Luckily, I got the opportunity to visit Oregon again for a week this August. If you live in Florida, a week-long visit to a cooler climate is highly appreciated in the hottest months of August and September, while August in Oregon is one of the few months that you can be guaranteed good weather. I travel to Oregon to visit my family and our homestead. My mother lives in the house that her parents bought on February 19th, 1927 for the amount of $3000. The house on 10 acres was built in 1917 by a Norwegian, we think his name was Arndt Adolfson.
The original house had no bathroom and very few closets. There were many outbuildings though, including a woodshed, a garage, an outhouse, and later, my grandpa built a smoke house. My mother remembers her father doing some remodeling, including turning the back porch into a bathroom in the late 1930s, adding a new back porch, and a redo of the kitchen in 1941. My mother grew up here, and later my siblings and I grew up here too. There is an old school-house, built in 1899, on the one acre above our house where my mother’s older brother attended grades 1 through 6. Recently, my mother had an unexpected visitor, the grandson of the people who first owned the house. He was delighted to see the original deed and the old black and white photos my mother keeps.
Most of the families in this area have been here for generations, and everybody knows everyone else. My mother still sees the “kids” from her school class. I love to visit this part of Oregon, and enjoy the memories that come back. The valleys along the Columbia river are beautiful and green, and the Oregon beaches are wild and rugged. It was a wonderful place to grow up. My mother’s home is not far from the Columbia River, and as kids we would go to Aldrich Point and swim and play in the river. The water feels terribly cold to me now.
Besides visiting with family and seeing the homestead, another reason I travel to Oregon is my mother’s cooking and the very good local food. Oregon is known for its wine country now too, in the Willamette Valley. It is like coming home and being a kid again. My mother cooks my favorite things, including; salmon soup, Korva Puustit (Finnish rolls), open face shrimp sandwiches, applesauce from our own apples, artisan bread, and swedish pancakes. We always stop at Josephson’s Fish Market for smoked salmon, and no visit to Oregon is complete without Dungeness Crab.
My mother’s Salmon Soup recipe (aka, food for the gods):
2 tblsp. butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 small leek, washed and finely sliced
1 stalk celery, finely sliced
2 tblsp. flour
3 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
12 ounces fresh salmon fillets
2 cups whole milk
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
salt and white pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
Melt the butter in a heavy, 4-quart saucepan. Add the onion, leek, and celery and saute over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Mix in the flour. Add the water and lemon juice and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lightly thickened. Cut the fish into thin slices if it is uncooked. (My mother poaches fillets for a few minutes to facilitate skin removal, and then uses the poaching water for the 3 cups of water in the recipe). Add the fish and the milk to the pot and heat through but do not boil. Add the nutmeg and ginger. Season with salt and white pepper. Ladle into soup plates and sprinkle with lots of fresh dill.
There is still somewhat of a barter system between some of the locals here. My mother makes applesauce from the Yellow Transparent tree in her yard, so we traded applesauce for the chance to pick blueberries from her friend Charlotte’s garden.
We made a trip into Astoria one day, and had lunch at Pier 39. Some of the old fish canning buildings on the piers have been refurbished into brew houses, coffee shops, and on Pier 39, a Fisherman’s Museum. We had lunch at Coffee Girl right along the river.
My mother belongs to the Finnish Brotherhood, and sometimes brings home-made Korva Puustit to their meetings. She makes them for us kids when we come to visit. We know Korva is “ear” in Finnish, but are unsure of the meaning of Puustit.
Here is the recipe:
2 packages active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 slightly beaten eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 – 3 teaspoons ground cardamom
4 1/2 to 5 cups flour
Filling: 1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
raisins, currents, apricots (whatever you like)
Glaze: 1 slightly beaten egg
2 tablespoons milk
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water and let stand 5 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup melted butter, 1/2 cup sugar, the eggs, salt, cardamom, and 4 1/2 cups flour until dough is smooth. Cover and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours. Sprinkle board with some of the remaining flour. Divide dough into 2 parts. Turn out onto the lightly floured board, and roll each part out to make a rectangle about 12 inches by 24 inches long.
Spread each half with butter and sprinkle with half the sugar and cinnamon. Roll up, starting from a 24-inch side.
Cut each roll diagonally into 12 pieces. Each piece will be about 1/2 inch on one side and 3 inches thick on the other.
With two thumbs, press down in the middle of the side of each roll. In so doing the two cut edges will be forced upward. The rolls will resemble two “ears”.
Place cinnamon ears on lightly greased baking sheets. Let rise until puffy. Mix the egg and milk to make a glaze. Brush rolls with the glaze.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, watching constantly.
I have to admit that it sounds as though my mother was chained to the stove and I was a glutton for all the fresh food. I did however trade manual labor for her cooking, and I did do all the driving!
When I left Oregon for Florida in 1986, I was unable to take with me one large item; my 1946 Chevy pickup. It was the first vehicle I ever purchased and had titled in my name. So, 32 years later, it still sits in my father’s garage. The sunny weather inspired me to wash and photograph the old truck. It is a classic, and restored with original parts only. With a few minor mechanical adjustments (a transmission and a battery), it will be running again soon.
This past year in Oregon was rather cool and rainy. They didn’t get much of a Spring and Summer only just arrived. August really is the best month to visit if you are looking for sunny weather.
This is a wonderful blog, and I may be able to offer up a tasty morsel in reply…. While recovering from sauna today in Finland, I scrolled through several entries on Brownsmead and Jon Westerholm (Jon is my Dad and I’m here visiting Westerholms) korvapuustit came up on screen and I was told (by Finns…) that it means a slap or cuff to the head…! I looked online and came up with the following reference from the Wiktionary entry korvapuusti: http://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/korvapuusti#Finnish – cuff on the ear, or cinnamon roll. Keep up the adventure…!
Thank you Erik. My mother told me of your visit to her place. I hope to see you there some day. Thanks for the Finnish lesson.