By accident, at my local library I ran into a maritime Massachusetts cookbook, In Cod We Trust by Heather Atwood. I was very surprised to find several references to Finns in it. I know immigrants from Finland settled in various places around New England and the Midwest in the late 1800s and early 1900s, but I had assumed that their numbers in Massachusetts were nowhere large enough to make a lasting impression. Lo and behold, I was quite wrong!
“The West Barnstable Finns brought their affection for fruits and berries to Cape Cod, where local blueberries and cranberries made them very happy. Jewel-like fruit soups find their way to Finnish tables in West Barnstable all year round. They are served as a light lunch, a first course, or as dessert. They are served warm and cold. They are served alone for a light, refreshing, and healthful dish, and they are served by the tablespoon luxuriantly over a bowl of rice pudding.”
Heather Atwood, In Cod We Trust, 2015, p. 105.
Here’s a Finnish blueberry soup recipe from West Barnstable, Massachusetts, according to Atwood:
(Serves 4 as soup / 6 over rice pudding)
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups blueberries
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- ¼ teaspoon mace
- 1 stick cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons arrowroot (or cornstarch)
- 3 tablespoons cold water
- ¼ cup port
- yougurt or whipped cream
“Bring water to a boil in a saucepan and add blueberries, sugar, mace, cinnamon, and salt. Add arrowroot (or cornstarch) to cold water, and mix into a smooth paste. When the berries have cooked about 10 minutes, slowly stir the arrowroot mixture into the boiling soup. Cook 2 minutes more, or until thick. Add port. Remove the cinnamon stick. Serve warm as is, or chilled, with a dollop of yogurt or whipped cream on top. Again, this is also delicious served over warm rice pudding.”
Sounds both familiar and unfamiliar, for the everyday recipes I grew up with don’t have port or spices, just sugar and the berries. Around Christmastime you might make a soup out of dried fruit and/or berries, or a fruit medley, and include a Christmasy mix of spices in that. Berry soups of various kinds taste very good on cold rice pudding, too, and make a nice snack even on their own. Also, traditionally we use wild berries, not the cultivated ones, but I find that which kind to choose is merely a question of preference.
To compare, here’s a berry soup recipe I learned in home ec class:
- 2 cups / 4-5 dl water
- scant ¼ to ½ cup / ½-1 dl berry mash or juice
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons potato starch
- 4 tablespoons / ½ dl cold water
- scant ½ cup / 1 dl berries, fresh or frozen
Bring the water to a boil. Add the berry mash or juice and sugar and cook for about five minutes. Do not overcook. Blend the starch and cold water into a smooth paste. Lift the pot from heat and slowly stir the starch mixture into the berry water, mixing thoroughly while pouring. Return the pot to heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until a few bubbles rise to the surface (soup shoud be clear and thick).
Pour fresh or frozen berries into the serving dish. Pour soup on top of the berries and sprinkle with sugar to discourage a skim from forming. Chill and serve. (If a skim does form on the surface, just stir it back into the liquid.)
You can substitute corn starch for potato starch, or whatever is commonly used in your cooking culture to thicken liquids that doesn’t have a strong taste of its own. Also, by adding or subtracting starch, it’s easy to adjust the thickness of the soup to desired consistency. Thick, rich soups take 4-5 tablespoons and lighter soups 2-3 tablespoons per quart / liter of liquid.
Now I want berry soup! 🙂
P.S. We used a variant of this very same berry soup in our Lord of the Rings dinner project.
Note: I wasn’t paid or perked to mention this; just passing along a good thing.