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Lefse – A Norwegian Family Tradition

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Truth be told this is actually a Christmas tradition. I realize we are past that, but my New Years resolution has been to complete things I started last year. So far I finished watching House of Cards on Netflix, sending christmas gifts, patching some old clothes, and now I am finishing this blog post.
Every Christmas Eve my grandparents on my dad’s side hosted our family Christmas get-together. It was steeped in tradition. My grandmother consistently made sweet and sour pork chops and set out a large punch bowl with her nice gold-leafed green glasses. For as long as I can remember she wore the same bright red, long, polyester dress with ruffled sleeves and an apron that said “NOEL.” She taught me at a young age how to properly set the table, from the placement of the silverware to where the host and hostess are expected to sit. The table was always fixed with beautiful name cards and adorned with baskets of lefse.
Lefse is like a tortilla or flatbread made out of potatoes, flour, and butter. Legend has it that it was first made centuries ago in Norway. With the only ingredients that were available, a family was able to whip this up to serve for a Christmas meal. I do not know if this is the true history of lefse. My family’s known history in making it goes back to my great great grandmother who came here from Denmark.
Our family traditions have changed some over the years with the aging of my grandparents. We lost my grandfather last February. My grandmother passed away in December and we held her funeral the week of Christmas. Most of the family was still able to get together for the holiday and this year to stay true to tradition, I made the lefse.
There is all sorts of special lefse making equipment. My family has always just used what we had. We use a skillet or griddle, flat spatula, and a regular rolling pin. I like to use a potato ricer, but if you do not have one you can mash your potatoes anyway you like.

Lefse

1 pound russet potatoes
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour

Peel and cut potatoes into somewhat even cubes. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a medium-low heat. Simmer until potatoes are tender. Drain off water. Use a potato ricer or other method to smash potatoes. Stir in butter, heavy cream, and salt. Refrigerate mixture for several hours or overnight. The dough will be more manageable if you have cooled the potatoes.
Once potatoes are cool, mix in flour. Knead the dough a few times to make smooth. Portion out dough into several even balls. Should make approximately a dozen depending on your size preference.
Dust a clean surface with flour and begin to roll out each ball into a flat round. I like to get mine as thin as possible without the dough tearing. If the dough is too sticky use more flour.
Heat a skillet or griddle to medium-high heat. You may need to adjust this once you get going. Cook each lefse about 1 -1 1/2 minutes on each side. Just until it starts to get golden brown spots.
While the lefse is still warm, roll or fold into fourths. Keep covered with a towel. Serve immediately or can be refrigerated for several days.
Serve with butter and cinnamon and sugar. Also good with jam.

 

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