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Home on the Range: Harvala shares verse and recipe for Finnish classic

Priscilla Harvala of Osage, who served as a mojakka cook-off contest judge in Cloquet for three years, was so inspired by the time-honored Finnish stew she wrote a poem to accompany the dish.

"Judging," she said, "was tough. Every batch was terrific!

"This is the time of the year when we crave soups," she observed in sharing her recipe and poetry.


Mojakka, what is it? People ask in a curious way, and you laugh,

Knowing that questioning look on their's a familiar one.

So, how do you explain mojakka without using a cookbook or math?

The simple truth is just to give them a bowlful....with a buttered bun!

Their expression of perplexity will turn into a sigh of pure pleasure,

As the first spoon full of mojakka passes over the tongue with leisure,

Their taste buds will burst into amazing delight when trying to measure,

The values of the meat or fish, varied vegetables, and spices we treasure.

Mojakka is made in so many ways using chicken, ham, fish or beef,

Browning meat well and adding onions to make a broth full of flavor,

Cover with milk or water, simmer; toss in salt, pepper, spices or a bay leaf,

Then add the vegetables - potatoes, carrots, whatever, and cook for an hour.

Every pot full of mojakka comes complete with a personality of its own,

Depending on the ingredients available and the disposition of the cook,

It may have large chunks or small, milk or water, and maybe even a bone,

One thing for sure, Betty Crocker didn't have it in her cook book!

Mojakka was fashioned a long time ago by the resourceful American Finn

Who brought from Finland the ability to survive on practically nothin'!

When times were tough, they took a little of this and a little of that,

And with a bunch of sisu, created what's called "mojakka," without any fat!

The broth was sometimes thick and sometimes thin, and would depend

On what was in the pantry or how much money the family had to spend.

Generations later, mojakka has survived the test of time, and take heart,

For now it has become a St. Urho's legend contest and a tasty work of art!


3 pounds lean Beef Stew Meat, cut into bite-sized pieces

6 quarts water

1 large onion, chopped coarsely

8 potatoes

8 carrots

1 rutabaga

8 stalks of celery, washed

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 tsp. allspice, whole

Salt to taste

A couple of bay leaves may be added, if you like.

In a large stockpot, brown beef and add onion. Add ½ of the water and boil for 20 minutes. Then skim off the scum from the top until it stops forming so you have a clear broth. Turn down heat and simmer while preparing vegetables (about 1 hour).

Peel and chop potatoes, carrots, celery, and rutabaga into bite-sized pieces (about 1 inch size or less). Put in large bowl with the other half of the water. When all vegetables are cut up, add them with the water from the bowl into the meat pot.

Add seasonings and, if necessary, add more to your taste. Continue to simmer to blend flavors.

Note: The best Mojakka can sit for a day in the refrigerator.

Yield: About 12 hearty servings.