Updated: Nov 18, 2020
Mämmi is a traditional Easter food in Finland; it is a dark-brown porridge-like dish with a thick but smooth consistency. Mämmi is made of water, rye flour, powdered malted rye, salt, and dried powdered Seville orange peel. Mämmi has an exceptional taste; some people like it, and some can't stand the taste. However, it is worth trying such an unusual, unique, and distinctive flavor which is hard to find elsewhere. You might like the taste and become a real fan, and continue to buy it all around the year, because one can buy it from the freezer even out of the Easter period.
History of Mämmi
According to the book of 100 Sosiaalista Innovaatiota Suomesta:
Mämmi is an ancient dish which has been eaten in the southwestern region of Finland, since the 13th century.
Daniel Juslenius, professor of theology at the Academy of Turku, described in 1700, a slightly sweet porridge used by the Finns in the oven, which has a black-ish color, and eaten at Easter.
History researcher H.G. Porthan was the first to pay attention to this popular dish, and where it was used. According to him, Häme and partly South and Southwest Finland were the regions where Mämmi strongly favored, but in Karelia, Savo, and Ostrobothnia, mämmi was unknown. According to Porthan, mämmi was eaten cold with wooden sticks (päre-tikku).
Mämmi gradually became known throughout the country, mainly through counseling organizations, cookbooks, and chefs, newspaper cookbooks, but only in the South Karelia and Lapland after the 1930s.
However, the folk-style (non-industrial) way of cooking mämmi, has hardly changed over the years. In 1751, P. Gadd, professor of chemistry at the Academy of Turku, published the instruction: "One part rye flour, two parts powdered rye malt, sucked in hot water (imeltää), immersed in a pot, simmered and baked in an oven for 6-7 hours."
Nowadays, people hardly make mämmi at home, and it is bought ready in food stores. The traditional mämmi is made through a slow and natural sweetening process, but the commercially-made mämmi is usually seasoned with dark molasses, and therefore it is sweeter.
Those who think the usual mämmi in the shop is too sweet. You can try the organic (luomu) mämmi, or traditional (perinteinen) one with no added sugar, this is much less sweet than the ordinary one, and all the sweetness is due to the natural process of making mämmi. Nowadays, it is also possible to find gluten-free versions of mämmi.
Mämmi was traditionally stored in small containers made of birch bark called tuokkonen or rove. Finnish packaging still keeps the same prints of birch bark-like patterns on the carton boxes.
Mämmi is eaten cold as a dessert, or with cream and perhaps a sprinkle of sugar on top.
During the Easter period, one can buy a variety of mämmi freshly made, and throughout the year, one can still find it from the freezer.
There are also some websites with recipes using mämmi, most of which are in Finnish. There is also a Finnish association for mämmi, founded by Ahmed Ladarsi, who has developed many recipes containing mämmi.
It is interesting to mention that mämmi is not only eaten in Finland, or Sweden as most Finns think but also in Iran/Persia. There is a very similar dessert called 'Sämänoo' made from wheat, not rye.
And here is also an old funny saying" Senkin mämmikoura" (clumsy-hands), which makes us think where it comes from, and why, and in what situations has it been used?