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Lottsa Lefse

Round balls of dough ready on plates. Irons heated. Round wooden boards lined up and down the kitchen counter. Sons of Norway lefse makers were ready to roll for the holidays a few weeks before their official kick-off. At dawn's light on an early...

Round balls of dough ready on plates. Irons heated. Round wooden boards lined up and down the kitchen counter.

Sons of Norway lefse makers were ready to roll for the holidays a few weeks before their official kick-off.

At dawn's light on an early November morning, the loyal lefse makers at the Gyda Varden No. 21 Sons of Norway Lodge in Grand Forks were making lefse to sell.

While Lefse making is a fundraiser for the lodge, for some members it also is a way to preserve a part of their Norwegian heritage.

"It's getting to be a lost art," says Barbara Larson. Forming, rolling and cooking the lefse is a skill that not many people know how to do any more, she says.


"We need to get new people learning how."

Though her mother made lefse, dumping in a "little of this and little of that," to create the dough, Larson didn't learn how to make lefse until she was an adult.

Annual event

Each year during the holidays she and her husband G. Paul make lefse. Barbara also volunteers to make lefse for the Grand Forks Sons of Norway's biannual fundraisers.

Twice a year -- during the Christmas holiday season and on the May 17 Norwegian Independence Day called Syttende Mai -- members of the organization assemble at the lodge to make lefse.

Lefse making for the Christmas holiday season is a project that takes at least two days. On the first day a group of experts peel potatoes. This year it took the eight men who volunteered only 1 1/2 hours to peel 150 pounds of Red River Valley red potatoes.

Then the women took over, boiling the potatoes, running them through a ricer and making batches of dough made up of the potatoes, cream, butter, flour, sugar and salt.

The next day when the dough was fully cooled, volunteers riced it, added flour and formed it into balls. By the end of the holiday lefse making project the women and men turned out about 900 sheets of lefse.



That lefse recipe Sons of Norway uses is but one of many variations, Larson said. "There are about 50 ways to make lefse. Everybody has their own recipes."

In Norway, each region of the country has its own special kind of lefse, including wheat, lumpa (potato) and hardanger, a hard lefse that is wetted before it's eaten, says Bernell Bachmeier, Grand Forks.

But don't even talk to the Sons of Norway lefse purists about quick, easy recipes.

"Some of them make it out of 7-Up, and that's no good," Milt Hefta said as he watched carefully over the lefse iron to make sure the sheet of dough was browned just right.

He and his wife, Ardella, Grand Forks, use cream and butter in their recipe, Heft said.

"We make it all the time at home," Milt Hefta said. But the lefse doesn't last long. The Heftas give some it away, driving all the way to Beulah, N.D., to deliver it to their son and his family.

"We took two big packages and it was all gone" before the couple returned home, Hefta said.


"Around the holidays there's never enough lefse to give people what they want," said Dorothy Hoistad, Grand Forks. Each holiday season she mails a few packages of the lefse she helps make at Sons of Norway by Priority Mail to her daughter and sister-in-law in Ohio, she noted.


Adeline Qualheim, an adopted Sons of Norway member from Grand Forks, doesn't make lefse at home, but she enjoys getting together with other members at the lodge and learning lefse making skills. This year she was rolling dough into balls.

"In the past I would do the flipping," Qualheim said. "They let me help even though I'm not Norwegian. I like it. I had never even seen it done until I joined this."

Qualheim, who's of Czech descent, was surprised when she was invited by friends to join the Sons of Norway a few years ago. "They encouraged me to join. I said "'I can't join,' and they said "'Yes you can, we take anybody.' "

Else Rike, a full-blooded Norwegian who lives in Grand Forks, each year makes enough lefse to serve with Christmas dinner and give a few away for holiday gifts. She also makes Norwegian delicacies including, lace cookies, krumkake and Kranskekake, a Norwegian wedding cake.

Though her mother made lefse, Rike, who came to the United States from Norway in 1935 when she was 11, didn't learn how until she was in her 20s.

Other kinds


Besides potato lefse, Rike also makes cream lefse, which is made up of sour cream, flour and salt. Cream lefse is native to Hallingdal, Norway, the region from which she came. "It's like a flatbread, except it's sweet," she says. "You fry it like lefse."

Sugar also is sprinkled on cream lefse before it is fried, she noted.

But don't get caught by Rike sweetening up potato lefse. "Don't spoil it with sugar," she admonished a Sons of Norway member in search of a sugar bowl.

Ann Bailey is Recollections editor. Reach her by phone at (701) 787-6753, (800) 477-6572, ext. 753 or e-mail her at abailey@gfherald.com.

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