When visitors to the Tampere region wish to try a local delicacy, they are usually recommended to try the black sausage which is also known as “tapola” according the most famous producer of the product. Tampere – All Bright! Magazine visited the birthplace of this treat.
The perfect black sausage dish is simple: a hot black sausage with a side dish of lingonberry jam and a drink of cold milk. You can enjoy your sausage directly in its paper wrapping at Tammelantori Square, Laukontori Square or the Tapola factory shop – wherever it is available.
These instructions are based on experience, as they were provided by a father and son who both work for the Tampere-based meat processing company Tapola: Jarmo Tapola is the chairman of the management board and Kristian Tapola serves as the CEO. Based on a basic understanding of the preferences of the residents of the “Manchester of Finland”, many of the locals could not agree with them more. However, one thing divides the fans of hot black sausage into two camps.
“Some want a sausage from the bottom of the box where it has been saturated with fat until soft. Others like a crispy sausage skin and choose a sausage from the top of the box,” says Kristian Tapola.
Nothing was wasted in the good old days. People tried to use up all the parts of a slaughtered animal. Blood sausages were a clever way to make delicious use of carcass parts. The sausages often included grains and onion and many different versions of them have been developed around the world over time. The story of Tapola dates back to the 1800s.
“My father’s grandmother Mathilda Tapola was a banquet chef at Tottijärvi area. She prepared food for weddings, christenings, graduation parties and so on. Our black sausages are based on her teachings and recipes,” says Jarmo Tapola.
Even in those days, blood sausages constituted tasty, nutritious everyday food and were produced by many shops in the Tampere region. Banquet chef Mathilda’s sons did their bit in 1953 by establishing their own company in Tampere on Salhojankatu Street. The family made the sausages themselves in the basement of their home, from where they transferred them to the marketplace by bicycle.
“My mother Kyllikki entered the family through marriage. They asked her to help out by selling black sausages at Laukontori Square for a couple of days. She ended up selling them for 16 years,” says Jarmo Tapola.
The Tapola family enterprise became Kyllikki Tapola’s life’s work. Many locals referred to her as “the mother of black sausages”. She developed the family company determinedly and became a household name for many Tampere residents.
Working hard runs in the family. According to Jarmo Tapola’s calculations, he has worked for the family business for 46 years since his first Christmas job attracted him to enter the labour force. In early 2015, a new generation took over Tapola as Kristian Tapola took on the job of company CEO. He has the qualifications of a chef and has completed studies in business administration at the Proacademy of Tampere University of Applied Sciences, among other things. He has experience of running his own company – and, like the rest of the family, has early memories of serving in the family business.
“I remember well how I used to toddle around here in the office and wonder at the world. My first assignment was shredding documents. I also understood that entrepreneurship continues 24/7. The work follows you home,” says Kristian Tapola.
The black sausage will maintain its status as the primary Tapola product and its most renowned brand, says Kristian Tapola. However, new ideas are still needed. Previous generations have spoken of internationalisation and exports and this might be the time to take action.
“Black sausages are a renowned product and eaten all across the world. I do not see why the Tampere variety could not find a niche somewhere. That would be wonderful,” says Kristian Tapola.
People often ask the Tapolas to reveal the secret of the popularity of black sausages, and they do not hesitate to do so: good ingredients, professional personnel, and a traditional recipe with a few minor adjustments as needed.
“Many are surprised to find out that black sausages are no longer made with fresh blood but blood powder. While the taste is no different, it is easier to keep our production facilities clean,” says Jarmo Tapola.
The production of black sausages continues to require a lot of manual work. The sausages are fried three times and turned over in between frying rounds to make sure that they cook evenly. The third frying round of black sausages is the first task to be completed at the factory in the early morning hours to make sure that the delicacy is delivered to the sales points in a timely fashion. It seems that the demand for black sausages is not likely to decrease.
“Small children come to our factory shop Mustamakkarabaari with their parents. That means we do not need to worry about losing popularity in Tampere,” says Kristian Tapola.