"It is well to remember that the entire population of the universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others." A.Holmes

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Lefse, Lefse, We Love Lefse!

Lefse is very much a part of my family's tradition. We usually had lefse for Christmas, and if we were lucky and Grandma was visiting, we would have it at other times. My mother loved lefse, as did us kids. Although Mom was a good cook, she rarely made lefse. She would ask her mother , Grandma Berg, to make it and send it via Greyhound Bus to our home. That still puzzles me! When Mom would pick up the lefse at the bus station, which was NOT close to home, she would give each of us girls 1 piece and then save the rest for herself. ???? I think that still bothers me a bit and I am not sure why. You can tell I love lefse. I HATE mashed potatoes, actually, pretty much all potato dishes, but I LOVE lefse. Lefse , pronounced lef-sa, is the Norwegian tortilla, kind of. Lefse is a family food, one my 1st generation Norwegian- American grandmother taught me to make. You need very little to make lefse. Shown above is the lefse rolling pin, with special ridges in it, the long flat stick for turning lefse on the griddle and lifting it, and the ingredients. Potatoes, flour, and a dab of shortening with a dash or two of salt. That is all.
The recipe: 2 cups riced potatoes, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 Tablespoon shortening, 1 1/2 cups flour( more or less) Boil whole and with peels, enough potatoes to give you 2 cups riced potatoes
When I can push a fork through the potatoes easily , they are done. I take them off the heat and drain them. While the potatoes cool a little I assemble the other needed items. I get out my potato ricer. Found especially in Scandinavian stores and IKEA! I also begin to heat the griddle for the lefse and have cooling racks on the counter with clean, cotton dishcloths on them for placing the lefse after it is cooked. Peel potatoes. The peeling comes right off after boiling. Rice the required amount of potato into a large bowl. ( above ) Add the shortening, salt, and half the flour, using your hands to do the mixing. This allows you to feel the dough and gauge the necessary flour and knead in the rest as needed while rolling the dough out. Note that too much flour will give you a hard and unpalatable lefse, the kind Norwegian jokes are told about! This ( above ) is what the dough looks like when it is ready for the lefse rolling pin. Shown above is the lefse stick, used for turning the dough during rolling out and also for lifting the lefse onto and out of the griddle. The griddle, pan, skillet, should be heating while you're rolling out the lefse. The size of my lefse is determined by the size of my cooking surface. I would love a large lefse griddle, but am willing to use my electric pancake griddle for the sake of saving a LOT of money. Shown below is the rolling out process. Flour the rolling pin and the rolling surface using ONLY as much as needed, turning frequently. When the dough is rolled out evenly I flip it onto the griddle with the lefse stick. I can cook 2 medium lefse circles on my hot and ungreased griddle and while they are cooking I roll out other pieces. Cook til the lefse is lightly browning and bubbling, then turn and do the same on the other side. When the lefse is cooked through I turn it onto the towels on the cooling racks. The coffee is brewing as the lefse is frying, the soft butter is near by as is the cinnamon and sugar mixture my Hubby requires. We have a few pieces while I cook up the rest of the lefse. When I was in high school my Grandma Berg visited us and taught me how to make lefse. I make lefse often enough and although it is a family tradition to have lefse as our Christmas morning breakfast , I also make it a few times throughout the year. I have taught my daughter and daughters-in-law how to make it and several other women in our community. Lefse is a very integral part of my childhood and growing up years, and I think my Grandma taking the time to teach me something so wonderful also adds to the family tradition and memory. We butter the lefse and you can put meat and cheese inside or cinnamon and sugar. Then it is rolled up and eaten!A Norwegian tortilla, but oh so much better to me. Hubby's family , also of Norwegian American descent, put butter and cinnamon and sugar on their lefse. My family put butter and cheese or meat on the lefse. I still prefer meat and cheese, he still prefers cinnamon and sugar, but he is the one in the family with a sweet tooth. Lefse can be a dessert or a main dish. Potatoes, flour, shortening ...very, very economical and basic. "Like lutefisk, lefse now serves as a badge of Norwegian ethnicity..." ,"Lefse was not available in stores during the 1940's and 1950's , when the custom of making it at home , handed down by oral tradition since pioneer days , began dying out.Suddenly Norwegian Americans were desperate to get it for the holidays, and , to respond to the demand, every town had at least one woman who became the local lefse maker. Like the itinerant bakers in Norway's preindustrial peasant society who traveled twice annually from farm to farm, the American lefse lady would cover three to five miles or maybe two different towns as she prepared the soft bread for the Thanksgiving and Christmas season." 'Keeping Christmas', by Kathleen Stokker ""When.....asked why lefse is important, a woman in Story City, Iowa, told him that lefse makes her remember former times in Norway "when things weren't always so good": Lefse is unique to our roots and more and more people are interested in their heritage. Lefse is a tradition, a thread running through our family." 'Keeping Christmas' Lefse is indeed a thread running through my family. I taught my daughter and my youngest son's wife how to make lefse, after I bought them a lefse rolling pin, lefse stick and potato ricer, and my son's wife makes lefse for him quite frequently. I plan on teaching my grandchildren how to make lefse and while so doing will tell them about their great-grandma Berg who taught me. And of course there is this, I LOVE to eat LEFSE! Blessings: family traditions, lefse, having a grandma like Grandma Berg


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this recipe. I love that you have shared this with your daughter and daughter-in-law and plan to share it with the little ones. I hope you take lots of pictures of all the fun and family tradition.

Sandy said...

This was a fantastically interesting post! I love to learn about family traditions and this is such a special one to have been not only handed down but taught to you by your grandmother. This sounds like a much more delicious version of the tortilla than the standard flour kind. I had never heard of a potato ricer before. Thanks for the educations as well as the celebration! Have a great weekend!

Anonymous said...

It sounds yummy but I like all potatoe kind of food.

LindaSue said...

Sweet memories - I think some of us just tie foods and their preparation into our memory retrieval. My mom was a terrific baker so unfortunately for my waistline "nothing says lovin' like something from the oven". I have some blog friends in Norway so now I know what they are talking about with the lefse. Fascinating traditions - being of no particular ethnic background I find these generational ties really interesting!

Anonymous said...

Ha! I knew there was a potato in you. This looks like a worthy Potato Ho Down dish! I had never heard of this! I love it. Thanks for sharing.

Flower said...

Melt in your mouth lefse! You have brought back a favorite food to my memory! There is a bakery in Stanwood, Wa..that sells it every day of the year.
I'm going to give it a try! Tks!
(my little girls would love it with tea)

A. Joy said...

I hope you do a post about Grandma Berg sometime. She was such a big and fun part of our lives and left behind so many happy and funny memories and stories when she died. I think that is one of the most important things to leave behind when you die - memories that make people laugh. Love the lefse and realized I've only made it about 3 times and you were with me all 3 of those times. Guess I'm a bit like your mom - I ask YOU to make it, give my kids a few pieces and finish the rest off myself. Okay - I'm not that stingy. =)

Anonymous said...

I remember when we used to have the "talent show" on Leif Erikson day and somebody would always do a demonstration of how to make lefse. :-)

Eggs In My Pocket said...

Just loved the history and learning about this! You are so fortunate to know these recipes and traditions. Thanks for sharing! blessings, Kathleen

nomore said...

yummm...keep the sweet memories long...

KathyB. said...

Mildred, we do have fun whenever eating lefse is involved.

Miss Sandy, lefse is a bit lighter softer than tortillas, that is if it is made properly. There is that lefse that can be hard as shoe leather I hear tell.

Amy, if you like all things potato you will LOVE lefse!

Linda Sue, you had Hubby and I both laughing with you "nothing says lovin..." line, and hey, according to all the Scandinavians I know, no matter where you're from you probably have a bit of Scandinavian blood in you, those Vikings did get around!

Noble Pig, my Hubby suggested the potato hoe down to me too !

Flower, there are a few stores around the Seattle ,Tacoma area that sell lefse in packages. The lefse I have seen has to be taken home and have a wet towel placed on it to re-hydrate. Still tastes O.K.But a bakery making lefse, wow! Maybe they will hire me, I make pretty good lefse, ya!

A.Joy, O.K. I think we'll have a lefse making day sometime soon...I also think maybe lefse rolling pins and sticks are on Christmas lists for next year.(for the grandsons too!)

Megan, that was a lot of fun, and a lot of good eating too!

Kathleen, as the oldest of my sisters I have begun to realize there is a lot they don't remember (because they were so young) about our family history and stories, and I am beginning to realize that maybe I need to tell some of these stories and share the good memories.Blogging is perfect for this!

nomore, yes, they are sweet memories, thank-you!

Connie said...

Kathy, I have never heard of lefse, so this was interesting to read. It sounds like it would be quite yummy fixed either way to me. I like all kinds of potatoes but am not familiar with preparing them this way.

I hope you are having a lovely, peaceful Sunday. :)