It’s amazing how many memories can arise from just one spoonful. I recently made a traditional Finnish recipe called puolukkapöperö. This could loosely be translated as “lingonberry mush”, it’s a kind of raw lingonberry porridge! As I made it, I was instantly transported back to my childhood home. My grandmother showed me how to do this simple snack when I was about 8-9 years old. Puolukkapöperö became something I’d whip up for myself after coming back home from school. I’d eat this watching TV, waiting for my parents to return from work. This 3 ingredient raw porridge is something even a ten year old can do. There’s no cooking involved, just mashing and mixing!
Lingonberry is a very tart little red berry that grows in abundance here in Finland. It’s an evergreen native plant to snow forests and Arctic tundra throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Lingonberries are very tart so they are often made into a jam or juice, or simply mashed together with sugar to create a raw sweetened lingonberry mush. This mush stores extremely well and can be kept for months in a cool place.
When I was growing up, we used to always have large containers full of either the sweetened mash or whole lingonberries covered with water. Storing whole lingonberries submerged in water was something my grandmother would specifically do. Mom tells me that they always had “water lingonberries” when she was growing up. They’d be stored in the cool cellar over winter, and used in all kinds of dishes. Grandmother’s lingonberry pie was a classic, but she’d also make whipped sweet lingonberry porridge or serve them as a side with different casseroles. Lingonberry is a classic side dish to liver casserole (maksalaatikko) and spinach pancakes here! And of course, she’d make puolukkapöperö too! (Links to My Berry Forest’s recipes)
RAW Lingonberry porridge
As a write this, I can see my grandmother in full spirit and health! Mashing lingonberries with the old wooden potato masher now stored in my kitchen cupboards… I can recall exactly how the kitchen was laid out and the chipped blue china bowl I’d eat the mush from. Mamma (my grandmother) would show me how I could simply press the lingonberries against the bowl with a spoon to crush them. Then all you need to do is add some rye flour and sugar. And there you go! The raw lingonberry porridge aka puolukkapöperö is ready!
Me and Mamma, as I always remember her: in her curlers, wearing an old striped Marimekko apron dress.
My beloved Mamma died a year and a half ago. She was a strong Finnish woman who was always doing something. Cooking, cleaning, raking the yard, sorting out this or that, picking berries or mushrooms… She’d play cards with us and read us stories and we loved her so so much. Whenever there was something to do in the kitchen, I was always ready to help! Mamma taught me how to make many traditional Finnish recipes, and her old cookbook is my highly cherished treasure. The most important recipes aren’t written anywhere though, they are stored in my mind! With the exception of lanttusupikkaat, a rye pasty filled with thin slices of swedes. When Mamma turned 88 I made this special treat for the party. I wrote out the recipe in Finnish back then… But I’ll try to finally get that one translated in English too!
My grandmother spent her last decade in a nursing home, not being able to move around by herself or even speak much in the very last years. This is heartbreaking to think of still today. Someone who was so full of life and energy, just laying there with no agency or control over her own life anymore. Re-discovering puolukkapöperö gave me vividly back the memories of those happier times spent with her, cooking, taking walks, talking… There’s a lot of comfort in food and the memories it helps to keep alive. And this is why I want to share this simple childhood treat with all of you! Eating my childhood favorite might not spark memories of your loved ones, but maybe it will remind you of the dishes you used to make with yours? And making those recipes again will definitely bring back some memories of your own … well, at least I hope so!
Raw lingonberry porridge aka puolukkapöperö
Considering, how incredibly simple this 3 ingredient raw lingonberry porridge is, I was actually shocked with how good it tastes! I honestly thought my memory might have been made golden with time. I mean, how good can a mixture of lingonberries, sugar and rye flour be? Turns out it can be very, very good.
My grandmother would always make this with refined white sugar, but since I rarely have that stuff at home I used raw coconut sugar. It has a lovely caramel aroma that goes super well with lingonberries! The rye flour to use here can be anything from “light” rye flour to coarse whole meal “dark” rye flour. I prefer using finely milled medium rye flour, mainly because that’s what I have at home. Mamma served the puolukkapöperö often just like that, or maybe drizzled with a bit of milk. But, you can definitely make it more dessert like with a dollop of whipped cream or some vanilla custard! I also love to add a bit of ground vanilla in to the lingonberry mush.
“Could you make this again soon?”
The ultimate testimony regarding how delicious this is, was my husband’s reaction. I mean, he has no reason to like something from my childhood, after all! I quietly placed a bowl in front of him and went back to kitchen. It didn’t take long before I heard him call out “what IS this? It’s crazy good!” But don’t take my (or his) word for it, please try this yourself! If you can’t get a hold of lingonberries, you can also try other berries – some people make this with bilberries here in Finland. Simply adjust the amount of sugar depending on how tart the berries you use are.
Puolukkapöperö - lingonberry mush
- 3 dl lingonberries
- 1 dl rye flour
- ¾-1½ dl sugar
- ¼ tl vanilla powder
- 1 dl whipped cream or vanilla custard (plantbased)
- Mash the lingonberries together with the rye flour and sugar, so that the berries burst and release their juices. I use an old blunt potato masher, but you can also break the berries with the back of a spoon.
- Season with a sprinkle of vanilla poweder.
- Serve as is, or with a dollop of (plantbased) whipped cream or vanilla custard.