, my heart thumping. No only joking it was just like any other meal. I documented the event with a few photos, before putting a small piece of blood pancake with white sauce and lingonberries on my fork and into…
The flavour was mild but not unpleasant. Verilettu are not strong and overwhelming blood foods like British black pudding. And after all that I think I quite liked them!
If you are in a foreign country I think it is very important to try all the different foods that the locals eat. Even if you think it is a bit strange at first. You will probably find that you like it, because the locals would not have kept eating something – often for many generous- if it didn’t taste good. As a general rule try things three times-not three bites but on three separate occasions if even after eating it once you didn’t really like it. Then you can truly say whether you like it or not. Maybe blood pancakes will become one of my favourite foods, I don’t think so but I will definitely enjoy again them next time I eat them.