How about some Pie?
There will be some sort of pies, Karelian pies or ‘piiroita’ on the dinner table if you visit anyone in the villages of Ilomantsi. These pies are called by different names according to the house and customs. The most distinctive characteristic of an authentic pie is the thin and crispy crust. It was said that the crust was thin enough when you could see seven churches through it. Karelian pies spread throughout Finland with Karelian evacuees after the Second World War. These pies have been served in Ilomantsi since the seventeenth century and the town is called the pie center of Finland.
Parppeinpirtti is the only restaurant in Finland in which the pies are made while the visitors are watching. You can even go to the pie-school or ‘piirookoulu’ and learn how to roll dough, crinkle the edges of the dough and bake them yourself. This is as authentic and tasty as pies get.
Vatruskas of Ilomantsi
Hanna Laakkonen was born in Möhkö in 1898. She tells about the origins of vatruskas of Ilomantsi:
“In order to escape hunger, my mother’s mother was taken to Russia when she was just an infant. When she was 14 years old and the conditions in Finland had improved, she returned to Finland with her parents. They brought back the way of making vatruskas with them. As I recall it, it might have been near Petroskoi. They did not make them at the borderlines, only on Russian side. Then my mother and grandmother taught their friends to made vatruskas in Möhkö.”
There is an ongoing debate about the name of Karelian pies, but also about vatruskas themselves as a product. The authentic crust of a vatruska from Ilomantsi is made from boiled potatoes and a fistful of flour. The stuffing is made of rice. The crust should be shaped as a crescent and then closed. Vatruskas are baked in the oven where they get their beautiful brownish color. They are smeared with melted butter and eaten with spread made of butter and hard-boiled eggs or ‘munavoi’.
In other places in Karjala, vatruska can be sweet or salty, open or closed bread or pastry. The stuffing can be made for example of grounded beef, salmon or cheese. You can made all kinds of versions of vatruskas. You can order vatruskas to go from the pie-corner of Parppeinpirtti.