Monday, April 28, 2014

Prairie Kitchens - Lefse

In 1970, the Norwegians of Birch Hills and Weldon decided to hold an annual festival to celebrate their cultural heritage. It's called "Syttende Mai" or May 17th, the national day of Norway when it became an independent country. The day features music, ethnic costumes and a potluck of Norwegian foods.

Birch Hills was the first Norwegian community in the province dating back to 1894, according Settling Saskatchewan by Allan Anderson. Other strong Norwegian communities still exist around Melfort and in the area of Hanley, Outlook and Elbow. The first Norwegian settlers came from the United States, primarily from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Montana, and the Dakotas, which was a typical pattern for settlers of Scandinavian descent.

By 1925, one-third of Norway's population had immigrated to the United States. Many of them subsequently moved to western Canada. By 1921, one-third of Norwegians living in Canada were born south of the border, and many more had come directly from Norway. In the census of 1911, there were 7,600 Norwegians in Saskatchewan. A decade later, that had quadrupled to 31,000.

That's a lot of lefse and lutefisk (a type of fish). Other Norwegian foods include krum kager and sandbakkels (types of cookies) and open faced "smorbrod" sandwiches of smoked fish, hard boiled eggs, ham, cheese and cucumber. Traditionally, lefse is not made with potatoes. However, that is the most common version found in prairie cookbooks.
It's usually spread with butter, sprinkled with sugar and rolled up like a cigar. It's good with maple syrup, too.

2 cups flour
1/4 cup melted butter
2 cups mashed potatoes
1/2 tsp salt

Mix everything to a smooth dough. Wrap and rest 30 minutes. Break off nubs of dough and roll to a thin circle, about 1/8 inch thick. The size of the circle may depend on the size of your skillet. Lightly grease a skillet, heat on medium and cook lefse one at a time, turning when the top is bubbled and the bottom has lightly browned. Lefse freezes well so make a big batch.

Do you have a favourite recipe brought to Saskatchewan by the pioneers? Send me a comment. Follow me at

Lefse cooking in a lightly-oiled skillet.
(This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.)


CallingForth said...

I've had both types of Lefse and enjoy the potato version the best… It was a special treat especially at Christmas. Thanks for the historical info - you have hit on scones, yorkshire pudding, and now lefse - all of which are part of my heritage:) I am so pleased to see scones in the coffee shops these days!

Amy Jo Ehman said...

Thanks, Calling Forth. There are so many good breads in the world, I love trying them all. Glad I've hit on your heritage.