Raising money with soupHere’s a story from our news network on the mojakka cook-off done the last year it was held, 2008 in Cloquet. The contest moves to this weekend’s St. Urho festival in Finland this weekend.
By: Forum Newspapers, Lake County News Chronicle
Here’s a story from our news network on the mojakka cook-off done the last year it was held, 2008 in Cloquet. The contest moves to this weekend’s St. Urho festival in Finland this weekend.
Finns and their friends gathered on St. Urho’s Day around steaming pots of soup for a dose of camaraderie seasoned with good-spirited competition. Such was the scene Sunday at the sixth annual mojakka cook-off at Cloquet’s Northeastern Hotel.
Six years ago, Tim Winker was dreaming up a way to raise money for his local animal shelter when he hit on the idea of a mojakka contest.
“You see chili cook-offs all over the U.S., but I figured that if you’re up here living among the Finns, you might as well make mojakka,” he said.
Mojakka (MOY-uh-kah) is a traditional Finnish dish usually built around root vegetables and either beef or fish. The beef version is called lihamojakka and the fish version is called kalamojakka.
Diane Sargent said the soup was an economical, nutritious meal that many Finnish families living in the area came to rely upon as a staple.
“Typically, people would use a cheap cut of meat, and the big thing was the root vegetables they harvested from their own gardens. Mojakka was made out of whatever they had on hand,” she said.
Olli Rahkola, a judge at Sunday’s competition, recalls growing up with the satisfying dish often at the center of his family’s table. He was the youngest of seven children in an Esko household, where Finnish was the primary language.
Mojakka should have a certain consistency, according to Rahkola.
“You don’t want it thick like a stew, but you don’t want it too watery either,” he said.
Rahkola is partial to a hearty helping of vegetables in his mojakka. He also is particular about the seasoning, favoring the natural goodness of fresh ingredients along with allspice and pepper.
Brenda Denton of Duluth, who took top honors for her kalamojakka Sunday, said it’s important to start with a mild-tasting fish, such as lake trout, and it must be fresh. This base can then be richened.
“It’s really the evaporated milk and butter that gives it that warm, creamy feeling you want,” she said.
Keith Bong’s beef and venison lihamojakka was judged the best in its class at Sunday’s cook-off. It was loosely based on a recipe handed down to his partner, Linda Smith, from her grandpa, Urho Rooni, of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
“My grandpa, my grandma and my mother are all gone, but the smell of mojakka in our house this morning brought me back,” Smith said. “There are certain smells that just remind you of home.”
Participants in Sunday’s competition were all asked to bring at least six gallons of mojakka to the event.
Not all the mojakkas were strictly traditional. Ken Waletzko of Willow River based his prize-winning soup around smoked salmon and included a few interesting twists in the dish, such as capers and stuffed olives. Based on the positive feedback he received, Waletzko said he may even consider adding mojakka to the product line of his frozen pizza business, Kettle River Pizza.
Fred Anderson of Cloquet made caribou mojakka this year, expanding on a wild-game theme he began exploring last year, when he cooked up a prize-winning batch of ruffed grouse and spruce hen mojakka.
For her part, Sargent made a chicken-based dish she dubbed: cock-a-doodle-doo mojakka.
To accompany the mojakkas, Sargent also baked 20 loaves of a flatbread called rieska (REE-es-ka). Sargent first brought some of the bread to the event six years ago, and the response was so overwhelmingly positive that she has been bringing it ever since.
“All the old Finns just went nuts over it,” she said.
In all, about 125 people attended Sunday’s mojakka cook-off, said Edna Murto, a volunteer for the Carlton County Friends of Animals, the beneficiary of the event. Attendees were asked to contribute $5 each, with all proceeds going to support the organization and its animal shelter.
Sugar-Cured Smoked Salmon and Whitefish Kalamojakka
From Ken Waletzko, Willow River
1 quart water
3 to 5 large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced into large chunks
1 rutabaga, peeled and coarsely diced
1 25-ounce can of whole tomatoes, thoroughly drained
15 ounces of carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 of a red onion, diced
About 2 tablespoons capers, chopped (but not rinsed as this is your salt)
6-10 large jalapeno-stuffed olives, sliced
About 1 tablespoon hot Hungarian paprika (the hot balances the sweetness of rutabaga)
About 1 tablespoon thyme powder
About 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
About 2 tablespoons fresh dill leaves, chopped
About 1-1/2 pounds sugar-cured smoked salmon, pulled into larger chunks and bones removed
About 1-1/2 pounds smoked whitefish, pulled and bones removed
Put 1 quart of water in a large kettle and add vegetables. Cook for about 30 minutes, then add capers, olives and seasonings in order listed. Keep heat just a little below simmer. Add chunks of smoked salmon and whitefish (which are already cooked and salted) and warm through. Don’t stir too much. Serve.
Yield: 4 quarts.
From Brenda Denton, Duluth
4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
4 pounds of lake trout fillet
1 medium yellow onion, diced
Spice sack made with 1-2 tablespoons whole peppercorns and 1-2 tablespoons whole allspice
2 12-ounce cans evaporated milk
1/2 pound butter
In a large pot, boil potatoes until they are about three-quarters done.
While potatoes are boiling, cut lake trout into bite-size pieces and put in a bowl. Cover with an equal amount of water and white vinegar to bring out fish flavor. Let stand for about 5 minutes.
Drain and discard the liquid. Pour out half the water that’s in the pot with the boiled potatoes. Add fish and onions; cook until fish is cooked (about 5-10 minutes).
Add spice sack, evaporated milk and butter; simmer to allow the flavors to blend and to warm throughout. Yield: 5 quarts.