Learning Lefse

Family Traditions. Remember things your grandparents  talked about? The things you took for granted when you were a kid. I married into a family full of Norwegians . They are pale and blond with blue eyes…Packer Fans and Lutherans and they grew up with the tales and tastes of the old country. My husband has been to Norway and he says SW Wisconsin looks just like the Jevnaker, Norway area where his kin hail from.

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Little Churches all over the Midwest have Norwegian Suppers annually. There is one here where the kin folk are planted, Yellowstone Lutheran Church. Their next Norwegian Supper is November 3, 1 to 5 pm. If you are brave enough to tackle klub, rommegrot, meatballs, scalloped potatoes and smashed rutabaga and rosettes…give them a visit, save room for dessert and be sure to sample 1 thing…Lefse.

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There are many things that I don’t love about Norwegian food….but one things is….good…(great really)  Lefse. (pronounced Lef-Sa).  Lefse is a tortilla type thing, made from a mix of potato and flour, rolled extremely thin and cooked on a large, flat, round, electric griddle, cooked at a high heat.  The Hub’s cousin was teaching a lefse making class and I jumped at the chance to learn and spend some time with this classy lady.

There seems to be 2 sides when it comes to the right lefse recipe…much debate and fierce loyalty to the way your family makes it. I worked with both and tasted both and they are both a lovely way to treat potatoes.

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Before we began I asked my teacher how much lefse she had made, she smiled and said, “not enough with my mother”. I was using the griddle and stick that belonged to my hub’s great aunts. As I listened and learned and laughed a bit I imagined them in that same room doing the same thing years ago. I liked that.

After my brief lesson I was eager to start. I began rolling. Rolling out the dough is really a peaceful activity. The Packer game was on the radio (sooo Wisconsin) and there was chit-chat, but I was in my zone. My dough and I.

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Getting it on the stick and to the griddle and off the stick took a bit of practice. But I soon had my not perfectly rolled circle wrapped around the cheerie blue stick and on the pan.

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Hovering over with a fork to burst any bubble that formed.

The griddles are hot! 400 to 450 so the experts start peeking after a few seconds with the sticks. Then the flip! Oh the smell!! Like baking bread and mashed potatoes had a baby and called it Delicious!

After they are cooked they go right away to steam under those towels. I hear from those in the know that you don’t want crispy edges…well, ok. I want to be a good student–but I vow to leave some crispy in my own kitchen, that sounds so good!

I roll and wrap and grill and steam for 2 hours….

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This is what I produce! This is work! Yummy, yummy work!

No wonder the Lutheran Ladies start so far ahead of the Norwegian Supper…they have lots of lefse left to make!

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I hear there is a certain Uncle Sam that has the whole lefse set up, I may beg from him to use…otherwise everything is available online or at your local Farm and Fleet!

You will need a ricer, etched rolling pin with a sleeve, covered 16 in round board, stick, fork, butter knife, pastry brush, 6 clean bath  towels, plastic wrap and zip top baggies.

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The recipes.

Boiled Potato Lefse (real)

4 cups riced potatoes (peel, boil soft, drain well and push through a potato ricer)

3 Tbs melted butter

1 Tbs cream

Pinch of sugar and salt

Mix all together, cover with a cloth and cool completely. Several hours or overnight.

When you are ready to rock the lefse start adding AP flour about 1/2 cup at a time until the potatoes are stable enough to roll out without being sticky. Less is more, try not to add to much flour. Divide the potato mixture into balls about the size of a tennis ball and chill. Work with about 4 balls at a time. Flour your covered board well. Roll one ball until it is the size of a luncheon plate, flip, flour and roll until very thin, 14 inch round or so. Lay your lefse stick at the top edge, use your butter knife to lift the edge from the board. gently wrap the dough around the stick and place it on the hot iron. Once air bubbles appear and there is slight browning on the baked side (liver spots the experts called ’em) flip with your stick and cook less than a minute more. Place your finished lefse between several layers of thick towels to steam and soften as the new ones are added.

When the lefse is cooled, place 3 rounds folded into quarters in freezer zip top bags.    Courtesy Kris O’connor

I asked why three?…because that is the way you do it. I ask if they ever make it in the spring?…Oh no, just the fall.

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Instant Potato Lefse 

In a large Bowl add

4 cups Idaho Spuds instant potato flakes

2 heaping Tbs Sugar

1 Tbs Salt

In a saucepan add

2 1/3 cups water

1 stick butter (sliced for quick melting)

1/3 stick margarine

Heat until melted, pour over your potato mixture, Add 1 1/4 cup 2% milk. Mix together until mixture forms a ball, cover with a towel and set aside to cool.

When you are ready to roll add 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour, heat grill to 450, divide into 18 balls. Keep out 4 balls. Keep the rest in the fridge uncovered.  Roll, wrap, cook flip. Use 3 large heavy weight bath towels, 2 on the bottom  and 1 for covering cooked lefse to rest/steam and cool.             Courtesy Joyce Dearth

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I used both dough balls. The instant potato was softer, sweeter and easier to roll. The real potato was firmer, stronger and easier to wrap around the stick. I can’t decide which I like better. I shall test in my own kitchen this fall.

Lefse around here is served cut into quarters and spread with butter and sprinkled with sugar. I hear a Norwegian would eat a paper napkin if it was served that way.  I enjoyed mine plain with a cup of strong black Lutheran kitchen basement coffee. I took some “uglies” home and had them with sharp cheddar cheese for lunch. I think I would like to try them with some jam or maybe smoked salmon and a bit of red onion and sour cream.  The Hubs likes to roll a slice of deli ham and swiss cheese with cream cheese spread upon and backpack some into ski country.

I am going to do this. My own, borrowed tradition. Maybe someday my boys will help and then their wives and children and I can leave behind my own sticks and stories.

Maybe lefse isn’t your thing, maybe it never will be. But maybe yours is tamales on Christmas Eve or Thumbprint cookies, Rock candy, Caramel Cinnamon rolls or dipped pinecones…whatever your folks got from their folks…make sure you share it with the younger folks. You’ll be glad you did.

What are your Family Traditions?

Sincerely, Sara

16 thoughts on “Learning Lefse

  1. I love lefse! Great post. I’ve never made it before but have a friend that used to make it with her mother every year and bring our family some. I had no idea about the lefse stick and special griddle, etc. I’m going to make this and will let you know how mine turns out! Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂

  2. Lefse tradition for me is getting together with the girls one day while the guys are off hunting and making lots of lefse to share and a couple of glasses of wine while we catch up on life.

  3. How fun! I would love to try this.

    The only traditions I got from my mother have been turned inside-out and upside-down to make them gluten free, and to include more traditional seasonings. My mother was not a good cook. Some of us just aren’t. 😉 However, there were a few items I really liked. Her chili for one. It came from cans, and used hamburger (gasp!). I have added a bit of traditional spices to mine, most importantly, cumin, and now use home cooked and seasoned beans to save money.

    But there is a very simple little tidbit she used to make that I occasionally make for myself at the holidays. She called them “Sugar Plums”. She used unpitted dates (they are softer, and less dry). Sliced down one side she removed the pit and replaced it with a half pecan, then squeezed it closed, and rolled it in sugar. That’s it! Too simple to make and it can take me back to my my best childhood memories in an instant! I often leave off the sugar because I think they are delightful without.

  4. So delicious! A potato in any form is my kind of potato! I have shared in the Norwegian experience myself and I have to say Lefse is the best part in my opinion! The family I know rolls breakfast sausages up in them like pigs in blankets- bet you can’t eat just one! Ufdah!

  5. Yellowstone Lutheran Church Annual Norwegian Dinner — Sunday, November 3,
    2013 from noon – 4 PM.
    4472 Saints Road, Blanchardville, WI, 53516 — handicapped accessible — carryouts available
    http://www.yellowstoneapplegrove.com
    Cost: Adults = $12.00; Ages 5-12 = $6.00; Under 5 yrs = free
    Menu: Rommegrot, klub, Norwegian meatballs, potatoes, cranberries, lefse, fattigmand, strull, sandbakkels, rosettes, and more.
    Worship service that day is @ 9:00 AM.

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