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Lost art of lefse-making

Sporting a fancy apron, Sons of Norway members Joe Merseth and Dorothy Hoover turn lefse rounds. The Sons of Norway will have lefse, along with other ethnic foods, for sale at the Washington Square Mall Saturday morning. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham

If you’re in the mood for fresh, homemade lefse, get to the Washington Square Mall early on Saturday.

The local chapter of Sons of Norway is selling lefse and other Norwegian treats Saturday morning, beginning at 10 a.m., and each year, they sell out early.

“Last year we did 90 pounds of potatoes and some people had some (lefse) at home and we still sold out in a couple hours,” Ardis Hegna said.

This year, the Sons of Norway group is in the process of preparing 150 pounds of potatoes to make lefse for the Saturday sale. That equals about 600 rounds of lefse.

They will be packaged three rounds to a bag and sold for $4 a bag.

The most popular Norwegian food – they say it’s by far their best seller – lefse is a holiday tradition for Norwegians and non-Norwegians alike.

“Because people love it. You gotta have some lefse for the holidays,” Dorothy Hoover said is one of the reasons the group continues to make and sell lefse each year.

It’s also becoming a bit of a lost art, Hegna added, saying that they want generations to come to keep up with the lefse-making tradition.

“It’s a cultural thing. It’s fun to celebrate your heritage,” Joe Merseth said. “Lefse was a part of my growing up. If you’re brought up with it, you eat it.”

Potato lefse is “by far the most common” type of lefse, Hoover said, though there are various other kinds, including those made with flour instead of potatoes.

The process of making lefse includes cooking potatoes with the skins on them. “We use russet,” Hoover said.

Though there can be various ways of making lefse, this is how Hoover goes about it:

After the potatoes are cooked, she then removes the skins from the potatoes to rice them. The ricing process can be done a couple different ways, whether it’s using a food mill to do the process for you, or by using a ricer and doing it by hand. Regardless, it’s basically pressing the potatoes through a sieve.

Next, while the potatoes are still warm, butter, cream, sugar and salt are combined with the potatoes to form dough. It is then refrigerated. When the dough is ready to be taken out and rolled out, flour is then added.

The pastry board and the rolling pin are lightly floured so the uncooked lefse doesn’t stick. Then it’s time to roll – literally.

“You want to get it as thin as possible,” Hoover said.

She said you should be able to read the printing on the pastry board through the lefse it’s so thin.

The lefse is then transferred to the lefse grill with a thin, flat lefse turning stick. It is cooked for less than a minute on each side, flipping it only once if possible.

From there, spread a little butter and sugar – white or brown – and maybe even some cinnamon on the lefse, depending on how you like it best, and enjoy.

On Thursday, the Sons of Norway will be making the 600 rounds of lefse they will sell Saturday. Anyone interested in watching the process is invited to come see it firsthand.

For the first time, members will be making lefse in two shifts, from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. until they are finished, in Trinity Lutheran Church, Detroit Lakes.

Last year, they had 33 people helping make the lefse, and with that much action going on, “we kept popping circuit breakers at the church,” Bob Hoover said.

They will keep the lefse cool Friday and then be ready to sell it along with fruit soup, jams and jellies, quick breads, pies and more homemade goodies.

“All are homemade by the Sons of Norway members,” Hegna said.

Dorothy Hoover will also be making krumkake samples that day.

“The smell goes all throughout the mall” and people just follow their noses to the sale, Hegna said with a laugh.

Money raised from the sale Saturday goes into the Sons of Norway’s general fund and is used to make charitable donations throughout the year.

“We buy Christmas gifts for needy families through Mahube,” Bob Hoover said is just one of the things they help do.

They also work on humanitarian projects on a regional basis, like helping others during the floods in Grand Forks and Minot. Hoover said they may be helping those who just suffered damage from the tornados that leveled areas in the Midwest as well.

Hegna said the local Sons of Norway club is very active and is always looking for new members. They meet the second Tuesday of each month at Union Central on Washington Avenue.

“And you don’t have to be Norwegian to join,” Hoover added.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.