Members of the Mabel First Lutheran gathered to make lefse, the traditional Norwegian treat, on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 6 and 7. In front, from left, are the Rev. Gail George, Delone Fossum and Darlene Larson. In second row are Bobby Jo Vickerman, Lori Schutte, Vivian Vine, Rodney Tollefsrud, Suzanne Bublitz, Linda Tollefsrud and Roberta Blekeberg.
Members of the Mabel First Lutheran gathered to make lefse, the traditional Norwegian treat, on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 6 and 7. In front, from left, are the Rev. Gail George, Delone Fossum and Darlene Larson. In second row are Bobby Jo Vickerman, Lori Schutte, Vivian Vine, Rodney Tollefsrud, Suzanne Bublitz, Linda Tollefsrud and Roberta Blekeberg.
Gathering together to make lefse at the Mabel First Lutheran Church is a relatively new event. Before this year's lefse-making marathon on Dec. 6 and 7, last year was the first time members got together to make this favorite Norwegian treat. However, those congregated to roll out the balls of potato dough and grill the flattened rounds bring their own traditions to the kitchen.

Affectionately called "Sarge" by her fellow lefse-makers, Delone Fossum was the resident expert, sharing her recipe, helping others perfect their skills and critiquing the final product so no one purchased a bag of lefse that didn't meet her high standards of perfection.

Fossum shared that she had learned to make lefse from her grandmother. "I was 9 years old the first time I turned them on the stove," she added. "I'm 83 now, so I've been making lefse for a lot of years."

Her not-so-secret recipe calls for six cups of potatoes and she insists on using Russets. Once they are boiled and riced, they are combined with butter, half-and-half, salt and sugar. Once the mixture is chilled overnight, the batch is divided into small balls in preparation of being rolled out and grilled by the volunteers.

On Thursday evening, Dec. 6, the church members gathered to mix up nine-and-a-half batches, which Fossum said would make "quite a few" rounds of lefse. They left the mixture to chill overnight and returned on Friday afternoon to roll out the lefse and grill it before packaging it into bags of three rounds to sell at the church's cookie walk on Dec. 8.

Fossum's criteria for perfect lefse include having the rounds be big, rolled thin and in a perfect circle. When grilling, the lefse must have quite a few brown spots, but not too many. And, once the lefse rounds are stacked for cooling, they must be kept covered so they do not dry out. If the edges become too crackly, the rounds are doomed to the reject pile, which is consumed bit by bit by the lefse-making crew!

Sharing the tradition

Fossum has shared her lefse-making skills with her granddaughters and her great-grandchildren have started helping when their family gathers in early November to make lefse for the holidays.

Bobbi Jo Vickerman and her daughter, Corranda, have been treated to Fossum's expertise and are carrying on her tradition. Vickerman said they have gathered for at least five years to make lefse together as a family.

She added it did not take her long to learn that her grandmother likes them "round and big" and that she and her sisters compete to see who can make the best lefse round to pass Fossum's inspection.

"She called my first one a pita," Vickerman remembered as she shared the story of her first lefse-making experience.

However, she is eager to please her grandmother and is grateful for her grandmother sharing the tradition with her and her daughter. "It's good to keep some traditions going and it has been fun to share this with her," Vickerman added.

Husband teaches wife

Rodney Tollefsrud learned how to make lefse from his mother and has more recently shared that skill with his wife, Linda.

Linda explained that they have always had lefse at their holiday meals, but her grandmother had made it each year.

About five years ago, the Tollefsruds were at the state fair and saw an exhibit with all the lefse-making necessities and Linda told Rodney it was time he taught her how to make it.

The two made an efficient team when the Lutherans gathered to roll out and grill the lefse. Rodney rolled out the balls of dough and Linda grilled them to perfection, flipping them at just the right time.

While their children have not yet picked up the tradition, Linda noted their daughter, Carrie, has her grandmother's lefse set, so she is confident the lefse-making gene will continue on.

Serving the lefse

As the volunteers chatted while making the lefse, it was apparent that each person had his or her own way of enjoying lefse - but perhaps the most common is simply spreading it with butter and sprinkling it with white sugar before rolling it up into a small cylinder. Others enjoy it with brown sugar or with cinnamon added, but it is a simple variation on the favorite.

A few of the volunteers said they enjoy lefse served with Norwegian brown cheese or wrapped around an omelet.

Rodney Tollefsrud shared he likes it served with lutefisk, another traditional Norwegian holiday offering.

But no matter how one enjoys this special treat, lefse continues to be a popular offering at family meals, whether one is of Norwegian heritage or not.

The packages prepared for the cookie walk were a welcome addition to the sale and the proceeds will be used by the church to further its local missions and greater outreach.