What started out as a country that appeared to have a simple menu became quite the ordeal... I originally planned on having this on June 20, but difficulty in procuring the necessary ingredients and getting the right bread pan thwarted me. And, being a tad OCD, I had to do it right...
The national dishes of Estonia are verivorst with mulgikapsad. I began my research by looking for a recipe for mulgikapsad, which is sauerkraut stew, and the recipe was easy to find, easy to get ingredients for, and easy to follow. Where I first ran into trouble, though, was deciding that I needed some good bread to go with the stew. Upon Googling "Estonian bread," I learned that apparently Estonian black bread is essential to any meal. So, I found a recipe that was easy to follow. So began my adventure.
The bread itself takes multiple days to make; I needed a sourdough starter that needs at last five days to be ready. Then, I needed a rye soaker that must soak overnight. In addition, I needed to prepare a rye sour that needs 12-15 hours of wait time. Finally, the bread is gummy inside when it first comes from the oven, so it needed 24 hours to rest before I could cut it. Feeling accomplished for always looking at my upcoming recipes at least a week in advance, I set to work.
To begin with, I needed a sourdough starter. This seemed simple enough to do on my own, but realizing that I would need to purchase a 5-gallon bucket, and thinking about having a vat of yeasty, sour goop around the house, I decided to take a shortcut and purchase a sourdough starter from amazon.com. I ended up with one from a site called breadtopia, which I received quickly and that came with clear instructions. I started "feeding" (gross) the starter everyday by adding 1/3 c. flour and 1/4 c.water and letting it grow in a bowl on my counter. This step was simple, but since it took longer and longer and longer to get the needed ingredients for the bread recipe, and since I had to feed the starter once every 12-24 hours, the starter became quite large and I now will have to bake some sourdough bread to use it up (I'm not complaining.).
Another difficulty with the bread came from the fact that I needed a special pan called a Pullman pan. Apparently the long bake time of the bread can cause it to get too dark on top and dry out, so I needed a special type of pan with a snazzy sliding lid. This I easily found on amazon.com, and it, too, quickly came. I was right on track to make this bread. Or so I thought.
The recipe calls for two ingredients that I wasn't positive I could find: high-gluten flour and pumpernickel flour. Rather than having to go to many different stores to get these, I ordered them from King Arthur Flour. Feeling proud of myself for planning ahead; with the sourdough starter, Pullman pan, and obscure-ish flours en route to my front door; I went to Whole Foods on Sunday, June 16 to get the other ingredients. Roadblock. They had no cracked rye (but they did have pumpernickel flour). This was troubling to me, as I needed it not only for the recipe, but at least 36 hours before I planned to eat the bread. So I went to Cub Foods. No cracked rye (but they did have pumpernickel flour). So I went to the internets and ordered some from Bob's Red Mill. Still planning on cooking the meal on Thursday, I paid extra on the shipping so it would arrive Wednesday. That way I could make the sour Wednesday night, bake the bread Thursday afternoon, and take my chances on the slicing with the gummy interior. It arrived Thursday. Knowing that I couldn't cook the meal Friday nor Saturday night because of prior dinner plans, I decided to bake the bread on Saturday and make the meal on Monday.
The actual making of the bread was pretty uneventful aside from the fact that it took WAY longer than one hour to rise. I ended up setting it out on the deck where it was warmer and more humid than in the air-conditioned house. Even in doing this, it still wasn't 1" from the top of the pan after three hours, but I had to get it in the oven, so I baked it before it had completed its rise, making denser bread.
And that was all just for the bread... I did find a recipe for verivorst, but I wasn't comfortable using ingredients such as 1 qt. of freshly certified blood or 7-8 commercial intestines. So I decided to call around. I tried Kramarczuk's, a local Eastern European sausage company, and while they did have blood sausage, it is made with buckwheat and verivorst is made with barley. I found some blood sausage made with barley at Mackenthun's Meats, but they are located in St. Bonafacius, which is about 35 miles away. A helpful woman there did inform me that they would ship it to me, but that would have cost about $15, and I wasn't willing to pay $20-25 for one pound of blood sausage that I may or may not like. I called Clancey's Meats and Fish, but they make it with breadcrumbs, not barley. It seemed that a trip to St. Bonafacius was my only hope. Then suddenly I remembered reading that verivorst is closely related to Finnish blood sausage (called mustamakkara), as Finland and Estonia are actually quite close to each other. I called Ingebretsen's, a local Scandinavian food shop, and - HOORAY - they make blood sausage using barley (and rice, but whatever. Close enough, and WAY closer than St. Bonafacius)! Plus, they sell lingonberry jam, which is often served aside the verivorst.
So on Saturday, I headed over to Minneapolis around 3:30 to get the blood sausage at Ingebretsen's, not thinking about the terrible storms we had on Friday night that wiped power out for the majority of Minneapolis. I was almost thwarted again when I got to Ingebretsen's and the door was locked... But, I saw people in there, and a woman graciously let me in even though their power had just come on about two hours prior and there was a giant hole in the ceiling with major water damage. A kind man cut me the blood sausage, I bought the lingonberry preserves, and I was on my way. A shout out to Ingebretsen's for their great customer service even when their store is dealing with unforeseen circumstances. I am for sure keeping them in mind when I get to Finland!
|Blood sausage (verivorst impersonator)|
ANYWAY, this was not an easy meal to put all together, although the cooking of it all was easy. And after all of that rigmarole, we were very underwhelmed. The bread was incredibly dense (I will probably make croutons with the leftovers), the mulgikapsad was rather bland (both in color and in taste), and the blood sausage was also bland. I really didn't like the texture either, and I couldn't help but gag a little when I thought about how it was made mostly of congealed blood. All in all, I was disappointed.
Estonian Black Bread
- 2 1/4 oz. cracked rye
- 4 oz. cool water
- 9 oz. whole rye (pumpernickel) flour
- 8 oz. water
- 1/2 oz. ripe sourdough starter
- 6 oz. water
- all the soaker
- all the rye sour
- 7 1/2 oz. ripe sourdough starter
- 1 1/2 tsp. blackstrap molasses
- 4 1/2 oz. high-gluten flour
- 1 tsp. whole fennel seed, coarsely ground
- 2 tsp. yeast (not rapid rise)
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 T. cocoa powder
1) Combine the cracked rye and water in a small, nonreactive container. Cover and let soak overnight.
|Soaker after sitting overnight|
2) Combine the rye flour, water and starter and mix until smooth. Dust the surface with rye flour, cover and let stand for 12-15 hours.
|Rye sour before|
|Rye sour after 12-15 hours|
3) Coat the Pullman pan and lid with vegetable spray. Dust the pan with rye flour.
4) Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Knead for 8 minutes. The dough will be VERY sticky.
5) Transfer the dough to the prepared Pullman pan, leveling it off. Dust with rye flour and slide the lid on the pan. Let rise until it is within one inch of the top.
6) Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place pan in oven and bake 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 400 degrees and back another 15 minutes. Remove the lid, reduce the temperature to 325 degree and bake until done, about 45 more minutes.
7) Remove the bread from the oven and immediately turn it out of the pan onto a wire rack to cool completely. Let sit for 24 hours before slicing.
- 2 1/2 lb. lean pork, in one piece
- 4 1/2 c. sauerkraut
- 3/4 c. uncooked barley
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and pepper
- boiling water
1) Put meat in a heavy casserole. Cover meat with sauerkraut. Rinse barley in cold water and add to meat with bay leaf, salt and pepper.
2) Pour in boiling water until barley is covered. Cover. Simmer over low heat until meat is tender, about 1 1/2- 2 hours. Stir, adjust seasoning, and serve.