The Kainuun rönttönen is a small, round, rye-crust, open pasty filled with cooked mashed potatoes, rye flour and lingonberries. The filling is a sweet tasting and reddish-brown in color. In the past, when sugar was scarce or unobtainable, Kainuun rönttönen satisfied people’s craving for something sweet, the sweetness coming from allowing the potatoes to sweeten. The Kainuun rönttönen is made in three stages: first the filling is made, then the crust is prepared, and finally the two are combined. The Kainuun rönttönen is an example of the rich kukko and piirakka tradition of the Eastern Finland (baked pasties with either savory or sweet fillings). The filling is made of mashed potatoes mixed with a bit of rye flour that are left to sweeten for 2-3 hours before being mixed with sugared mashed lingonberries and salt. The crust is made from cold water, salt, wheat flour, rye flour and rapeseed oil. The dough for the crust is rolled out to a thickness of 2 mm and a diameter of 50 – 130 mm. The crusts are filled, folded (leaving the center of the pastry uncovered), crimped and baked until golden brown and brushed with melted butter. The story goes that in the past, when food was scarce at the end of the winter and the men had to go logging, the women would scrape the last lingonberries from the bottom of the barrel, grab the last of the potatoes from the potato bin and bake the mixture on a rye crust. The result was rönttönen, a large, rich pie. Nowadays smaller sized rönttönen are also made as appetizers. The connection to the Kainuu region is documented, for example, in the recipe book Suomalaisia leipäerikoisuuksia (‘Finnish Bread Specialties”). Kainuun rönttönen is also cited as an example of baking in the Kainuu area in a book by the chef Jaakko Kolmonen called Suomen maakuntaleivät (“Breads of Finland’s Regions”), which contains recipes for almost 80 different types of Finnish bread. Rönttönen is also noted as being a part of life in the Kainuu area in literary works such as Veikko Huovinen’s Muina miehinä. Kainuun rönttönen are an essential part of Kainuu’s cultural events, such as the annual traditional Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival, which brings together people from around the world and gives them the opportunity to try the local specialities. Kainuun rönttönen has often been presented as an example of typical Finnish food at numerous international festivals and events. The pastry hails from the Kainuu region, which is located in the province of Pohjois-Suomi (Northern Finland), and consists of 8 municipalities and two towns. The diversity of the bread and pastry culture in the region is at least partly due to Kainuu’s geographical location at the crossroads of cultural influences from Northern Ostrobothnia, Savo and Russian Karelia. Today, however, there is only one commercial producer of the local rönttönen, and an increasingly smaller number of those who produce the complicated pastry for home use.
Image: Archivio Slow Food