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The Joy of Ricers

My love is like a red, red ricer …

Gary’s note:

Roses are red

Ricers are, too!

Give one to your luv

And make lefse for two!

Becky Latka is back, blogging away about her colorful collection of 50 vintage ricers. This is a very RICE story that begins when Becky was in grade school.


I love vintage kitchen utensils in a variety of colors, and I love lefse. So my obsession with colorful vintage potato ricers is a no-brainer.

My first two ricers were red, both from my Grandma Skarstad and used for making lefse with the whole family when I was in grade school. I thought all potato ricers were red until I was in my 20s and saw a green one in an antique store. But my obsession didn’t begin then, and I didn’t buy that green ricer.

It was years later when I started making lefse with my children that I realized I needed more than my two red ricers. Ricing always seemed to be a bottleneck in the process of making lefse, the result of owning a limited number or ricers. I started asking friends to join me at my lefse-making events, and I increased the amount of potatoes we’d process into lefse. My friends were willing to help, and it was clear we needed more ricers!

I bought a couple brand new ricers. They were not colorful, and I wasn’t happy with the newer models. One had aluminum handles that bent after a few attempts at ricing potatoes. The other had holes in the basket that were too small, which caused too much of the potato to be trapped and wasted. Grandma’s ricers worked best. If only I could find more like hers!

A rainbow of ricers.

Buying Binge

I started buying “old school” colorful ricers whenever I’d find them in antique stores (not often in Nebraska, a state practically devoid of Norwegians). Red ricers were still the most common followed by green. Then I found black and blue and beige, and over the years I’ve added orange, yellow, teal, and white! Most of the vintage ricers are similar in style to my Grandma’s, but there are two other vintage styles that I find less often. One is cast iron with narrower handles (for small hands), and the other has a thin area on the top handle over the basket.

As family and friends learned about my ricer collection, I started receiving ricers as gifts. I was accumulating so many ricers that I had to establish criteria for purchasing additional ricers. They needed to be a color I didn’t have, or they had to be marked at a price too good to pass up.

I have ricers hanging on my kitchen wall, on my basement shelves, and in a vintage aluminum bowl as a centerpiece. I have red ricers that are only used for lefse-making, ricers that I will part with as gifts, and ricers that I sell at The Lefse Shoppe. I have 50 ricers, including one recently sold and another recently purchased.

Life’s nicer with ricers — lots of them!

I love vintage items, but especially items that are still useful. To some, my ricers may be clutter, but not to me — not as long as they spark joy and loving memories. And not as long as they have a superior design and are more efficient than any modern ricer. What’s not to love?

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Grandma Skarstad’s Lefse Bakery

Grandma Skarstad, shown with the “lefse ladies,” is seated in the center of the front row.

If you lived in southeastern Minnesota or southwestern Wisconsin in the late 1950s and 1960s, you may have purchased “Skarstad’s Delicious Lefse” from local grocery stores. My Grandma, Thora Skarstad, had a lefse bakery in her home in Holmen, Wisconsin. She was quite the business woman during a time when women-owned businesses were uncommon. Neighbor ladies (we called them “lefse ladies”) were hired during the fall and winter busy times, since everyone wanted lefse for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Lefse season was in full swing!

As the demand for Grandma’s lefse increased, Grandpa, James Clarence Skarstad, remodeled their home to accommodate the lefse business, and he marketed the lefse to grocery stores. Grandma’s recipe is somewhat unique; it’s dairy-free, unlike most recipes with cream and butter in the dough. In the days before preservatives, dairy-free lefse most likely kept longer in the stores. She experimented with numerous varieties of potatoes before settling on russet potatoes for her lefse.

The lefse-making process for Grandma and the lefse ladies began with potato peeling. An electric peeler was rigged up for commercial use to grate the peelings off the potatoes using a disc of heavy sandpaper. During the busy season, the lefse ladies peeled an estimated 1,000 pounds of potatoes per week! Then potatoes were boiled, mashed (with a commercial masher), and cooled overnight before flour and other ingredients were added. Then came the best part: shaping the dough into balls followed by rolling and grilling — and tasting!

Grandma had coffee breaks often, to “test” the lefse and to share the goings-on of the day.

We lived out of town, but we’d visit Grandma and Grandpa for Christmas when the lefse bakery was in full swing. I have fond memories of the lefse ladies and the lefse bakery. Even though my sisters and I were young, the smell of lefse and boiling potatoes still lingers, especially during “lefse season!”

Becky Latka lives in Omaha, Nebraska, and owns The Lefse Shoppe, an online store that carries her book about Grandma Skarstad lefse bakery. Contact her at