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8 Unconventional Tips for Making Purple Lefse

Vitelotte Noir potatoes that have been cooked and made ready for purple lefse dough.

Gary’s note: The previous blog on purple lefse makes it clear that Canadian Chuck Hays dances to a different drummer than most lefse makers. I like that, and I really like how Chuck brings his individuality to lefse making with these eight “outside the box” tips he uses with this recipe:

3 cups potato

4 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

¼ to 3/8 cup milk, depending on how dry potatoes are

1 ¼ cups flour, or as needed

Steam rather than boil potatoes.

1. Steam the Vitelotte Noir potatoes whole in their jackets. Scrub them well and put them in a steamer pan over boiling water until they test done. This takes a little longer than boiling them, but they don’t soak up as much water. BTW, those five potatoes pictured above made enough ground spuds for 1 2/3 batches using my recipe. Consider the lefse from the extra 2/3 of a batch to be a bonus blessing from the Lefse Goddess.

Grind rather than mash and rice potatoes.

2. Don’t mash the unpeeled spuds; that can be an exercise in frustration. Run the hot potatoes through a meat grinder using a small plate (1/8-inch holes), jackets and all.

3. Cool — don’t chill — potatoes. I’ve lately joined the “No Chill” movement. Hey, with purple lefse I’m already going across the grain on tradition, so I might as well go all in. I’ve found cooling but not chilling potatoes makes good lefse and cuts down on the time commitment. Anything that makes me willing to make lefse more often is good.

4. Try olive oil. Doubters may ask about my recipe: “What part of Norway did that olive oil come from?” For many years I was a practicing vegetarian, vegan denomination. I respect that worldview, but I’m really an omnivore. Olive oil let me keep making lefse even when some of the ingredients were off-limits under the rules of the game. I’ve kept using olive oil because I like it, it adds a nice flavour, and the lefse is a little softer. BTW, I used to replace milk with soy milk. It wasn’t bad but definitely a compromise. I’m back to using milk, but it’s good to know soy milk works. Use it if it makes sense to you.

Work flour into potatoes with a pastry cutter.

5. Don’t knead. Work the flour in with a pastry cutter. This keeps the dough softer, without allowing for the ultimate gluten development.

Roll without using a sock on the rolling pin.

6. Don’t use a sock on the rolling pin. Occasionally, I get a piece of potato stuck in the pin, so I stop and pick it out. That’s how I roll. For one round, make a lump of cooled-not-chilled dough about the size of a tangerine, and roll it out on a board covered with a floured cloth. Turn the round two or three times.

Place a heat reflector beneath your 500F grill.

7. Use a heat reflector. I place an old piece of countertop on the stove under my griddle. I suspect that the wood keeps heat radiating from the 500F griddle from being conducted away by the metal stove. Because of this, the griddle stays hot without having to cycle the thermostat as much (or at least it seems so to me).

Stack your purple lefse between towels for cooling.

8. Stack your lefse rounds between towels and let the the rounds cool there before packaging. My recipe makes 8 to 10 rounds. That’s enough for two lefse lovers to have two rounds with supper, two with butter and sugar for dessert, and some rounds left for scrambled-egg-and-bacon lefse wraps for breakfast. And yeah, for the most part I’ve learned to make round lefse instead of lefse that looks like the shape of Alberta.

Praise for Purple Lefse

Before closing, I want to circle back to my lefse roots that I mentioned in my first blog. My mother eventually came around to making potato lefse about the time I graduated from high school. I was pretty much out of the house by then, so I didn’t have a “roll model.” I had to go through the “lefse jerky” stage and make lots of “lømpe” before I discovered The Last Word on Lefse and became a convert. Don and Judy Fearn of Rochester, Minnesota, have been remarkably patient with me, kindly coaching me to make lefse “from the inside out” and all the while letting me think I knew it all already.

Those of us who grew up around Scandinavians understand that praise can be a little muted. Sometimes it’s better that way, and sometimes the muted praise isn’t muted at all when you really listen and are able to translate correctly. One of my Norwegian friends rolled a round of my purple lefse with butter and sugar, shrugged, and took a bite. “Yah, y’know,” he said looking me in the eye, “it doesn’t taste purple.”

Pretty high praise!

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Purple Lefse??


Is it possible to add more passion to your life? Try purple lefse.


When I was a kid in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, I thought I knew what lefse was. In my family, lefse was Vestlandslefse — hard, cracker like, dry. Not a speck of potato in it. When Mom would wet this lefse and let it soften between towels for a few minutes, I ate it and loved it.

Years later as an adult, I went looking for lefse in a grocery store and found Mrs. Olson’s in the cooler. I took it home and tried it.

“Huh? What the heck is this?” I thought.

I called Mom. “Oh, yeah, well there’s our lefse,” she explained, “and then people in the Midwest make it with potatoes.”

So I came to believe that a world with two kinds of lefse was a pretty good place.

Fast forward a few decades, and I make much more potato lefse than Vestlandslefse or Hardanger lefse. And courtesy of Gary Legwold and his lefse books, I know there are many more than just two kinds of lefse.

Not only am I a lefse maker, but I am also a journalism professor at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, British Columbia, and an organic farmer who has carried on a lifelong love affair with the potato. I believe that making just one kind of lefse doesn’t really account for the incredible diversity in potatoes. We grow heirloom potatoes, so why not experiment?

The Spud

What makes a good lefse potato? It is not waxy, it can be boiled or steamed, and it will be dry — not gummy — when mashed. And of course, it has good potato flavour.

The incomparable potato, the Vitelotte Noir!

One of our varieties is Vitelotte Noir, a dark purple potato with a really intense potato flavour. Vitelotte Noir is a smallish to medium, usually very knobby spud. It’s genetically very close to some of the historic varieties grown in the Andes. I like to say it has a face only another potato could love.

The Vitelotte Noir contains the anti-oxidant anthocyanin that gives this spud its unique color.

Inside the skin, we can see the high concentration of the anti-oxidant anthocyanin that makes the potato appear purple and even blue.

My basic lefse recipe is not too out of line, so I’ll put that up first for those who know how to make lefse. But in my next blog, I’ll write about my untraditional techniques, tools (meat grinder), and ingredients (olive oil) I use to make lefse-making less work and the lefse itself more delicious.

3 cups potato

4 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

¼-3/8 cup milk, depending on how dry the potatoes are

1 ¼ cup flour, or as needed

Stir together the first five ingredients, then use a pastry cutter to mix in the flour. After that, it’s the standard lefse-making procedure of rolling out dough on a floured cloth and baking it on a griddle at 500F.