MENTOR, Minn. -- With each push and pull of Barbara Schulstad’s wooden rolling pin, the ball of dough on her lefse board shrinks. When Schulstad is satisfied the round is the right size, she gently slides a long, thin stick under the lefse and rolls the delicacy onto it.
Then it’s time to hand off the lefse scroll to her husband, Chuck, who gently unrolls it onto a griddle where it sits for several seconds before he turns it over and fries the other side.
The Schulstads will do the same lefse-making routine -- and add a few more steps before and after -- thousands of times this year. During the spring and summer and early fall, the couple sell lefse to customers who order by phone and at the Mentor Farmers Market.
“We make thousands of sheets of lefse for the market,” Barbara said.
This month the Schulstads are busy making lefse sheets, along with krumkake, flat bread and rosettes, for the Light up the Night and Lefse Fest in Fosston, Minn.
The Schulstads and about a half-dozen other lefse-makers will be on hand at the Light up the Night and Lefse Fest 2019 on Friday, Nov. 22, to demonstrate their art, hand out samples and sell their products.
The Schulstads have been selling their lefse at the annual November event in Fosston since 2011, when Quinn Olson, a former Fosston resident, suggested that a lefse festival be added to the Light up the Night event.
The Schulstads plan to sell 100 packages of fresh and 100 packages of frozen lefse, each containing three sheets, 14 inches in diameter at this year's Light up the Night and Lefse Fest.
The couple began selling lefse in northwest Minnesota in 2001 after they retired from their jobs as Fargo elementary school teachers and moved to Chuck’s family farm near Mentor.
“When we retired, we said ‘Let’s hang out on the farm and see what happens,’” Barbara said. What happened was that people began asking if the Schulstads made lefse.
Besides making and selling lefse at the Mentor Farmers Market during the summer and fall, they also sell vegetables and fruits raised in their garden.
One of the keys to making tasty lefse is to use fresh potatoes like the ones they grow in their garden, rather than flakes or instant potatoes, Chuck said.
“We go through hundreds of pounds,” Barbara said. Meanwhile, the Schulstads use heavy cream and butter, staples of Norwegian cooking, to make their lefse.
A few weeks before the Light up the Night and Lefse Fest, the Schulstads begin making lefse twice daily, dividing it up between two-hour morning and two-hour afternoon sessions.
The night before they make the lefse, they boil the potatoes, cool and mash them, and then add cream and butter.
“Then I add flour in the morning and make them into patties,” Barbara said. Then it's time to roll the lefse out and cook it on the griddle.
“I think it’s an art and a science both; the science of putting everything together and the art of rolling and frying,” Chuck said.
“I really enjoy it. I’m a hands-on person,” Barbara said.
“It works out well,” Chuck said. “Barbie is the brains and coordinator, and I enjoy being the people person and selling. ... The response of those people buying it, typically they are delighted.”
He sometimes mumbles and grumbles when he and Barbara are standing and making lefse for hours, but in the end, the work is worth it, Chuck said.
“There’s such customer satisfaction,” he said.
The Lefse Fest will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22, in the Fosston Civic Center. Admission is a non-perishable food item or $1 per person, with a $2-per-family maximum. There also will be special extended shopping hours at Fosston businesses until 8 p.m. Stores will be lit up in holiday colors during the Light up the Night event.