St. Urho’s Day cook-off winners
share their mojakka magic in Cloquet

Duluth News Tribune - TASTE section
Published Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The sixth annual St. Urho’s Day Mojakka Festival in Cloquet drew more than 125 people and eight entries.

To celebrate the imaginary Finnish saint, eight volunteer cooks offered their versions of Finnish-American stews made with beef and fish. Revelers tasted their creations and voted on the People’s Choice Award.

Sunday’s fundraiser yielded a little over $750 for the Friends of Animals of Carlton County.

Brenda Denton of Duluth took top honors for her kalamojakka. She also won in 2006. Her soup uses fresh lake trout, evaporated milk and butter. Denton flavors her creamy white soup with whole peppercorns and allspice that are placed in a spice bag and removed after cooking.

Keith Bong of Cloquet won the lihamojakka contest with a concoction loosely based on a recipe handed down to his partner, Linda Smith, from her grandpa, Urho Rooni, of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Bong added venison along with beef and said he couldn’t recreate the winning recipe for publication.

Ken Waletzko of Willow River won the open category with a soup filled with a medley of ingredients that packed a smoky and spicy taste. The dominant flavors came from his use of smoked salmon and smoked whitefish along with hot Hungarian paprika, jalapeno-stuffed olives and capers.

More than 100 people voted for the People’s Choice Award, which went to Pat Ekman of Duluth for her colorful kalamojakka. She and her late husband, Gary, won first place in the category in 2005 and won the People’s Choice Award in 2006.

Denton and Waletzko shared their recipes.

Olde-Timers’ Kalamojakka

Brenda Denton, Duluth, MN

4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced

4 pounds of lake trout fillet


White vinegar

1 medium yellow onion, diced

Spice sack made with 1-2 tablespoons whole peppercorns and 1-2 tablespoons whole allspice

2 12-ounce cans evaporated milk

1/2 pound butter

In a large pot, boil potatoes until they are about three-quarters done.

While potatoes are boiling, cut lake trout into bite-size pieces and put in a bowl. Cover with an equal amount of water and white vinegar to bring out fish flavor. Let stand for about 5 minutes.

Drain and discard the liquid. Pour out half the water that’s in the pot with the boiled potatoes. Add fish and onions; cook until fish is cooked (about 5-10 minutes).

Add spice sack, evaporated milk and butter; simmer to allow the flavors to blend and to warm throughout.

Yield: 5 quarts.

Sugar-Cured Smoked Salmon and Whitefish Kalamojakka

Ken Waletzko, Willow River, MN

1 quart water

3 to 5 large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced into large chunks

1 rutabaga, peeled and coarsely diced

1 25-ounce can of whole tomatoes, thoroughly drained

15 ounces of carrots, peeled and sliced

1/2 of a red onion, diced

About 2 tablespoons capers, chopped (but not rinsed as this is your salt)

6-10 large jalapeno-stuffed olives, sliced

About 1 tablespoon hot Hungarian paprika (the hot balances the sweetness of rutabaga)

About 1 tablespoon thyme powder

About 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

About 2 tablespoons fresh dill leaves, chopped

About 1-1/2 pounds sugar-cured smoked salmon, pulled into larger chunks and bones removed

About 1-1/2 pounds smoked whitefish, pulled and bones removed

Put 1 quart of water in a large kettle and add vegetables. Cook for about 30 minutes, then add capers, olives and seasonings in order listed. Keep heat just a little below simmer. Add chunks of smoked salmon and whitefish (which are already cooked and salted) and warm through. Don’t stir too much. Serve.

Yield: 4 quarts.

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