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Verivorst & Mulgikapsad – Estonia National Dish – Day 207/Dish 59

September 16, 2010

Greetings and salutations fellow travelers!  I have spent several weeks in the desert getting in touch with my innerself  and have returned to our ship to continue the journey at exactly the right time! Namely, right now.

Our next country is Estonia and this leg of our journey will bring us back to the Baltic Sea and northern Europe.  To get there from Eritrea requires us to sail westward out of the Mediterranean Sea and then turn north along the flanks of Western Europe.  North of the UK we turn eastward into the Baltic sea passing once again between Sweden and Denmark. 

 Estonia lies south of Finland and north of Lithuania and Latvia on the Eastern edge of the Baltic Sea and shares its eastern border with Russia.  In fact much of the last century found Estonia a principality of the former Soviet Union as well as Nazi Germany.  It was not until 1991 that Estonia found its independence from Russia and launched one of the most successful and rapid economic reforms in European history.  Acting as a mediator between East and West in the days following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Estonia forged an economy that is versatile and utilizes both technological advances and societal innovation to achieve prosperity.  Estonia famously enacted a flat income tax of 26% in 1994 regardless of a citizens income.  This was followed by a reduction on 3 occasions of the tax rate to its low point of 21% in 2008. 

Not all has been golden for post-Soviet Estonia however.  In the 2008-2009 Financial Crisis, Estonia was the second hardest hit European nation.  Estonia will become an official member state of the European Union in 2011.

View of Tallinn Estonia's Capitol City

Estonian history dates back to 6500 BC, based on fossil evidence of fishing villages in the north of the country.  Its language, Estonian is similar to Finnish.  Since early in its history, Estonia has been invaded and ruled by larger more powerful neighbors.  Danes, Swedes, Germans and Russians have all conquered or been ceded the land of Estonia.  Invariably aspects of each invader have become part of the culture of Estonia. 

Since our journey centers on the food of each nation, let’s discuss the national dish of Estonia.  Verivorst is more regularly known as Blood Sausage.  Made from blood and barley, it is very similar to black pudding as in England, or in Finnish as Mustamakkara.  Versions of this can be found throughout this region of the world and are a tribute to the use of the whole animal and readily available local ingredients found in everyday cuisine. 

This is not a dish that is likely to sit well in the minds of people who did not grow up with it.  It is a challenge for me as well.  However, as this entire journey has shown, some recipes can surprise you even when you have made up your mind to dislike them.  This will make the next paragraph seem like a copout, but I assure you, I have and will eat scarier things in my life than carefully cooked sausages full of pigs blood.  After all, sausages are made from scraps and detritus to begin with aren’t they?

In this case, sadly I was unable to obtain the necessary ingredients to make Verivorst.  Also it is not something found regularly in finished form in grocery stores in my area.  I substituted a Polish Keilbasa which tasted delicious but is not Estonian.  If you can provide feedback on Verivorst, I know readers, and myself will appreciate it.  I promise to try the dish and report on it here when I have the opportunity.

To add authenticity to this dish and my substitution, I did in fact find an authentic Estonian recipe and make Mulgikapsad, which is basically Estonian Sauerkraut with Barley and Bacon.   This dish is a winner and is similar to Armenian Harissa in its use of both cabbage and whole grain.  I am including the recipe below which is adapted from the recipe I cited.  For example, I used ½ cup of barley groats instead of the ½ glass that was called for.  Anyhow it worked out and is really quite delicious!

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION

Rating:

Appearance: 3 out of 5

Aroma: 5 out of 5

Flavor: 5 out of 5

Total: 13 out of 15

Mulgikapsad (Estonian Sauerkraut)

1 kg sauerkraut

half a cup of barley grouts

500g bacon (1Lb)

2 onions

salt, sugar, water

Directions

Dice the onions and fry them with a little fat or oil in a medium stock pot

Add the diced bacon and fry till cooked through (the onion will soften significantly)

Add the sauerkraut to the pan

Add water till just covered stirring to deglaze the bottom of the pan

Add barley and bring to a boil

Cover and stew it under the lid for 20-30 minutes

Make sure the water doesn’t boil off

Add salt and sugar to taste

Serve with boiled potatoes and pork or Verivorst

http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/thorgal67/tallinn-2005/1121406000/tpod.html

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. September 17, 2010 4:34 am

    Hi Eric!!

    Thanks so much for your nice email! It’s so cool that a number of us have embarked on the same journey, and even cooler that each of us has put our our own spin and perspective on the adventure.

    I love your website. You write so compellingly about the country you’re cooking in that reader truly feels as though they are traveling with you. And, your photographs are gorgeous! The whole presentation is so professional.

    I’m totally self-taught in both cooking in blogging, and this project keeps morphing as I venture further into it – I guess I’m on a parallel journey and only time will tell where it takes me.

    I’ve added you to my list of “cool blogs I’m following” on my website. I agree that it can be a little challenging to find authentic ingredients, but the hunt is part of the fun and challenge! For me, the hardest part is staying inspired when, for example, I’m preparing yet another African dish, as many of the continent’s countries serve up fairly similar meals – but that’s a lesson too and pushes me to be more inventive.

    Thanks again for your note, and I look forward to following you around the world!!

    Sarah

    • September 17, 2010 6:48 pm

      Hi Sarah,

      It has been recently suggested that the “World Bloggers” will have to do a conference somewhere to celebrate our journeys. My only concern would be where we would hold it. So far there are 6 or 7 of us from around the world. Perhaps we should meet in the middle, like in Iceland!

      What do you think? 🙂

      Eric

  2. September 23, 2010 12:47 pm

    Hey Eric … I’m wondering why you didn’t just choose one of the other dishes that is common to Estonian cuisine, rather than go with Polish kielbasa? … I’m with you, though. Blood sausage can be intimidating to many folks. I had wonderful ‘morcilla’ when I was in Barcelona and at first, it took a big gulp to get it in my mouth and swallowed, but oh, man after I tasted it, I became a convert. Totally delish.

    • September 26, 2010 11:47 am

      Well to be honest, I probably should have made one of the other dishes, but although I didn’t fancy eating blood sausage, I had my heart set on some type of sausage with the sauerkraut (which is authentic). Anyhow if I get the opportunity to eat the real Verivorst, I will. I just couldn’t get it here…

  3. September 27, 2010 8:05 pm

    Hi, Eric. I hope things are much better these days for you. It’s good that you’re back and continuing your project!

    I’ve given you a “Versatile Blogger” award, which you can pick up on my site.

    Yours,

    Dan

  4. Harry Jaako permalink
    June 28, 2011 1:00 pm

    Hi Eric,

    I stumbled onto your blog as I googled ‘mulgikapsad’, a staple of my ancestors. The ‘mulks’ were a small, stubborn, independent-minded tribe from south-central Estonia, who became wealthy in the 1800’s by growing flax to satisfy the European demand for linen at the time.

    However, I do have to correct you on one small point you wrote regarding Estonia.

    Estonia did not become an official member of the European Union in 2011.
    Estonia was admitted into the EU in 2004.

    In fact, when it comes to the most prestigious western ‘clubs’, Estonia is now among the most ‘connected’ countries in Europe, quite surprising considering the 50 disastrous years lost to Soviet occupation before Estonia resumed its independence in 1991. Estonia also belongs to NATO, WTO, OECD, the Schengen visa-free zone, and most recently Estonia adopted the EURO currency in 2011, which is what I suspect you were referring to in your comment. With this connectedness, Estonia seeks to protect its national security – hopefully the best way to aviod Soviet-style occupations in the future.

    Best regards,
    Harry Jaako
    Honorary Consul for Estonia in Vancouver

    • June 28, 2011 5:01 pm

      Hello Harry from Vancouver, one of my very favorite cities both for the culture and beauty as well as for the incredible food!

      Thanks for the correction on the history of Estonia. I get most of my info from Wikipedia as it would be near impossible to find the time to do much more with my day job. This is a hobby for me and a tasty one but I find that I have cited faulty info a few times before. I appreciate you pointing it out to me.

      Have you had Verivorst? I am curious to get the reactions of folks that have tried it. I love the Mulgikapsad. It was right up my alley. I genuinely believe I was supposed to be born in Europe.

      As to the Soviet rule issue, I can only commend the fortitude of the Estonian people and their incredible resurgence post Soviet rule. What an amazing story and I was also very inspired by some of the specific economic policies enacted there such as the flat income tax rate. It sure would make things more simple come April each year…

      Stay in touch and if I get back to Vancouver sometime in the near future perhaps we can meet up for a pint…

      Eric

  5. alar permalink
    December 24, 2011 12:05 pm

    see loll kes nåitab mis on verivorst ei te mis see on
    nii lolli arvustajat reisist pole veel nåinud

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