Reindeer, bear, elk, moose, buckthorn juice…it’s all daily fare at the Vanha Kauppahalli, or Old Market in downtown Helsinki, on the shore of the Baltic Sea. This fanciful brick building was built in 1889, and its interior is even more lovely than its exterior, with carved wooden stalls that offer everything from Finnish textiles to a thousand kinds of smoked, seasoned salmon, herring, white fish, and more.
Yummy Meat – Forest Management
The more being the meat mentioned above, hunted by private individuals. Forest management includes hunting licenses issued each year that help keep the animal populations under control. The upside of this is the lovely meats that the Finnish cook uses to such advantage. While I was there, I had the privilege of sampling air-cured reindeer, bear sausage and the most savory elk stew. I brought some of the air-cured reindeer home with me (Merci, Tapani Korhunen, hunter and smoker extraordinaire!), and I’m angling for the elk stew recipe, it was so good. Will I find elk meat in France? No, but I’m hoping Sami will find room in his suitcase for some and we can make it together!
As for the buckthorn (Arboretum Mustila), this is a tiny, vivid orange berry that grows wild in certain spots in Finland and gives an equally vivid colored juice which, apparently, is so puckery that it’s impossible to drink it straight. I tasted it in a cheesecake and found it very pleasant, but it’s real use is as a vitamin C bomb, mixed with water or added to a cocktail. Nice way to get vitamins!
While at the Vanha Kauppahalli market I was tempted by the washed wool slippers which are big and woolly but so refined in that inimitable Finnish way, the intricately carved wooden objects from chunky coffee cups to earrings, most of them made in eastern Finland from spruce wood. They smell amazing. I was also charmed, of course, by the soft wool sweaters and the earmuffs, particularly the latter which are impossible to find in Paris. The Parisians don’t know what they are missing.
Independent Stands Outside
Outside the market building are several independent market stands which, in winter, offered fox fur items, more carved wood, mulled wine and honey. And then there is the tent/café with its savory smelling hotdog-like sausages alongside cloud-like cinnamon rolls and steaming cups of coffee. In the summer the number of stands increases monumentally, and everything from fried smelt to salmon smoked right there is on offer. Anytime is snack time, in Finland!