Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Lefse time!

You know that old Christmas song, "Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother's house, we go." Well, when I was a little girl, my family would pack up on a white, blustery Christmas morning to travel to my grandmother's house about a half-hour away from our farm.

My grandmother would serve pretty much the same meal for every large family gathering. While I loved to heap my plate with her mashed potatoes and gravy, what my sister and I really craved was grandmother's lefse. My grandparents were card-carrying members of the Sons and Daughters of Norway. Every Christmas, there would be a stack of potato lefse in the center of the holiday table, with a plate of lutefisk next to it.

Lutefisk is difficult to describe if you've never encountered it before, but it's considered a Norwegian "delicacy." It is a cod fish that has been soaked in barrels of lye, I think to ferment it. You can find it in many Iowa grocery stores this time of year. It smells terrible, and it doesn't taste much better.

Lefse is another Norwegian treat that is a bit of an acquired taste. At least that's what my husband tells me. But I think it's delicious. I can't imagine a Christmas without lefse.

A few years back, I asked my dad if he would share my grandmother's lefse recipe with me. I remember my dad making lefse in our kitchen. It took him forever to rice all those potatoes, which is crucial to making thin lefse. (Norwegian women pride themselves on how thin they can roll out their lefse, my dad told me.)

Imagine my surprise when my dad admitted to me that my grandmother's "secret" lefse recipe didn't require a potato ricer. Instead, she used Hungry Jack instant potatoes. That's right -- dehydrated potatoes. But that wasn't the biggest shocker. The recipe also calls for 7Up! Not exactly an authentic Norwegian recipe!

In my obsession to learn how to make everything from scratch, I experimented with several authentic lefse recipes I found on the Internet. But they just didn't taste right to me. So I gave in and made my grandmother's recipe. It was a revelation! The lefse tasted exactly the way I remembered it from my childhood. Sometimes, it's best not to mess with a good thing, even if it means buying a "convenience" food.

My husband likes to joke that he wants to put salsa on my lefse. Yes, it does look like a tortilla. But it has a different texture because of the potato. And it's sweet, because of the sugar (and 7UP).

My sister stopped over to help roll out the lefse. I mixed up the dough ahead of time. Then she used a special rolling pin with ridges to get the lefse as thin as possible. My dad bought me a lefse griddle a couple years back, along with the rolling pin.
FYI...the lefse griddle comes from Bethany Housewares, a Cresco, Iowa, company.

I made a triple batch of lefse, so we had to work fast to get it all rolled out before the end of the day. I barely had time to take pictures. My sister wouldn't even stop to let me get a picture of the rolling pin.

We snacked on the lefse while it was still warm. Every family has their own way of eating lefse. In our family, we spread butter on the lefse, sprinkle it with sugar, then roll it up. The combination of the crunchy sugar, smooth butter and soft lefse is so divine!

Here's my grandmother's lefse recipe, if you're curious or would like to try it for yourself:
  • 5 c. Hungry Jack Potato Flakes (must be the flakes, not potato buds)
  • 10 oz. 7Up
  • 1 C. evaporated milk
  • 2-1/2 C. cold water
  • 1/2 C. oil
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 to 2-1/2 C. of flour (consistency of pie crust)
Mix all liquids with sugar & salt. Add potatoes; let stand 15 to 20 minutes. Add flour. Shape 1/4 c. dough into a ball. Roll out on a floured cloth. Griddle on high heat (about 450 degrees). Put lefse between flour sack clothes after removing from griddle.


  1. I love this! We have some Dutch recipes that grandma used to make every year at Christmas (not that she ever measured or wrote anything down). These are the best! Thanks for sharing a family tradition!

  2. Love this entry about your lefse making. I think my grandma's recipe does the riced potatoes and such. Mom and dad usually do that and I get the end result. I'm hoping to learn sometime soon. We butter and sugar ours too, the best! Ryan loves lefse now as much as I do even though he only had it once we married. Lefse is the best part of the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, a real treat. Funny your husband says that about the salsa, my high school kids said the same thing after I shared some with them.

    I'm not a fan of the lutefisk, although my dad and older brother love it....I think it just stinks!

    From one Norwegian to another, thanks for sharing!

  3. This is the same recipe we use in my family. Isn't it disappointing to see that lefse is made with instant potatoes and 7up? It was so shocking to us...but when making it, I don't mind not having to boil and rice pounds and pounds of potatoes :)

  4. Wonderful! Just made this recipe, I can't believe how much time I saved vs my previous recipe! I'm gone for work 10+ hrs a day so making the "real" potato version isn't happening, so nice to have a recipe that tastes just as good!! Thank you!

  5. lost my recipe and thankfully I found it online from several different sources and the ingredients are the same on all of the sites. I remembered all the ingredients but not the amounts. Thanks for posting!

  6. Can't wait to try this. Thank you

  7. I too have good memories of making lefse with my family. We rice the potatos and make them the old fashioned way. They are the best!!! Ha!! Lots if work but worth it to a Norwegian!!! Thx for bringing back good memories.


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