My notes tell me that I’m supposed to write about siskonmakkara, “sister sausage”, today. I think I wrote that down last week when I was making siskonmakkarakeitto, sister sausage soup, and I though some American readers might be intrigued and/or grossed out by this very common Finnish food.

It has nothing to do with sisters, so let’s clarify that. The name is allegedly based on the Finnish interpretation (sisko) of the Swedish interpretation (siskonkorv) of the German interpretation (saucischen) of the French word for “small sausage” (saucisse). Somehow saucisse ends up translated as sisko, which is the Finnish word for sister. When you take it that way, it ends up meaning “sausage sausage”, which is another reason why people go insane trying to learn Finnish.

Sister sausage is used in a variety of dishes, mostly the same sort of thing you use minced beef for. I know folks that have added it to everything from guylas leves to macaroni and cheese. The most common dish is a soup made of stock and root vegetables. There are a lot of variations. You can use vegetable stock, beef stock, chicken stock, and I’ve even seen a variation with fish stock. It comes down to what you have around that needs to be eaten. This started out as poor people food, eaten in winter when there’s not a lot around.

Which brings us to the root vegetables. Things that you store for winter. The most common variations I see have potato, onion, and carrot. I’ve also seen people use turnip, parsnip, and rutabega. I use whatever we have around, what’s in season, or what’s on sale at the market. Dice the vegetables, put them in the stock, and boil them until they’re soft.

When the vegetables are about done, you add the sister sausage. This is something you need to buy fresh and eat the same day because it does not keep. It cooks fast, a few minutes in boiling water. You buy it in links, and it looks like hot dogs. They’re squishy, though. It’s mushy raw pork in a casing. You squeeze a little bit out, about a spoonful, into the boiling water. Bloop! Bloop! Ka-bloop! I think it’s kind of fun to work with. It floats! Other people think it’s gross, because it looks like pink slime. But it’s cheap, and it tastes good.

It forms meatballs in the broth, which have the texture and consistency of the inside of a hot dog. It takes like pork, though, because that’s all it is. It’s like having pork chop meatballs in soup. Serve it with rye bread or näkkileipä, a rye crispbread that also keeps through the winter.

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