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Food Culture: National Cuisine

Overview

Estonian food is generally very simple and typical of what farmers eat. Pork and pork products, dairy, potatoes, black bread, and fish, especially herring, are the most commonly consumed foods. Estonian cuisine is still strongly dependent on the time of year. In spring and summer when fresh foods are still available, Estonians eat a lot of fruit and vegetables. In autumn, many households still make preserves and pickles to be eaten throughout the winter. Because it is a cold country and people often had to live for months without fresh foods, preserved ingredients and dishes like blood sausage and pickled eel are well-known parts of traditional meals.

Classic Estonian Dishes

APPETIZERS

Estonian Ham and Cheese Rolls — These are two famous Estonian dishes that can be consumed at the first course or as cocktail fare. Good-quality imported ham in thick slices make for a superior roll.

Suitsukala — Smoked fish or suitsukala is an Estonian specialty, and trout is a particular favorite. It can be a very simple appetizer served with black bread and butter.

Keel Hernestega — A cold appetizer made of cow’s tongue served with horseradish.

SOUPS

Cabbage Cream Soup — Cabbage is a common vegetable in Estonia and a standard ingredient in many soups. This rich soup is a winter dish.

Nõgesesupp — Herb and nettle soup is a longstanding seasonal favorite, eaten as a tonic in spring. Chives and dill are commonly added and the soup usually has egg in it, but not cream.

SALADS

Rosolje — A potato and beet salad, seasoned with dill pickles and herring, dressed in a sour cream sauce and served cold.

MAIN DISHES

Sult — Jellied pork is a typical Estonian dish, homemade in the countryside. The jelly comes from boiling pork bones with the meat. It is a common preserved meat dish stored for winter.

Marineeritud Angerjas — Marinated eel is actually jellied eel, prepared by a similar method as that used for sult. Marinated eel is always served cold.

Võrtsjärv Suitsukala? — Squash casserole is a typical, hearty Estonian dish. Layers of squash, tomato, seasoned onion, and leftover meat such as ground beef or smoked fish are baked with eggs and milk.

SIDE DISHES

Mulgikapsad — A sauerkraut stew with pork, usually served with boiled potatoes.

DESSERTS

Karask — A sweet cake made with whole wheat and barley flour, this recipe is typical of traditional celebratory dishes.

Kissel — Sweetened milk, cream, or juice that is thickened with starch to form a Jello-like pudding popular in Northern and Eastern Europe. If less starch is used, kissel can also be used as a sauce or as a soup or drink.

BEVERAGES

Vana Tallin — A sweet liqueur flavored with spices, produced in Tallinn and drunk in much of Eastern Europe.

Beer — Beer is the most common beverage for Estonian adults, and it is consumed with meals and on other occasions. A variety of beers, both light and dark, are commonly available.

HOLIDAY FAVORITES

Verivorst — Blood and barley sausage is traditional Christmas food in Estonia and is usually served with a red berry jam.