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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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Video: Krina Lefse Topping

Gary’s note: This is the final installment in Les Olsen’s three-part blog about krina lefse, a “very yummy” lefse, as Les puts it. The previous blogs (below) covered the tools for making the base krina-lefse round as well as the lore about krina lefse in Les’ family. This blog includes the topping recipe and a video on the fun application of the topping to the base round.

 

This is my family’s recipe for krina lefse topping:

2 eggs

1/2 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup milk

2 cups flour

Beat eggs until mixed. Add milk. Fold in cornstarch and sugar. Fold in 1-1/2 cups of flour. Then add just enough flour until when you pull a spoonful of topping out of the bowl, it will stretch and tear (see video). When the topping is thick and stringy, it will hold the pattern.

Take a round of krina lefse, place it on the countertop and place a large spoonful of topping on the lefse. With the spoon’s edge, spread the topping over the entire lefse round, all the way to the edges. If the edge is not covered, it will brown too fast.

Use the krina tool to scrape the excess topping off the lefse. Spread the topping in one direction, leaving only the ridges of topping.

Now use the krina tool to make the pattern in the topping. You can create your own pattern. We use my grandma’s pattern (see photo and video). I wonder how many pieces of lefse my grandma, mom, and I have finished with this pattern.

Between the krina lefse tool and the lefse turning stick is Les’ krina lefse topping pattern.

Place the lefse with topping on a baking sheet and put under the broiler. Set the broiler on low and the rack 6 inches below the broiling element. Here is the tricky part: Watch the lefse to make certain the topping turns only a light golden brown. This takes about 2 minutes under the broiler. Do not close the oven door. If you broil the topping too fast, it will bubble up off the lefse. Remove the round, and to keep it from curling, stack your rounds under flour sack towels and the heavy ¾-inch plywood (see video).

Final Preparations for Eating

You may wonder when you finally will get to eat krina lefse. Well, your stack of krina lefse will keep for months. After a few days the lefse will dry and harden.

When you are ready to eat krina lefse, run each round of lefse under warm water and place it between flour sack towels. DO NOT STACK. With a spray bottle, mist the lefse and towels every 5 to 10 minutes. The lefse will soften to an edible state in approximately 1 to 1-1/2 hours. At that point, butter the side without the topping, and apply cinnamon and sugar to taste. My cousins in Norway mix the butter, cinnamon, and sugar together and apply. Place the two pieces of prepared lefse together, topping sides out. Cut into wedges and serve.

Here is an alternative to cinnamon and sugar: In 1997 while in Norway, I visited a restaurant in Rognan where the heated krina lefse was served with melted brown cheese, sour cream, and butter. Very yummy!

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How to Make Krina Lefse & Flatbrød

Gary’s note: This is the second of three parts of Les Olsen’s fascinating blog about his family’s flatbrød and a very special type of lefse: krina lefse. Learn how to make it just in time for your Super Bowl gathering!

Krina lefse tool.

Krina lefse is named for the tool (see photo) used to put a pattern in the topping of the krina lefse. My father made this tool for his mother in the mid-1930s. Before then, I do not know what she used to make the pattern in the topping. Dad and I made several wooden krina tools almost two decades ago to give to the American nieces and nephews for Christmas. My wife’s 90-year old cousin had a wooden krina tool hanging on her wall in her kitchen. She knew what it was but had never used it. I purchased a manufactured krina tool in Norway in 1998 at the Husfliden (a store in Norway for handcrafts). It was made of brass with very deep ridges that left too much topping on the krina lefse and would not hold the pattern made by the tool in the topping.

Here is the easy recipe for making flatbrød, a thin cracker cooked on both sides, or the base for krina lefse, cooked on only one side with the topping put on the other side after cooling:

1/2 cup refrigerated butter—not softened

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 cups white flour

2 cups boiling water

In addition to the 2 cups white flour listed above, approximately 4 cups of white flour will be kneaded into the base after you add boiling water

Mix whole wheat and white flour in a large bowl. Cube butter and mix again.

Now the only hard part: Pour enough boiling water—about 2 cups—on the flour/butter mixture to moisten the flour and melt the butter. Mix with a spoon to moisten all of the flour/butter mix. Moisten so the base is “sticky” not soggy.

After the flour/butter mixture is moist, the butter is melted, and the base is cool enough to work with your hands, start kneading in approximately 4 cups of white flour, 1 cup at a time until the dough, when poked with your finger, returns to only a small dimple.

Ready to Roll

Roll the dough into a 3-inch-diameter log. Cut the log into 5/8-inch slices. Roll these slices into balls, about 2-inches in diameter, and place in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap to keep from drying out, and put balls in the refrigerator. This amount of dough will make approximately 30 rounds.

Before rolling flatbrød or the base for krina lefse, hand flatten each ball on a pastry board sprinkled with about 3/4 of a tablespoon of flour on the center 4 inches of the board. Flour both sides of each flattened ball.

You are ready to roll either flatbrød or the base for krina lefse.

Flatbrd

When rolling flatbrød, roll the flattened ball into a 14-inch diameter round, thin enough to nearly see through to the pastry cloth. Lift the rolled dough from the pastry board with a lefse stick, place it on 400+-degree griddle, and brown both sides. Put the baked flatbrød in a 170-degree oven for 2+ hours to make it very crisp. Then spread with butter and enjoy.

A stack of flatbrød in the oven.

You can eat flatbrød with dinner, soup, or as a snack. My grandma made mountains of flatbrød at Christmas. During the Christmas season at our house, our daughter’s first stop is to check the oven where we store the flatbrød. And now her 4-year-old daughter is asking for flatbrød with butter.

Krina Lefse

When rolling krina lefse, roll the flattened ball until until the round is about 11 inches in diameter. My cousin taught me to use a 10-inch (or larger) stock pot lid to cut the lefse perfectly round after rolling and before placing on the griddle.

I should note that when rolling the krina lefse, my grandma and mom never cut the lefse with a stock pot lid. When they fixed krina lefse for serving to family and friends, they hand trimmed the rounds to make them round. The trimmings were what the kids got to fill up on; the good stuff was served to guests. Of course, the kids also were allowed a piece of the good stuff.

Bake the round on the 400+-degree griddle until tiny bubbles form on the lefse. DO NOT FLIP THE ROUND. Remove from the griddle and stack between two ¾ x 12 x 12-inch plywood boards wrapped in white flour-sack towels. This keeps the lefse from drying out too quickly and curling.

A stack of krina lefse ready for topping.

Next blog: Video showing how to make and apply the tasty topping for krina lefse.

 

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My Story of Krina Lefse and Flatbrød

Gary’s note: Everyone has a lefse story, and this is Leslie Olsen’s. This blog is the first of a thorough, three-part look at Leslie’s family, their rolling pins, their flatbrød, and their krina lefse. You are probably familiar with the simple-yet-delicious flatbrød, but you may not know about krina lefse, which is as yummy of a treat as you could desire. The lefse rolling pin Leslie describes here is unique in that it tapers at the ends. It was carried from Norway by his grandmother.

My paternal grandparents came from the Lurøy community, west of Mo I Rana, Norway, to Anacortes, Washington, between 1905 and 1910. They were married in the Anacortes Lutheran Church on December 27, 1910.

My grandmother brought a lefse rolling pin with her, made by her father who had the only treadle lathe in the area. The rolling pin measures 26-1/2 inches tip of handle to tip of handle. The rolling area is 17 inches, and it is 2-3/4 inches in diameter in the middle, tapering to 2-1/2 inches in diameter at the ends. The handles are integral fixed and are as smooth as silk, after many loving hours rolling flatbrød and lefse. It intriguing to me how the longitudinal grooves were cut.

My mother married into the Olsen family on New Year’s Eve of 1940 at the Anacortes Lutheran Church Parsonage. In the early 1950s, my mother (of Scotch-Irish and German descent) diligently measured her mother-in-law’s “dump-and-pour”recipe to create a measured recipe that produced yummy lefse and flatbrød every time. This recipe was passed on to her sons. Grandma had seven children. Of those children and their spouses, only my mother learned the traditional baking of the Norwegian Christmas goodies: krina lefse, potatokake, flatbrød, fattigmann, krumkake, and gomme. It wasn’t until I spoke with members of the Daughters of Norway in Olympia, Washington, in the 1980s that I was told krina lefse is named for the tool that makes the pattern in the topping.

My grandmother’s and parent’s homes were a stone’s throw apart. Grandma always kept the rolling pin in her dresser drawer, wrapped in a pillowcase. At Christmas in 1976, Grandma told Mom to keep the rolling pin at her house. Mom said, “No, Momma. You take it back to your house.” That was the last time the rolling pin was ever seen or used by Mom. Grandma moved into a nursing home at Easter 1977. She was 84 years old the last time she rolled flatbrød and krina lefse with that rolling pin.

The rolling pin we have now (pictured) is a duplicate of Grandma’s rolling pin, also make by her father. I found it in my grandmother’s childhood home (Aas hjem) in Norway while visiting there with my parents in 1998. My cousin, Jergen, who was living in the house, said, “Yes, you take it home. No one here will use it. I buy my lefse.”

So, like Grandma nearly 90 years earlier, I wrapped it, placed it in my suitcase, and brought it to America. Before we left Norway, I made flatbrød for my cousins in the northern part of the country and also south of Oslo. As far I know, they have been making flatbrød at Christmas ever since.

Upon inspection of the rolling pin, I found it be to be inhabited by powderpost beetles. When I got home, the rolling pin spent 24 hours in the oven at 200 degrees, hopefully killing any living critters. Have we eaten some dead beetle bodies? Well, that would be a small price to pay to have such a priceless heirloom.

Next blog: How to make krina lefse and flatbrød.

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Lefse-Wrap Recipe for the Big Game

Hamlet and a Pickle, the simple-yet-savory lefse wrap that’ll wow Big Game partygoers.

It’s party time!

As we approach the February 4th Super Bowl with NFC and AFC Championship games this weekend, think about taking to your extravagant football parties one of the 13 lefse wraps in Keep On Rolling! Life on the Lefse Trail and Learning to Get a Round.

Just as I can guarantee a Minnesota Vikings victory, I can also guarantee your lefse wraps will be the talk of the table because:

  • Everyone loves a tasty wrap. It’s fun finger food, and you don’t fill up on a lot of carbs—just the savory combinations inside.
  • A lefse wrap is the tastiest of all wraps. Most other types of wraps have wrappings with no taste—zilch. But velvety, toasty, potato-y lefse adds to the texture and the ensemble of flavors. Plus, lefse is pretty with its brown spots and freckles against a golden background.

So forget all the same-old, same-old dishes you’ll find at typical football feasts. Wow revelers with this simple, can’t miss lefse-wrap:

Hamlet and a Pickle

  • Danish ham-and-cheese lefse wrap
  • 4 tablespoons stone-ground mustard
  • 1 pound thinly sliced Danish ham
  • ¾ pound thinly sliced Havarti cheese
  • 8 crisp kosher dill pickle spears

Spread 4 lefse rounds with stone-ground mustard. Cover lefse with a layer of ham, and then cover with a layer of cheese. Lay two pickle spears across the diameter of each lefse. Roll up lefse and cut into pinwheels.

Enjoy, and enjoy the games. Skol Vikes!

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From the Lefse-Fest Front

The latest lefse from Connie Bastyr’s lefse fest.

If you want an executive summary of our annual lefse fest, here it is:

  • One griddle
  • Two rolling boards
  • Seven people (one non-Scandinavian)
  • 19 potatoes
  • 40 lovely lefse
  • Thanks to our Lefse Leader: Gary Legwold!!!

For those who want to savor the full report, read on.

It doesn’t really take seven adults to make a batch of lefse this lovely. One experienced lefse maker could do it. But what’s the fun in that?

On a Saturday evening each December for nearly a decade now, my mother, her three daughters, and the sons-in-law share a dinner. Then we all roll lefse while watching the Christmas classic Elf. The movie is so familiar that we can focus completely on getting perfect rounds of Potato Heaven — and we never forget to turn the lefse at the right moment. Well, except during the scene where Buddy the Elf is testing the Jack-in-the-Box toys. Cracks us up every time.

But like Papa Elf’s story about Buddy, this lefse-fest tale needs to go back a few years to its beginning.

Limited Edition Lefse

With two Norwegian grandmas, kids in my family grew up appreciating lefse as a “Limited Edition” treat. It was in short supply, and its fans were not. We watched it being made, but the skill didn’t transfer to us that easily. As adults, we resorted to — brace yourself — grocery-store lefse for our fix. I know. It wasn’t the same, but we adapted in order to survive.

In 1998, brother-in-law Dennis obtained a “fool-proof” lefse recipe from a coworker and bought equipment and supplies. We dusted off a couple of lefse-turning sticks, which had served as kitchen-wall décor, and everyone brought lefse stuff to our family Christmas vacation, where we could devote time to lefse making.

With great enthusiasm and 10 pounds of potatoes, we made the most durable-looking stack of pancake-thick potato slabs you ever saw. It qualified as “potato jerky,” as author Gary Legwold once labeled his own first lefse.

So it was back to the drawing board … and the grocery store.

Lefse Class

Our family’s lefse luck changed a decade ago when Gary became my office coworker. His reputation as a lefse legend preceded him, and when I learned about his sideline of teaching the art of mixing dough and rolling dinner-plate-size lefse rounds, I recruited him to coach our family.

Six of us, including Dennis, attended Gary’s evening class. Dennis had recovered from the Potato Fail of ’98 and was ready to tackle the taters again. That year for Christmas, Dennis asked Santa for a real lefse griddle and a ribbed rolling pin.

We learned to make real lefse, and ever since that class Dennis has spearheaded our annual lefse fest. I have to say that each year our lefse is more round and delicate and melt-in-your-mouth perfect than the year before. Our grandmas would be so proud, and I think Gary might even feel a bit like a pleased Papa Elf himself.

Connie Bastyr is a former editor of Handy Magazine and a lefse aficionado from Minnetonka, Minnesota.

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2nd Best Lefse-Making Tip

Can switching to King Arthur Flour make much of a difference with lefse?

One of the joys of the marketplace is listening to customers. It’s gratifying to hear praise for my books, and it’s a joy to keep learning from other aficionados about the art of making lefse.

Example: When I was selling my books at the Linden Hills Holiday Market in Minneapolis in November, I had the pleasure of meeting Rev. Charles Colberg of Minneapolis, who gave me two tips that have pleased my feet and especially the consumers of my lefse.

First, Rev. Colberg turned me on to Darn Tough socks, which are unconditionally guaranteed for life. Can’t kick about that guarantee, so I asked for and received a pair for Christmas. I love the fit, feel, and warmth.

The second tip from Rev. Colberg has lifted my lefse to the next level — and I already made very good lefse. The tip: Switch to King Arthur Flour.

This tip was so simple that I pooh-poohed it initially. After all, flour is flour, right? Well, no, as I discovered. There are reasons why King Arthur Flour is twice as expensive as the flour I have been buying. It is never bleached and has a protein content (gluten) that is carefully calibrated so that you have the same results every time you bake.

I was not put off by the price. I will pay what is asked if it makes my lefse better. And it did. When I rolled lefse for customers in the week before Christmas and for the Christmas Eve family gathering, my dough was velvety but tender. And my rounds were round with edges that were reliably smooth and not ragged. Same recipe I’ve always used but different flour.

So that is my tip: Switch to King Arthur Flour. It is arguably the second best tip I can offer lefse makers striving to improve. My best tip? It’s not mine but a tip from Bonnie Jacobs, who owns Jacobs Lefse Bakeri in Osakis, Minnesota. “Here’s my best advice on trying to make perfectly round lefse,” Bonnie told me in Keep On Rolling. “Do it more than once a year.”

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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 BeckyL513@gmail.com.

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Keep On Rolling Lefse 4 Sale!

After years of writing about lefse and teaching lefse classes and, upon occasion, selling lefse to friends for special events, I have decided to hang my shingle and sell Keep On Rolling Lefse!

I hang my shingle knowing my limits. Keep On Rolling Lefse will not be big enough — it’s just my daughter, Kate McIntosh, and me — to compete with the six commercial lefse makers I chronicle in Keep On Rolling! The big factories ship just about anywhere and make enough to supply grocery chains and church dinners. We cannot. We’re for the local Twin Cities individual market; we can ship if you are willing to pay the two-day shipping cost.

But our advantage is Keep On Rolling Lefse is fresh and made to order. Just tell us how many rounds you want and the pick-up date, and the lefse will be rolled and grilled on the pick-up date or the day before. Lefse is so much better when it is fresh! If your order is so large that it requires filling with some frozen lefse, your cost is lowered. That’s a fair deal. And we can do lefse-wrap lefse rolled at a thickness that’s perfect for the juicy ingredients of lefse wraps.

So give Keep On Rolling Lefse a try. Tis the season!

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The Meaning of a Lefse Apron

Check out this wonderful podcast and try to keep a dry eye as Erna McGuire talks about what her lefse apron means to her.

In the bridge of the lefse song “Keep On Rollin’”, which I co-wrote with Erik Sherburne, the lyrics are:

A lefse maker I once knew/She said “Here is what you do/

When in a storm/Just let your faith take form/

Keep on a rollin’/The sun will shine anew/

So stand tall, be true/Stay strong, be you!”

I came upon this story called “Lefse Apron.”

It’s an excerpt from “New Land, New Life,” produced by the St. Paul Sons of Norway Lodge, Synnøve Nordkap. Members shared stories about their Norwegian ancestry. Erna McGuire embodies the faith, gratitude, strength, and resilience that are often fundamental to our elder lefse makers.

As you make your lefse for Thanksgiving, listen to this podcast. Oh, it’s OK if tears fall upon your lefse.