A Norwegian tradition carried from Norway to Huxley, Iowa

Lynn Marr-Moore Contributing Writer
Although everyone in the group is not 100 percent Norwegian, they all were 100 percent excited to make the traditional Norwegian dessert of lefse. Those attending, left to right, included, Amy Kraling, Roberta McBain, Barb Grzywacz, Avery Kraling, Heather Denger, Brooklyn Denger, Mike Whitney, Joshua Kraling and Pattie Ihle-Hughes. Photo by Lynn Marr-Moore

Laughter, love, instructions, great aroma…. Lefse in the making.

Lefse is a traditional soft Norwegian flatbread. It’s made from potatoes, flour, butter and cream, cooked on a large flat griddle using special tools. Sound difficult? Not so much when you have generations from the same family teaching friends how to make the perfect lefse.

Huxley resident Joshua Kraling, his twin daughters and his mother gathered in Huxley recently to learn and to teach the art of making lefse.

“This is the first year that I have tried to make lefse,” told Kraling. “It’s something that our family loves to eat, and by learning and teaching others how to make it, we are in hopes that is part of keeping our Norwegian family traditions alive.”

Family members often gather as a group to produce lefse around the holidays.

It was pretty obvious that the group effort is needed because this process is more enjoyable when done as a traditional holiday activity. The group approach also provides training to the younger generation to keep the tradition alive.

What began as a posting on a Facebook page turned into a workshop at Mike Whitney’s “Comfort Foods” in Huxley.

“I have always loved to eat lefse,” tells Whitney. “When I saw the post from Joshua looking for a place to hold a group that would also offer a kitchen, I told him that we could make it happen. Soon word spread and as you can see, we have a kitchen full of family and friends making lefse here at Comfort Foods.”

Joshua’s mother traveled from Belmond to help out. Being the apparent expert on making lefse, the rest of the family was happy to have her come help out.

McBain, being 100 percent Norwegian, had the art of lefse-making passed down to her from her mother and her grandmother. McBain told that she has made lefse for many years and that she was here with her tools and recipe to pass on the art to her son and granddaughters.

The recipe consists of four cups of cooked, riced potatoes, ¼ teaspoon of baking powder, a dash of salt and one cup of floor. McBain said that it takes 10 pounds of white potatoes that have been peeled, boiled and riced. Two sticks of butter are mashed into the potatoes, to which ¼ to ½ a container of half-and-half is added.

“Each batch of dough can be rolled into a log and cut into equal sizes,” explains McBain. “Then these balls need to be chilled. When ready to use, you roll out a ball on a floured lefse cloth, making them to be about 12 inch circles. Then they are placed on a heated ungreased electric lefse grill that has been heated to about 450 to 500 degrees to cook.”

“Once they are done cooking, we put them between two layers of dish towels,” she continued. “When they have cooled, you can refrigerate or freeze in an airtight container. When ready to eat, spread with butter and sprinkle with sugar as desired. Roll or fold and enjoy.”

The first time workshop proved to be fun and delicious. Everyone present had a job to do — some turned lefse as it cooked on the grill, some flipped it.

“Making lefse is a lost art,” explains McBain. “It’s something that we have at our Christmas celebrations and today there are three generations here making lefse together. It’s in our blood, our Norwegian blood, and we only do it because we love to and we love to eat it.”

The Scandinavian treat is especially popular around the Christmas holidays and is eaten as a snack or dessert. Heather Denger and her daughter, Brooklyn, of Huxley, joined the group so that Brooklyn could learn how to make lefse.

“I heard talk at our church about this group getting together, so asked if we could join in,” she said. “My dad is 100 percent Norwegian and we grew up eating it. We plan to make some and send it to my grandad that lives in North Dakota.”

Huxley resident Barb Grzywacz told about making lefse. “I always make it and just want to keep the tradition alive,” she said.

The workshop was considered a success. And according to Joshua, it was worth the time.

“Anything worthwhile takes time to make,” he said. “This is something that has been a basic food in Norwegian homes and now that we know how to make it, it can become a tradition in our home, too.”

For those lefse-makers, each year the town of Fosston, Minn., invites area lefse-makers to compete for the title of Champion Lefse Maker at its Lefse Fest in November, and in Mankato, Minn., the natives celebrate Lefse Day, a day for cooking lefse on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Sampling the finished product, it is safe to say that you do not need to be of Norwegian decent to enjoy the flatbread. It almost melts in your mouth and that can’t be a bad thing.