Gary’s note: Last week, I was invited to what can only be described as a “lefsepalooza.” Typically, I’m invited to such events as a speaker or an author signing books, but to this one in Waconia, Minnesota, I went as a “civilian” lefse roller. All I had to do was make a double batch of dough, show up with some lefse-making equipment, and roll and roll and keep on rolling.
It was the funnest lefse event I’ve ever taken part in. I pause when I write this because lefse fests are all fun. But this one was special because it was all men, 30-some guys mostly 60-something in age. It was in a workshop/barn, and, predictably, there was the Vikings game on TV, plenty of beer, and a couple of aquavit breaks. These skol breaks included announcements, “humor,” and a goofy ceremony that included eye contact (tough for Scandinavians) with all other skollers before swallowing a mouthful of aquavit. The latrine was outside by the tractor (at least it was for me).
We had fun, but it was clear we were there, first and foremost, to make lefse and Swedish sausage for a good cause, which organizer Ross Hanson explains below. One table of workers mixed flour with dough and made ready-to-roll lefse pucks that were delivered to eight rolling stations next to the table of eight grills. You would call it a brawny, elbows-flying, sweat-beads-on-the-brow style of rolling that produced big, round, and see-through-thin lefse (usually) — and lots of it!
Well done, men! Merry Christmas, and see you next year!
Ross Hanson writes:
The making and selling of lefse and Swedish sausage was introduced in the early to mid-eighties as part of the Faith Lutheran Church Lucia festival in Waconia, Minnesota. (Let’s pick 1985 and see if anyone disputes the date.) This was a Christmas event held at Faith on a Saturday morning in December. The event was billed as a gift to the community and offered a Julebord of Scandinavian treats and coffee. Lefse was made at church during the event. The charter rollers were Faith members Scott Ellingson, Don Sommers, and John Jacobson. Their output was probably around three to four dozen sheets.
The sausage was also made by members but in the home of Keith Sjodin a day or two prior to the event. The charter sausage stuffers were Keith Sjodin, Gary Burau, Dave DeGrote, and Russ Heagle. The sausage recipe is an old family recipe from Mary Sjodin’s mom. Early records show their output was around 50 pounds.
The Lucia festival did not survive the test of time, but the demand for lefse and sausage prevailed. Today around 30 Lefse and Sausage guys convene on an evening in early December at my “barn” and produce around 700 sheets of lefse and 150 pounds of sausage.
The fellas cover all the expenses, and 100% of the sales goes to the Pastor’s Discretionary Fund at Faith Lutheran. The fund is an important ministry that enables our pastors to address the many times they come across someone who has hit a “speed bump” and needs just a little help to get back on track.
The Lefse and Sausage event offers an evening of camaraderie as well as good-natured teasing about the quality of the products. Toward the end of the evening, a little taste of heaven occurs when a chunk of the fried Swedish sausage is wrapped in a warm piece of lefse and eaten with a communal “Skol!” of aquavit. Aquavit is a Scandinavian beverage which literally translates to “water of life” — although many would argue that it actually means lighter fluid.