In a country where night can last for two months and the sun never sets in summer, seasons dictate the cuisine. Such extremes are readily felt in Northern Finland, yet even in the South, the midsummer festivities can be lit with up to 19 hours of sunlight, while the middle of winter may only have around six hours of sun per day. In spite of the harsh conditions, Finnish food revolves around the outdoor art of hunting and gathering.
1 Jul 2008 - 9:00 AM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

The treasures of summer are highly anticipated when treats such as strawberries, cranberries and cloudberries are relished. Most Finnish desserts celebrate these berries, whether they're served natural, stewed or accompanied by hot toffee sauce.

In the autumn months, it's the gathering of wild fungi that occupies the culinary minded. Hunting and fishing are extremely popular in Finland, the results of which often end up on the plate. Crayfish feasts celebrate the late summer, replete with crayfish lanterns and bibs to catch any spillage.

Meat dishes, including hare, moose or deer, are roasted or stewed and complemented with pickled beetroot or cucumber, condiments and jams. Reindeer, renowned for its low-fat content, is a popular source of meat in Finland. Sauteed reindeer (porokaristys) is a popular presentation, but it's also eaten as a steak or smoked. Hot or cold-smoking fish and meat is a common method of preservation, as is salting (such as salted salmon, or the spiced and salted Baltic herring).

Wholegrain breads have long played an integral role in the Finnish diet. Rye bread, in particular, has a place at every table. Finn Crisp, a slightly sour rye crisp bread, is particularly popular. Rye dough is also used to make Karelian patties, which may be filled with rice or potatoes enveloped in a rye crust. In other regions of Finland, similar patties may be filled with fish and pork fat or rutabaga (a type of swede).

In addition to the food, the Finnish place a strong emphasis on decorations and presentation at the table. Textiles and tableware are carefully chosen to enhance the pleasure of the senses. A festive brunch or afternoon tea will feature a variety of beautifully presented dishes, and according to Finnish tradition there will need to be at least seven different types, including sandwiches, pies and cakes.