Posted on

Largest Lefse Crowd Ever!?

Not only was this the largest crowd to ever watch lefse being made, but also the folks were smiling — smiling Scandinavians!? — as they watched Norsk Hostfest celebrities try to make lefse.

I write my 2018 Norsk Hostfest report from Paris, France, where I am vacationing. Writer friend Tim Brady asked if I was hanging out on the Lefse Bank. His wit is unparalleled, but so far I have not found lefse. However, I can hold on until the end of the week when I head to Norway.

Finding lefse was not a problem last week when I sold books and lefse-lutefisk stuff at the Norsk Hostfest in Minot, North Dakota. Gotta say that of all the attractions — the scads of excellent comedy and musical acts (mostly free) as well as the endless shopping — the most attractive thing to see was the sea of Scandinavians who were actually smiling! I swear — and some were laughing! They’d come to my table looking grumpy, but then they’d brighten when they saw my lefse and lutefisk books. That made me feel good.

Lefse Masters Competition

This smiling stuff got out of hand during the Lefse Masters Celebrity Competition, featuring Daniel O’Donnell, Williams & Ree, and The Texas Tenors. I was to serve as a judge. The competition started at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday on the stage of Stockholm Hall. I was a bit late getting there, and as I walked into Stockholm Hall, the room was charged and laughter was directed at the stage, which I could not see. I was confused why so many people were spilling from the stage area into the vendor aisles and up the stairs to what is the Lefse Mezzanine, where the Lefse Masters is held throughout the week for the non-celebs. But as I wove my way through the crowd, it became clear folks were there to watch the celebs roll and grill lefse. I was to sit at the judges’ table front and center and observe the skills and techniques of the contestants.

I was among the three lefse judges front and center as the celebrities — Daniel O’Donnell, Williams & Ree, and The Texas Tenors — fumbled and yukked their way through the lefse-making competition. The Texas Tenors on the right were the winners. Judges were from left Miss Norsk Hostfest 2018 Lily Bonebrake, me, and Jane Grunseth, who was too shocked by the antics onstage to turn for the photo.

Don’t Let That Smoke Bother You

The only problem was it was difficult to discern dexterity with the rolling pin or turning stick with all the smoke rising from the grills. Daniel O’Donnell, poor lad, was the chief culprit. His grill was smoking like a chimney, and lefse was burning so badly that he finally just chucked a charred lefse offstage. But he atoned for himself by rushing to the microphone and singing a lovely “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” — subbing new lyrics that included “my lefse is a burnin’.”

Daniel O’Donnell was very intent on making a winning round of lefse, but he often became distracted by smoke rising from his grill. Once he threw his burned lefse offstage, and then broke out into his beautiful tenor voice singing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”.

Round? What Is Round, Exactly?

It seemed that the lefse’s shape was of secondary concern to the contestants. The irrepressible Terry Ree had to point out that the lefse rolled by The Texas Tenors was looking like the shape of the state Texas and — whoops — “they just lost the panhandle, folks.” His partner, Bruce Williams, was largely silent but slipped into some sexual rolling when Ree demanded that he roll “faster” and “not so hard.” Which caused a confused Daniel O’Donnell to ask, “What kind of show are we doing here?”

Bruce Williams, half of the comedy team of Williams & Ree, rolled lefse in spite of the wacky comments from his partner Terry Ree. For my book Keep On Rolling!, I interviewed Williams about using lefse in his act.

Judge This

The judging was difficult between Daniel O’Donnell and The Texas Tenors, with TTT coming out on top with a pretty nice lefse. Williams & Ree? They submitted a lefse that looked like it had been used to clean a cannon.

All good fun, good enough to make the Scandies smile.

Yes, Lutefisk Lip Balm!

My last day at the Hostfest I was relieved to discover the lutefisk lip balm. Cost was $2 on sale at a store outside the Great Hall, where all the big-name acts appear. I was disappointed that the lutefisk lip balm did not smell or taste like lutefisk. I mean, I like lutefisk and would have considerd it a bold move had the makers of this balm gone for the real deal rather than a vanilla bean flavor. The label said of this lip balm: “It will put the fear of cod in you.” Vanilla bean does instill any fear. We can do better than this!

That’s right, lutefisk lip balm. Only at the Norse Hostfest!

Hand-Painted Lefse Rolling Pins

The lefse makers who were judged to have made lefse so good that they placed first, second, or third in Hostfest’s Lefse Masters lefse-making competition earned a cash prize of $200, $100, and $50 plus lefse rolling pins that are adorned by a rose medallion painter. Very cool awards that will undoubtedly be passed down for generations to come.

The winners of the Lefse Masters lefse-making competition earned as a prize these hand-painted rolling pins.

Here’s to Ron Garcia!

Ron Garcia jokes that during the Norsk Hostfest he is “Norwegian for a week.” Works for me. He is the hall crier, the man who without aid of a microphone or megaphone bellows to those in Helsinki Hall, where the Author’s Corner is, that the hall will open or close in 10 minutes or that the hall is now open or closed for business. Then he sets the tone as the day begins with, “Have a great day, everyone!”

Ron is a Hostfest original and one of the most endearing men you’ll meet in Minot. Frankly, he is one of the reasons I return year after year. See you in 2019, Ron!

Ron Garcia and I before the opening of the last day of the 2018 Norsk Hostfest.
Posted on

World’s Largest Lefse Maker Dies

Larry Kittelson rolling the World’s Largest Lefse on a hay wagon in Starbuck, Minnesota, in 1983.

Blaine Pederson emailed from Starbuck, Minnesota, last week that Larry Kittelson had died unexpectedly at age 80. When I researched The Last Word on Lefse in 1992, I interviewed six of The Boys of Starbuck, as I called this group nine men who came up with a goofy idea for Starbuck’s first Heritage Days in 1983: Make a lefse so big that it would go into the Norwegian Schibsted Book of Records.

Larry Kittelson could not make it to Gordy’s Cafe for the group interview back in 1992, and I regretted not meeting this baker who had owned the Pastry Shoppe. Larry made the dough for the World’s Largest Lefse — and then reformulated it at the 11th hour when a trial run had failed. Larry was key because, as all lefse makers know, if you don’t have the dough, there ain’t no show.

When I researched Keep On Rolling! in 2017I was sad to learn that all The Boys had died, all except Larry. So it was a joy to finally meet him and ask him to tell me the story, for old time’s sake, of the making of the nine-foot, eight-inch monster lefse. Here is a portion of the interview, which you can read in entirety in Keep on Rolling!:

Legwold: The dough for this monster lefse was made up of 30 pounds of potatoes, right?

Larry: Right, instant potatoes. Potato Buds. We also used flour (35 pounds), sugar (1 pound), powdered milk (1 pound), and shortening (4 pounds).

Legwold: In the week before the actual event, you had two practice times. Why?

Larry: We didn’t want to look like idiots. We put plywood on a hayrack and covered the plywood with a sheet. The first practice night, we rolled with regular 3-foot-long pins from the bakery. And when we had the lefse all rolled out, we put it on the big roller. When we hauled it over to the grill, it fell apart. We tried it on a second practice night and added puff-paste shortening used to make apple turnovers. It helped hold the dough together. We chilled the dough well, and used more charcoal to get more heat under the grill. So the second practice went better. We didn’t do another trial with the puff-paste shortening in the dough. It was like, “This here will work or else.” I figured it would work on the day of the event, and it worked like a charm.

Legwold: How thin was the world-record lefse?

Larry: About as thin as that napkin there. It wasn’t thick by any means, like the thickness of two normal lefse stacked on top of each other.

Legwold: Did it bubble up on the grill?

Larry: Yep, just like regular lefse.

Legwold: After you accomplished the feat of making the record lefse, why not quit? Why did you try again right away—especially when that second one fell apart?

Larry: I made a batch twice the amount we needed, and I wanted to use up the damn dough. I didn’t want to waste the rest of the batch. That second time didn’t work as good, but luck was on our side with the first one.

Legwold: Other towns like Clarkfield and Madison [both in Minnesota] called for information on how to beat your record, right? What did you say to them?

Larry: An outfit from Washington state also called, and they wanted to try to break our record. I think I even gave them my recipe. I don’t remember. I probably didn’t give them the secret about the puff paste (laughs).

Legwold: Did this event put Starbuck on the map?

Larry: It sure did for a while. It really helped. You know, anything a small town can do nowadays to get itself on the map helps. We had the World’s Largest Lefse and Heritage Days in 1983, and Lefse Dagen started in 1987. That record lefse brings a lot of people to town. It gives us some bragging rights.

Larry Kittleson, who came up with the recipe and rolled the World’s Largest Lefse in 1983, has passed.

Larry, you were a fine man, a civic leader, and a good baker who brought joy to many who enjoy a tasty treat with coffee. You were also a lefse maker who made lefse history — big time — and someone who I will always remember fondly.

Posted on

Lefse Hall of Fame for Mary Lou Peterson!

Mary Lou Peterson, first to finish the Let’s Make Lefse Jigsaw Puzzle and first puzzler to become a member of the Lefse Hall of Fame!

You can read it in the breathless style of writing and focus that Mary Lou Peterson uses when she describes being the first person to put together the 504-piece Let’s Make Lefse! Jigsaw Puzzle. “I saw the lefse puzzle and knew immediately that I needed to have it,” wrote Mary Lou from Minnetonka, Minnesota.

I can only imagine what she was thinking during this dramatic moment in history. Observing her sketchy writing style, I thought that perhaps she sensed she was on the precipice of making lefse history and was rushing to be the first finisher of the lefse puzzle and therefore the first puzzler to enter the Lefse Hall of Fame. And yet she kept her wits about her and jotted notes, knowing that all in Lefse Land would be begging for details once the word spread.

History will mark Mary Lou as a gamer. She had the right stuff, that obsessive drive that causes all jigsaw joy seekers to stay up late and get up early so that they can find the proper home for every last piece of the puzzle. As a nurse who has years of experience dealing with life-and-death situations, she knew she had to be steady and levelheaded under immense pressure to finish this puzzle before anyone else in Lefse Land. She knew she had to keep her eye on the prize and not be distracted by the ballyhoo and big bucks that would come with entering the Lefse Hall of Fame. Steady, Mary Lou, steady …

For the record, Mary Lou and family finished the Let’s Make Lefse Jigsaw Puzzle on August 20, 2018, and posted a photo of her prize puzzle on Facebook with a note that modestly said, “Done….”

Mary Lou Peterson’s completed puzzle that earned her a place in the Lefse Hall of Fame.

Well done, Mary Lou! Here’s to you and your spot in history!

And here are Mary Lou’s notes that will be recorded in the Lefse Hall of Fame:

 

I saw the lefse puzzle and knew immediately that I needed to have it. The puzzle boxes, two extra for Christmas, arrived….

I cleared the dining table, emptied the bag that held the pieces … stood back … which part to do first??

I had a slow start. I had not done a puzzle for years. It took a plan….

I separated the colors, the stripes, and the edge pieces. Then I started … a bit slow at first….

I recruited my daughter, Kara Peterson. My husband, Craig Peterson, came by and was help….

Kara Peterson, puzzler, and Craig Peterson, puzzler and parent. Part of the historic team!

It took several days … a few minutes at a time as I passed the table where the puzzle was being assembled. The big lefse done … it got easier and edges were completed … the arms and hands … the lefse turner’s….

Kara commented how it was tricky that the hands were in three places and that there was all this blue in the puzzle. Craig worked on the stove in the puzzle’s background. He has a good eye and had that section completed pretty quickly.

Finally, it all came together — and finished!

Then I grabbed the phone for a picture and posted on FB.

The puzzle was great fun.

Click here to purchase the puzzle.

Posted on

State Fair Hangover: Lefse Beer & 2,000 Lefse!

At the Minnesota State Fair, I chased down my first sip of Uffda Ale with a bite of a Lefse Chip. The beer is made with lingonberries and lefse. Lefse and Lefse Chips are supplied by Norsland Lefse.

The Minnesota State Fair set the total attendance record this year with 2,046,533 visitors, about 50,000 more than what was the record last year. There were several contributing factors (good weather, good economy), but the biggest reason for the new record was the introduction of the lefse beer called Uffda Ale. Fer sure!

Uffda Ale is a new brew made by Beaver Island Brewing, and it was sold at Giggles’ Campfire Grill at the southeast corner of Lee Avenue and Cooper Street, at the North Woods. Frankly, I had my doubts about this beer, that it would turn out to be a gimmicky embarrassment to all of us who honor all things lefse. But it wasn’t! It was actually a good, smooth beer that went down easily and benefitted from the zing of a handful of added lingonberries. And the Lefse Chip (a strip of fried, salted lefse) was a tasty touch.

As I stood in line for my Uffda Ale at Giggles’, I observed that about half of those walking away with a beer in their hand were carrying the Uffda Ale with the Lefse Chip on top. Hmmm … .

The day I attended, there were 270,426 visitors, which set the one-day attendance record. Is it too much of a stretch to say that 135,213 (half) of them were there because they had heard of this new lefse beer and just had to try it? Fer sure!

That’s a Lotta Lefse

I popped in on Joanne Ranum, left, and Bonnie Jacobs of Jacobs Lefse Bakeri & Gifts at the Fair. Joanne held a really good lefse book that caught my eye.

After I enjoyed my first Uffda Ale made with lefse, I just had to visit my friends at the Jacobs Lefse Bakeri & Gifts booth. They were selling all things lefse and some almond cookies that are so good they make you want to find a quiet corner and eat all six in the bag. They were also selling my two lefse books; Jacobs is featured in both.

Perhaps inspired by the Uffda Ale, I held up my latest book, Keep on Rolling!and said in a very loud voice, “Boy, this sure looks like a great book!” Bonnie turned from making a lefse rollup. She didn’t recognize me and turned back to her work, probably thinking I was a kook. Joanne immediately recognized me and smiled as she approached. Bonnie then came over, and we all talked and took a photo.

Before leaving, I asked Bonnie how many lefse rounds Jacobs sells a day at the Fair.

“Oh, I don’t know, about 2,000,” she said.

Amazing! I’m glad that Jacobs has been at the Fair for the last 18 years keeping the lefse tradition alive.

 

 

Posted on

The “Let’s Make Lefse!” Jigsaw Puzzle

Oh, for fun! The new “Let’s Make Lefse!” 504-piece jigsaw puzzle is a must for lefse aficionados.

When you’re flummoxed by life, make lefse. It’ll calm you down and help you figure things out — or at least help to put the problem aside so you can come back to it fresh.

Jigsaw puzzles are also calming. When you start one, you ease into a meditation that can turn into a fun obsession. Time slips away as you deliberately test your eye and memory. With so many pieces of the puzzle, it can seem overwhelming. So you shoot for small victories. You celebrate a corner piece, the establishment of your border, the coupling of that sneaky, amoeba-shaped piece that has tricked and eluded you for hours.

With lefse making and jigsaw puzzles, you can easily slip into a blissful time when your mind is devoted to just … one … thing.

Lefse and Jigsaw Puzzles

Every Christmas I make lefse, of course, but I also give Jane Legwold, my wife, a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. She loves them, staying up late and rising early until the puzzle is done. She pulls in me, the kids, and the grandkids, and finishing this thing — fueled by lefse and tea — becomes the Christmas Quest.

As Jane and I teamed up on last Christmas season’s obstinate puzzle, I said jokingly to her that there should be a lefse jigsaw puzzle. She sorta shrugged but didn’t dismiss the idea. However, the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of a unique puzzle —a lefse jigsaw puzzle! — that helps the whole family learn about lefse equipment and some of the steps in making lefse. Very cool!

I compiled four colorful-yet-instructive lefse-making photos, and had a 504-piece sample puzzle made. Jane, accustomed to solving 1,000-piece puzzles, sniffed at the “Let’s Make Lefse!” puzzle, perhaps thinking this little thing would be a snap.

Colorful, unique, and instructive, the “Let’s Make Lefse!” jigsaw puzzle will challenge you … but not too much!

Well, it wasn’t and it earned her praise, which is high praise indeed. The rest of the family is less hardcore, so we liked that the 504-piece puzzle was challenging yet not overpowering. Most of all, we liked that the “Let’s Make Lefse!” puzzle — just like lefse making — was unusual, pretty, fun to do, and brought the whole family together.

And that’s how it happened that the one and only “Let’s Make Lefse!” puzzle is now for sale at www.lefseking.com. Check it out.

 

 

Posted on

Building a Deck With Lefse in Mind

Deck building, like lefse making, causes a mess. But in both cases, good things await.

You may have noticed I took a break from blogging and The Lefse & Lutefisk News for the last month. Two reasons:

First, it’s the low lefse season, and all’s quiet on the lefse front. After all, making lefse in a hammock is pretty tricky.

Second, my son, Ben Legwold, his future father-in-law, Kou Vang, and I just finished a 16’ x 20’ deck that attaches to his new house here in the Twin Cities. It was the first deck for all of us, and it turned out great. From time to time my thoughts turned to the similarities between deck building and lefse making, of course, and here are my top five:

  1. Deck building and lefse making are best when done with others. The buddy system works. When you tire or get discouraged, your partners can pick you up. Also, your strengths tend to complement their strengths. In lefse making, one may like making dough while the others like rolling and grilling. With deck building, I could get bogged down with overthinking square and level and meeting code. But Ben and Kou would keep us moving with their intuitive style.
  2. You can do anything with the right tools. Since I was my son’s age, I have been building up tools for projects I would do at my houses. I am glad I have had them, and I threw all my tools—and a couple of new ones I didn’t know existed—at this deck project. Early on, my dilemma was: Do I pay for tools and risk making a royal mess of things out of ignorance and lack of confidence, or do I just use the money to hire a professional to do it right? Sure, I hired pros when I knew I would be in over my head. But often, I’d buy the tools, usually be the best ones affordable, and let the tools and particulars of the projects teach me. The same is true of lefse-making equipment. Buy the best and give yourself a chance to make the best lefse.
  3. What if lefse had to meet code? Think about that. What if you had to take out a permit—which you have to do with deck building—before you made every batch of lefse you intended to share with family or sell to customers at the holidays? And then those batches had to meet a lefse code and pass inspection? Oh, the Perfectionist Support Group meetings would be packed!
  4. Surprises and humor await! You can plan your deck building and lefse making to the nth degree, but stuff happens. Your rolling pin breaks, so you roll lefse using a sock-covered tube of caulk. Your deck isn’t square, so you make the ends of one corner meet by setting a second post at that corner. NB: Our deck was square.
  5. You must celebrate. Just as it is unthinkable that you not sit and savor lefse with your lefse team when the rolling is done, you must also celebrate your deck again and again. Eat on it, watch sun rises, and discover constellations with family and friends. Lefse and decks invite the best of living.
In this low season for lefse, time and energy turned to building a deck. But thoughts are never far from lefse.
Posted on

Remembering the No. 1 Lefse-Loving Lady

Mary Jane, the beloved No. 1 Lefse-Loving Lady.

“What are you snobbish about?”

That was the question posed during a small gathering of friends and family in our living room last spring. We agreed that everyone has an uppity attitude about something. Then we each took a turn admitting our own particular area of assumed superior taste. One confessed to being a martini snob; another to being snobbish about movies.

Because of our sister Mary Jane’s well-known open-heartedness, we knew she would have trouble coming up with a sense of superiority about anything. We unanimously rejected all of her proposed persnicketiness — until she declared herself to be a snob about lefse. With a touch of indignation in her tone, she insisted: “You cannot make real lefse with instant mashed potatoes!”

Scary Lefse?

As a fierce defender of homemade lefse, Mary Jane always showed up for the family’s fall festival of lefse making at sister Nancy’s house. Starting from scratch with russet potatoes, we six siblings — along with some of our spouses, our children, and, eventually, grandchildren — mixed, rolled, and baked lefse. With four electric lefse grills fired up to 500 F, fuses would blow at least once during the daylong lefse-making marathon. The kids called out “Open griddle!” whenever a hot grill stood empty for a moment too long. We ate plenty of lefse while we worked. And we stacked up enough lefse to wrap and save for Thanksgiving dinner.

Lefse witches Mary Jane, left, and Kathleen Weflen. Be afraid, be very afraid!

For Halloween Mary Jane and I had a tradition of wearing costumes to greet trick-or-treating kids at my front door. Most often, we disguised ourselves as witches. But one year Mary Jane showed up at my house dressed in white and wearing an apron and a chef’s hat emblazoned with Uff da. Her face was dusted floury-white and her cheeks were blushing lipstick-red. She was wielding a lefse stick.

“Do you think the kids will know what you are supposed to be?” I said, laughing. “Since when did lefse makers become scary?!”

Lefse for Her Last Birthday

At a family dinner, someone asked each of us to name our all-time favorite, couldn’t-live-without food. Without hesitation, Mary Jane said: “Lefse!”

So I made a batch of lefse for her 58th birthday. Lefse — plus a jar of lingonberry jam, birchwood butter knife, and dishtowel embroidered with Grandma’s lefse recipe — seemed a perfect gift. Sunday, May 7, we Weflen siblings and Mary Jane’s daughter gathered for a backyard picnic to celebrate.

That birthday turned out to be Mary Jane’s last. Though ever-hopeful and full of faith and joy, she was suffering from lung cancer.

Mary Jane died Nov. 3, 2017. Our family did not make lefse for Thanksgiving. But our lefse-making tradition will hold.

Fresh Lefse at the Cemetery

Mary Jane and I belonged to a Norwegian-American scholarship organization called Lakselaget, aka the salmon club of “women who swim against the current.” An American Sign Language interpreter, Mary Jane orchestrated and interpreted a memorable Lakselaget presentation by a deaf professor. He told about his travels to Norway to teach at a folk school for the deaf. At a Lakselaget luncheon this past February, Gary Legwold spoke about lefse and his book Keep on Rolling! I demonstrated how to roll lefse. Mary Jane would have, in her words, “loved it all to pieces.” A slideshow beforehand featured an epitaph and portrait of Mary Jane smiling joyously. So I rolled each round in honor of our No. 1 Lefse-Loving Lady.

On a Saturday night this May, I made lefse. Then Sunday I brought the fresh lefse to Corinthian Cemetery in Farmington, Minnesota. There, our family gathered to remember Mary Jane and her birthday. We picnicked on lefse — rolled up with unsalted butter and brown sugar, just how Mary Jane loved her lefse.

A sweet moment of two lefse sisters enjoying some shade in the spring of 2016.
Posted on

The Lefse King on TV

I was on set with Sue Ellen Zagrabelny, host of Merry’s Eclectic Interests on cable (CCX Create). In this show, I give a lesson on how to make lefse. My two lefse shows will be aired this fall. Stay tuned for where and when.

When I recorded the second half-hour show of the cable TV program Merry’s Eclectic Interests (CCX Create), I was uncomfortable with my on-screen label, the Lefse King. But I’ve always been uncomfortable with that title. Heck, there are lots of excellent lefse makers who could call themselves kings and queens, but they don’t because they are reserved Scandinavians who find people that tag themselves with titles to be suspect.

I am also a reserved Scandinavian, but I go with the title because when I registered for a domain name, Lefse King (www.lefseking.com) was available when other lefse names were taken. So I winced and went with it because it had a certain ring to it, and it was easy to market. Still, I call myself the reluctant Lefse King and say in the show that I always learn something from every lefse maker I meet.

In this show, the reluctant Lefse King gives Mary Ellen Zagrabelny, the show’s host, and the viewers a lesson on how to make lefse. I cover equipment options, ingredients in my recipe, techniques, the honoring of heritage, two lefse controversies, and the benefit of “namby-pamby” lefse.

Check out this video, which will be aired in November of this year — lefse’s prime time.

Posted on

Lefse, TV, and Perfection

During the recording of Merry’s Eclectic Interests on cable TV, I sing a song about the folly of striving to make perfect lefse.

I was nervous as the recording for the TV show was about to begin. How did I look? Would I be witty during the recording, or would the lights and cameras and the moment tie my tongue? And of course, the persistent question with me no matter what I do: Would I be perfect — and when I’m not, would I be OK with “pretty darn good”?

And then I thought of lefse. This recording of two, 30-minute TV shows last spring was about lefse. Lefse is the show no matter what, I told myself, so let lefse carry the day.

That calmed me, and the cameras rolled. Mary Ellen Zagrabelny, host of Merry’s Eclectic Interests on cable (CCX Create), started asking me about my beginnings with lefse and how lefse has been my muse. How did learning to make this simple flatbread feed the writing of two lefse books, the teaching of lefse classes, the developing of the Lefse Trail, and the promoting of all things lefse with sales of related products on LefseKing.com?

Talking Back to the Bad Boy

The interview went well, and the time flew by. It was really fun! But weeks later when I received the link to the edited video, I didn’t open it for days. The final version of the video — or more specifically, me — was not going to be perfect, I knew. I would come up short, once again.

Ah, but I have put up with this voice of perfectionism, the Great Oppressor, for years, and I know enough to talk back to this bad boy. I did so, and then clicked on the link.

And dontcha know, it’s pretty darn good! Check out this video, which will be aired in October of this year — lefse’s prime time.

Posted on

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!