The Secret of Moijakka

by John K. Bispala
Originally published at Camden News, Minneapolis, MN
When the Camden News site was reformatted recently, Mr. Bispala's essay/recipe was deleted.

Finnish 'moijakka' is like Pandora's box. What's in it? Talk to one Finn and it's 'kalamoijakka,' fish stew. Talk to another and it's 'lihamoijakka,' beef stew. I supposed it's only logical, if you want chicken stew you would make 'kanamoijakka.' When I attended college in Hancock, Michigan, I remember the cheerleaders running out on the basketball floor chanting, 'Silakka, moijakka, hardtack, too! Suomi College, Suomi College, vee're fer you!' Before he died, I asked Eetu Pispa, my dad's cousin in Finland, if he knew about moijakka. Eetu reported hearing the word as a young boy, but that's nearly 100 years ago by now.

Today the word is 'keitto' soup. I'd like to share with you the secret of Finnish lihakeitto, beef stew. But we'll cater to American-Finns and call it 'moijakka.' (Accent the first syllable, as in most Finnish words.) My moijakka is a recipe my mother taught me. I didn't learn it from a book, though it might be there, too.

The secret of moijakka is in its clear broth. Doesn't matter what else you put in it - potatoes, carrots, celery, onions. It's the broth. How do you get clear broth for stew? Here's how: Dump a package or two of stew meat into a five quart kettle. There should be plenty of room for water. Cover the meat with water nearly to the top. Start your burner on high and bring it to a boil. Watch it because the window of opportunity is short, when the scum starts to form on the surface. Skim it off as fast as it comes and until it stops forming. Don't let it boil in, or it'll muddy up your broth. That brownish, grayish residue is a combination of fat and blood products. Get rid of them, but don't try to scoop up the oily film. By now you have removed a lot of the water, making room for vegetables. Add about a teaspoon of salt and a dozen or so whole allspice. Stir. You can vary these according to taste (and health). Let the meat simmer on low heat while you prepare the vegetables. The kettle may be covered now. Chop onions, scrape carrots, peel potatoes, slice carrots and celery to your hearts content. Add these and let them boil for two to four hours covered, until the various ingredients are soft enough to eat enjoyably. Remember you can add water and heat it up again later. Store in refrigerator.



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