Last Saturday T and I went to the local monthly old-time gourmet-food market area called ‘Toivolan Old Courtyard‘ or ‘Toivolan Vanha Piha‘ in Finnish. It was a beautiful cool late-August day and the place, located fairly centrally in Jyväskylä, is not a huge detour from our usual walking path to the city centre (not that anywhere in the city is far away, really – I always say that Jyväskylä is a very cute town about the size of a shoebox).
I ended up greedily shopping for food, since the offerings hit all the right buttons, at least in my case – we bought a honeycomb from my favorite local beekeeper, a large bag of dried funnel chanterelles (Craterellus tubaeformis) mushrooms, which are a very excellent wild gourmet mushroom variety and are amazing in winter soups and stews, a pair of gorgeous Osso Buco-cut veal shanks, and a pack of locally produced smoked salmon made by Martinmäki Fish Products. You can see this as the standard disclaimer – no one paid me to write this, and in fact, I bought the salmon myself and paid for it.
Off the bat, I have to admit I knew what I was buying because I got to taste it at the market before paying for it, and that it was that taste which convinced me to pay roughly 2x the price of smoked salmon elsewhere for this. But even so, a small taste of something when you are out in fresh air and are hungry is always going to taste better than anything else, so I wasn’t going to write a review based only on that!
We unpacked the salmon yesterday evening, and had it as a part of an antipasti-style dinner (it’s a Veronika-tradition where you eat starters like they were main dish and it’s great) which consisted of said salmon, fresh cucumber slices, rye crispbread, my friend Julia’s very excellent salt-pickled tomatoes, followed by a bit of cheese with fig and bay leaf jam that I made a few days ago.
So how was it?
Excellent, actually. I say this advisedly, because both, T and I generally prefer gravad lax (of which the word ‘gravlax’ is an English bastardisation) to cold-smoked salmon. The reason for that is that normally cold-smoked salmon is much harsher and flatter in flavor in comparison, often with slightly dry edges and excessive smokiness. Not so with this – the fish was moist and very lightly, though distinctively smoked, with a very fresh flavor. We were happy we ate it on very plain rye with butter and crunchy thinly-sliced cucumber, and did not dab any sauce on it, because I think that would have been both excessive and superfluous with this elegant preparation. Plainly said, we loved it enough that I have decided I’ll buy it monthly or as often as I can make it to the Toivolan Vanha Piha on market day. And the price? We feel it is well worth the investment, as we’d rather have a bit less of this excellent fish, than twice as much of the stuff we generally don’t buy because we do not like it.
I realize that this review has a very narrow audience – only those who live in Jyväskylä and the area are likely to catch the market day on any given month, but I felt that the quality of the fish deserved a few words. Or more than a few. If you do live here and wonder if you should try it, I definitely do recommend coming by to the next market day – that being September 27th (the schedule is listed on their site that I have linked above) – trying it there, and picking up a piece. It is a wonderful example of local food that should not be passed over by anybody, and especially not by those who aren’t originally from Scandinavia, and may not be staying here after they finish their education.
For those who are waiting on updates for the Cured Fat Experiment and the sourdough flatbreads – they are coming. The fat hasn’t had much time to do a whole lot of anything interesting yet, and the starter is slowly reactivating and turning more photogenic, hopefully, since I plan to blog about it next! There is a forthcoming post about reactivating a stored (dormant) starter culture. If you are interested in trying to make your own, by all means, feel free to take a look at this post.