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Cooking on the lefse line: Nordic tradition helps fund local organization

Sons of Norway Hjemkomst Lodge members Roma and Bob Solberg got together Monday morning to cook up one of four batches of lefse for the holiday season. Star Gazette photos by Katrina Styx

Every year, a group of members from the Sons of Norway Hjemkomst Lodge 1-5999 take over the kitchen at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Hastings to make a traditional Nordic dish: lefse.

Lefse is a potato flatbread that originated in Norway and came to America with Scandinavian immigrants. It was popular, in part, because of how long it could be stored, said Duane Davick, cultural director for the Sons of Norway Hjemkomst Lodge. If frozen properly, it could last several months, he said. It was even considered a staple in the Nordic countries.

In the U.S., lefse has become a traditional treat generally reserved for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is traditionally served rolled with butter and brown or white sugar on the inside, although there are innumerable variations. One member prefers adding cinnamon to hers, while another suggested adding another Scandinavian food tradition: lutefisk.

To satisfy local Scandinavian tastebuds while raising money to support the lodge, the local Sons of Norway meet about four times during the holiday season to make the popular potato bread.

“It’s a great event for us,” Davick said. “We’re able to get together and enjoy each other’s company.”

Plus, he added, it’s just plain fun to make.

It’s a tradition that’s been going on for at least 20 years, Davick said. It’s the group’s major fundraiser; the money the lodge makes from selling the lefse is used to support the lodge and its monthly programs as well as financial donations to several organizations with local and international impact.

This year, the lodge’s Hastings and Cottage Grove members peeled, cooked, riced, mixed and grilled about 400 pounds of potatoes over four different lefse making sessions.

It starts with the peeling, then the boiling. While the potatoes are still hot, they’re riced – it’s sort of like mashing, Davick said, but better because it doesn’t leave lumps. Then they add butter, heavy cream and powdered sugar and mix it all together. After letting the mix cool for about an hour, it’s kneaded with flour and rolled out into thin circles about 14 inches in diameter. The rolled dough is then grilled, set out to dry and then packaged for the lodge’s loyal buyers.

Lodge members make quick work of the process, dividing up the kitchen at Our Saviours into multiple work stations. By the time the grilling starts, there are eight or nine grills running.

The popularity of the Sons of Norway lefse is thanks to word of mouth. The group hasn’t ever advertised, he said, but instead relies on happy customers telling others about the lefse. Because the lodge members are from Hastings and Cottage grove, lefse is sold primarily to those two communities, Davick said.

For more about the Hjemkomst Lodge, go to www.hjemkomstlodge.com.

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