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What is Kalakukko?

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  • Written By: J.E. Holloway
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2016
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Kalakukko is a traditional Finnish dish from the eastern region of Savonia. It consists of a filling of fish, pork, and bacon baked in a rye crust. Once baked, it resembles a loaf of rye bread until it is cut open to reveal the filling. It is similar to a savory pie, except the dough is wrapped completely around the filling rather than having a top crust added.

The filling of kalakukko is usually made from vendace, a freshwater whitefish native to Finland, or the European perch. Salmon is also sometimes used. Some recipes may include potato or rutabaga. Modern chefs add allspice or other spices to the filling, although the traditional recipe calls only for salt, relying on the juices cooking inside the dough to bring out the flavor of the meat. The filling is layered, with pork and bacon lining the inside of the pastry and the fish at the center.

Baking kalakukko is a time-consuming process. Depending on the size of the fish, it must be baked for four to seven hours to cook all the way through. It is baked in two stages, first at a high temperature to brown the crust, and then at a lower temperature to cook the filling.

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In some ways, kalakukko resembles the Cornish pasty, a British delicacy that consists of a filling of ground meat and vegetables inside a pastry. The two dishes originally served the same purpose of combining the meat and bread portions of a meal into a single, easily portable package. They made good packed lunches for workers who were away from home. An added advantage is that kalakukko will keep for a long time after being baked.

Kalakukko can be eaten hot or cold. It is traditionally served with buttermilk. The traditional method of eating it is to slice off the top of the crust, butter and eat it, and then cut slices in such a way as to get some of the pastry and some of the filling in each slice.

The European Commission for Agriculture and Rural Development awarded kalakukko Protected Geographical Status in July 2002. It now falls under the category of Traditional Specialty Guaranteed, which means the use of the term "kalakukko" is restricted to products that meet the traditional Finnish definition. Similar restrictions apply to foodstuffs such as Pizza Napoletana from Italy and Bramley apple pie filling from the United Kingdom.

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