We’re Rolling in the Dough! Lefse Dough, That Is and It’s Delicious

When I recall the holiday gatherings when I was a little girl, I always remember a large platter of freshly baked lefse on the table. Grandma Margaret spent days in the kitchen preparing all the wonderful dishes we would enjoy on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Lefse has always been one of my favorites.

I sadly never had the opportunity to learn how to make lefse with my grandmother but as members of Sons of Norway, my children and I have learned this culinary tradition. We delight in spending an afternoon or two each year rolling out the lefse dough, enjoying a few warm samples throughout the day, and ultimately covering every surface of the kitchen in flour.

How to Make Lefse: Step by Step @EvaVarga.net

This post contains affiliate links.

 

Our lodge families recently gathered for their annual lefse baking day and while we were unable to join them in person as we now live several hours away, we joined in the festivities and baked a batch for ourselves.

We really got into the spirit of things and even sang along with Alexander Rybak, a Belarusian–Norwegian musician and actor. Her favorite album, pictured here, is Fairytales.

His music is upbeat and vibrant. I love that he plays the violin and has inspired Geneva to work harder at developing her skills as a violinist.

We had a lot of fun and developed a system that was efficient and quick. Follow along with me as I will walk you through the process of making lefse, step by step. I have included photographs and will soon be creating a video.

Lefse Tools & Materials

To make lefse, there are several tools you’ll need. You can purchase these in a starter kit like the one pictured at left or purchase items individually.

The items I feel are critically important are a corrugated rolling pin, turning stick, and pastry board and cloth.

Having the right tool for the job makes the work so much easier.

Optional items include the lefse griddle (you can use a pancake grill but it limits your size), potato ricer (helps eliminate lumps), rolling pin sock (helps prevent sticking).

Lefse Recipe & Instructions

Ingredients

1-10lb bag of Russet potatoes
2 sticks of butter
All-purpose flour
Makes approximately 54-60 depending on how thin you roll and the diameter of each

How to Make Lefse: Step by Step @EvaVarga.netHow to Prepare Potatoes for Lefse

For 10lbs. of potatoes – Peel, cut and boil in a large pot of water until done but not mushy. Drain well. Mash or rice until all lumps are gone. Add 2 sticks of butter, BUT NO MILK OR CREAM!  Cool and store in a loosely covered dish. I generally drape a clean dish towel over the bowl. Plastic-ware can sweat, adding unwanted moisture.

You’ll find that every lodge or family has their own version of this timeless recipe. Some add a little whipping cream to the dough. Play around and find what version you like best.

Add flour, one cup at a time, and blend by hand. Continue to add flour until the mixture “feels right”. You’ll develop a sense of this with more experience but essentially you want the mixture to be moist but dry enough to roll out without sticking to the pastry board or turning stick.

How to Make Lefse: Step by Step @EvaVarga.netHow to Roll the Lefse Dough

When the dough is ready, we like to portion it out into small balls (pictured above). Each ball is approximately 1/4 cup in quantity. I generally do this as Geneva begins to roll.

She sprinkles flour onto the pastry board surface and first flattens the ball with her hand. She then begins to roll the dough, turning it several times so it doesn’t stick. She aims for a diameter of 12″ or more. Presently, we do not have a lefse grill and are thus limited by the size of our pancake griddle. Not perfect but it works.

How to Make Lefse: Step by Step @EvaVarga.netHow to Cook Lefse

Cook each lefse on a flat grill (pictured below) until lightly golden brown. Flip with the turning stick and repeat. Lay upon a towel to cool.

Once the lefse are cool, depending on the diameter, you should be able to store 6 lefse in a gallon size zippy bag. They freeze well so don’t worry if you have extra. 

How to Make Lefse: Step by Step @EvaVarga.netHow to Serve Lefse

Everyone of course has their favorite ways to enjoy this Norwegian delicacy. We generally spread a little butter and then either sprinkle cinnamon sugar or lingonberry jelly and then roll. Delicious!

The Ultimate Guide to Exploring Your Ancestral Heritage

Growing up, I loved listening to my dad tell stories of when he was a child or those of his father and uncles. My favorite stories were those of Uncle Sam. I didn’t get a chance to meet Uncle Sam, but through my father’s words and stories of my ancestors, I was able to connect with him.

The Ultimate Guide to Exploring Your Ancestral Heritage @EvaVarga.netUncle Sam was born in 1875 in Norway, the youngest child of Jens Andersen and Aase Gunderson.  According to a family folktale passed down through the years, he so small when he was born that he could apparently fit inside a cigar box.  His family was surprised that he survived.

He came to the United States as a young man of approximately 19 years of age.  He spent a couple years in the Navy before his arrival. Sometime after he retired, he came to live with his nephew (my grandfather) and helped looked after the three boys (my dad and his two older brothers) during their adolescence.

It’s one thing to discover the riches of one’s heritage and culture, and quite another to experience it first-hand through recipes you can make at home, travel adventures with friends and family, language lessons, and more. You’ve found the perfect place to start because here I share a variety of avenues or paths those interested in exploring their own cultural heritage may follow.

BarnesklubbTaste Your Heritage Through Food

My maternal grandparents also shared stories of the homeland. My great grandfather had emigrated from Norway with his parents at the age of four. What I remember most fondly from my maternal grandparents, however, was watching my grandmother in the kitchen as she made:

Mmmm .. I can smell each of these traditional recipes now and my mouth waters.

What traditional foods and dishes is your culture known for? Do some research and find recipes online to try.  Do you have memories of a grandmother or aunt who always made a traditional dish for a holiday gathering? Consider putting together a collection of family recipes handed down through the generations. If you can, include photographs of your loved ones as well as the dishes.

Immerse Yourself in Your Heritage Through Literature

Ethnic literature is the body of written works by people from a distinctive culture, language, or religion. Like historical fiction, it provides us with a glimpse of life in other cultures. It helps to give the reader an idea of the life experiences of others.

Visit your local public library or a university library in your vicinity to research their selection of ethnic literature. What ethnic groups are represented at this library? What materials are available? Look up “Norway” and “Norwegian authors” (for example) in the online directory to see what you find. Talk to your librarian about what areas are expanding in the ethnic literature category.

Other ideas for exploring ethnic literature:

  • Participate in or establish a book club and read books by writers from your ancestral culture or an ethnic group of interest.
  • Keep a reading log of the books you’ve read.
  • Record an oral history (perhaps of an immigrant’s experiences).
  • Watch a film.
  • Read and attend a play.

Unleash Hidden Talents Through Folk Art & Handicrafts

Handicrafts include a wide variety of types of work where useful and decorative objects are made completely by hand or by using only simple tools. Folk art refers to art produced from an indigenous culture or other laboring tradespeople. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic. Both often have cultural and/or religious significance.

rosemalingFor example, one of the handicrafts that we have begun to explore is Rosemaling. Rosemaling (meaning “rose painting”) is the name of a form of decorative painting that developed in Norway around the 1700s. The first rosemalers were inspired by artists from continental Europe, but over time developed their own unique styles. Most painters were poor, traveling artisans that would go from farm to farm painting rooms and furniture for comparatively wealthy landowners. Over time, different regions of the country developed their own distinctive styles.

Recreate Through Folk Dance & Music

Defining traditional folk music is a little ambiguous. One meaning often given is that of old songs, with no known composers; another is music that has been transmitted and evolved orally or performed by custom over a long period of time.Traditional folk music also includes most indigenous music. Evolving alongside music, of course, is folk dance.

My kids and I have had a blast learning about Norsk Folk Dance. We learned a few dances on our own – with the help of video tutorials and print resources. When they attended heritage camp this past summer, they learned a few more dances. We make a lot of mistakes but we certainly have A LOT of fun!

folkedans gruppeConnect with Your Ancestors Through Language

Language is often referred to as the soul of a culture. Whether one totally agrees with this or not, it is a fact that the language becomes very important to the preservation of a culture. Norwegian is spoken by a relatively small number of people – a little over 4 million people. When Norwegian immigrants arrived in the United States, the practicality of emphasizing English as the first language began to push Norwegian to the background. Most families thereby lost the ability to speak their ancestral language.

While it may not be possible to become fluent in your ancestral language, learning even a few phrases and perhaps a song or two is a great gift. You can find so many tutorials and videos on YouTube today. Other ideas for exploring your ancestral language:

  • Make contact with a person who is fluent and visit together once a week. Gradually increase your use of your ancestral language.
  • Make a chart of your relatives, going back at least as far as your grandparents. Write a paragraph in your ancestral language describing each person.
  • Interview a native speaker – perhaps a relative or fellow church member.
  • Choose 12 words or expressions also used in English and learn about their background. Write a short essay on each.

grotnesBest of All, If Resources Permit, Travel

Surrounded my Norwegian ancestors, hearing the stories of our ancestral homeland, and enjoying many foods and traditions of Norway, I had dreamed of traveling to Norway ever since I was a child. In May of 2011,  my wish came true.  Even more memorable was that we were able to travel as a family and I was thus able to share my passion with my children.  In an earlier blog series, Discovering Scandinavia, I share some of our experiences connecting with our family in Norway.

Where Can I Find More Resources?

The world is an amazing place. There are more than 6.5 billion people in the world today. Just how many different societies, cultures, and ethnic groups make up the world’s population is not certain. It is thereby not possible for me to cover all of the world’s cultures to direct you to specific resources for your ancestral heritage.

My goal is lead by example and to encourage you to begin a quest of your own. Perhaps one of these Top Pinterest Boards to Explore Cultural Heritage may help you get started.

I also teach a course through the Heritage Institute titled, Discover Your Heritage. This is the perfect opportunity for you to explore your ancestral stories while also earning university credit for your hard work.

This course will help elementary educators to develop an integrated heritage unit for your classroom. The purpose of this course is to promote and to preserve the heritage and culture of one’s ancestry and to celebrate our relationship with other countries.

If you are interested in learning more about Norway, I compiled the posts I have written here, Our Scandinavian Heritage. I have also shared a little of our heritage learning experiences here, Lessons in Heritage and Culture.

genealogy with kidsWhat About Genealogy?

Exploring the family genealogy is a great way for young people to learn about their history and understand the world. Kids love to hear about their own family history. Genealogy is the study of families and the tracing of their lineages and history.

Genealogists use a variety of records to obtain information about a family including oral interviews, historical records, genetic analysis, and more. The results are often displayed in charts or written as narratives like the story of Uncle Sam I shared previously.

ultimateguides2015Hop over to the iHomeschool Network for more Ultimate Guides.

 

Barnesklubb: Make Your Own Primstav or Calendar Stick

People have devised ways to keep track of the passing days for millennia. In Scandinavia, where the growing season is so short, this was particularly important. It was imperative to know the best time for the sowing of seed, or the time when cattle might safely be let out to graze.

In measures that varied from valley to valley, they notched off the days from that week in winter when the sun barely crept above the horizon, or from the day the ice broke up on the lake. The days were carved on a stick or board and eventually an elementary almanac of weather and crops evolved – the first “Farmer’s Almanac”, if you will.

Make Your Own Primstav or Calendar Stick @EvaVarga.netThe Primstav, or calendar stick, served our nordic ancestors for seven centuries as a guide long before the invention of  printing. With the arrival of Christianity, the Primstav evolved as a religious calendar to keep track of the saints’  days.

Each day was represented by a notch on the stick and the year was divided into two halves. One side of the Primstav represented the summer season, beginning on April 15, and the other side represented winter, beginning on October 15. Symbols were carved onto the primstav as a reminder of merkedager (significant dates). Saints’ days were often marked by symbols representing the circumstances of their martyrdom.

Red Letter Days

A red letter day is any day of special significance. In Norway, Sweden, Denmark and some Latin American countries, a public holiday is sometimes referred to as “red day” (rød dag), as it is printed in red in calendars.

Here are a few of the merkedager Norwegians observed throughout the year.

  • April 14 – Summer Day (symbolized with a tree or branch) – The beginning of summer
  • June 24 – St. John the Baptist or Jonsok (an hourglass or sun) – Originally a solstice celebration and rededicated to St. John the Baptist
  • Oct 14 – Winter Day (a mitten) – The beginning of winter
  • Feb 22 – St. Peter’s Day (a key) – According to legend, St. Peter threw hot stones in water to keep it from freezing. His keys to the kingdom of heaven serve as a  reminder that ice may be too thin to walk on safely.

Look here for examples of Primstav dates, symbols and meanings.

Make Your Own Primstav or Calendar Stick @EvaVarga.netMake Your Own Primstav

For Barnesklubb this month, we learned how to make our own Primstav using the tutorial provided by Keith Homstad in the July 2011 issue of the Viking (a magazine for members of Sons of Norway).  I have summarized the steps here for those interested in taking on this challenge – a wonderful hands-on history project.

Materials:

  • Pencils and erasers
  • Sandpaper
  • Flat piece of wood (3 feet long, 1 1/2 inches wide, and 1/4-inch thick)
  • Permanent markers or wood burning tool
  • Howard Wood Polish or other furniture polish (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Sand the stick to remove any rough edges.
  2. With a pencil, mark 1 1/2 inches from each end. One end will be the handle and the opposite end will be the “far end”.
  3. Choose one side for “summer” and measure 22 3/4 inches from the far end. Starting here, use a pencil to make 182 marks along the edge about 1/8 inch apart and 1/8 inch long.
  4. On the reverse side, measure 23 inches from the “far end” and mark off 184 marks along the edge for the “winter” side.
  5. On the “winter” side, the first mark (nearest the handle) is Winter Day on October 14th. Continue marking off 30 days for November, and 31 for December and January. Mark off 28 days for February, then make one marks for February 29 (Leap Year Day). Continue marking off 31 days for March and the first 13 days of April.
  6. On the “summer” side, Summer Day marks the beginning on April 14.  Count off the remaining 17 days of April. Continue marking 31 days for May, 30 days for June, 31 days for July and August, 30 days for September, and the first 13 days of October.
  7. You may now begin to customize your Primstav by adding important family dates and any major holidays. Create a special icon or symbol for each event.
  8. Decorate the handle as you desire – perhaps with your name and the year you made your primstav.
  9. When you are happy with the design, consider using a wood burning tool to mark them permanently. Younger children can use a permanent marker.
  10. To protect your Primstav, you may also wish to apply a coat of furniture polish.

Make Your Own Primstav or Calendar Stick @EvaVarga.netPrimstav Alternatives

As an alternative to the traditional carved or wooden Primstav, I can’t tell you how much I LOVE this Embroidered  Primstav. Embroidery is an art that has always enchanted me. I love this so very much that it is now a goal of mine to create my own. Thank you, Pam!!

 

Norwegian Games: Let the Fun Begin

Have you ever played Norwegian Bingo? How about Hnefatafl? Or Kubb? Not only are these Norwegian games fun for all ages, they also provide a great opportunity to teach children about Norwegian culture. With three different games or spill to choose from, you’re sure to find something everyone will enjoy.

norskespille

Norwegian Bingo

Calling out the numbers in Norwegian—one (ehn), two (tooh), three (treh)—gives this familiar game a little Norwegian flair. It’s also a fun way to teach Norwegian counting. Five in a row makes ‘Bingo!’ Using a pencil and ruler, help your child draw a grid on a sheet of paper to make the Bingo board. Number the grid and use coins as game pieces. Ready to practice the Norwegian alphabet? Instead of numbering your Bingo board, write and call out Norwegian letters—a (ah), b (beh), and so on.

Hnefatafl

Hnefatafl (pronounced NEF-uh-tahf-ahl), is one of the oldest games in the world (traced in various versions to the Vikings, Welsh, Saxons, and Irish) and is similar to chess. The Vikings played this game to sharpen their minds for battle. The goal is to capture your opponent’s pieces before the ‘king’ reaches safety.

Also known as The Viking GameThe King’s Table or simply Tafl, is one of the rare breed of games with two unequal sides. The defending side comprises twelve soldiers and a king, who start the game in a cross formation in the center of the board. Their objective is for the king to escape by reaching any of the four corner squares. The attackers comprise 24 soldiers positioned in four groups of 6 around the perimeter of the board. All pieces move like the Rook in chess and pieces are taken by “sandwiching” (i.e. moving your piece so that an opponent’s piece is trapped horizontally or vertically between two of yours).

You can purchase a Hnefatafl Tournament Set {aff} as shown here online or at a specialty game store.

Kübb

Kübb, (pronounced KOOB) is a Viking lawn game that is played with three types of wooden pieces: kubbs, batons, and a king. Using your batons, the point of the game is to knock down the other team’s kubbs, and finally the king. Challenge your children to a one-on-one game, or get the whole family involved. Kübb can be played with two teams of up to six people.

If you or your child enjoy woodworking, consider making a Kübb set for yourself or as gifts. Alternatively, you can purchase a pre-made Triumph Sports Wooden Kubb Set {aff} as shown here.

For an instructional video, watch Justin Ross explain How to Play Kübb on YouTube. Kübb is a game for all ages and skill levels. For information about national competitions, be sure to check out the US National Kübb Championship’s website.

For more details on each of these games, subscribe to my newsletter for a free eBook, Norsk Spille (Norwegian Games). This month’s edition will be sent on Friday, October 17th.

Top Pinterest Boards to Explore Cultural Heritage

What does the word heritage mean to you?  In can mean different things to different people.  Essentially, heritage can refer to anything inherited from the past.

In my mind, heritage is our ancestral culture. Our connection to our ancestors and our past. The traditions that are passed down with each generation.  The language of our great grandparents and our distant relatives today.

cultural heritage boardsToday, I would like to step away from my usual focus on science to share with you some of my favorite Pinterest Boards for exploring cultural heritage.  Amongst these diverse boards, it is my hope that you will find activities, lesson plans, and a wealth of resources to help bring your own ancestry to life.

genealogy

Family History & Genealogy

american

American Culture

faith

Faith Culture

global

Global Culture

military

Military Culture

How About You?

Do you have a culture, family history, or heritage board you would like to share?  Please read the guidelines here and then link up below.

  • Link up to 3 Pinterest boards. Make sure you use the exact URL to the board, not to your profile or index page. You can add any board sharing activities, lesson plans, and resources to explore cultural heritage. Posts unrelated to that will be removed.
  • Please no advertising, individual Pinterest pins, Facebook, Twitter, or other link-up links!
  • The linky will be live for one week (closing Thursday, July 24th at 6:00 EST).


Syttende Mai :: Norwegian Constitution Day

Constitutions are groundbreaking documents that establish fundamental principles by which a body of people are to be governed. Norway’s Constitution was written in 1814 at a time when cultures were emphasizing democracy and free will. The start of the 19th century brought with it new concepts on politics and national independence. The revolutions in the US (1776) and France (1789) paved the way and Norway was intent on following their lead.

Syttende mai constitution day
Norwegian Constitution Day
 is the National Day of Norway and is an official holiday observed on the 17th of May each year. Among Norwegians, the day is referred to simply as Syttende Mai. Signed at Eidsvoll on May 17 in the year 1814, the constitution declared Norway to be an independent kingdom in an attempt to avoid being ceded to Sweden after Denmark-Norway’sdevastating defeat in the Napoleonic wars. 

Vi Feirer Grunnlovsubilet :: We Celebrate Constitution Day

A noteworthy aspect of the Norwegian Constitution Day is its very non-military nature. All over Norway, children’s parades with an abundance of flags, national costumes, and big smiles are the heart of the celebration. Decorations of leafy birch branches, in celebration of winter’s end, and ribbons of red, white and blue make for a festive atmosphere.

Syttende Mai is also celebrated in many Norwegian immigrant communities throughout the world, with traditional foods (I share one of our favorite recipes below), sometimes including lefse and lutefisk, but simple hot dogs are equally popular.  In the United States and Canada, the local lodges of the Sons of Norway often play a central part in organizing the festivities. Our small lodge is no different; we gather for an annual brunch and special cultural programming including games and folk dancing.

syttende maiLitt På Norsk :: A Little Norwegian

syttende mai – 17th of May

Norge – Norway

nasjonaldagen – national holiday

festdag – celebration

barnetoget – children’s parade

flagg – flags

Barna jublet og vinket tilbake med sine flagg. :: The children cheered and waved back with their flags.

Barna fant igjen foreldrene sine, og nå fikk de spise så mye de ville av iskrem og varme pølser. ::  The children found their parents, and now they got to eat as much as they wanted of ice cream and hot dogs.

 

One of our favorite treats on Syttende Mai are Fastelavnsboller:

Fastelavnsboller :: Shrovetide Buns

fastelavnsboller3 1/2 cups (800g) plain white flour
3/4 cups 140g) sugar
10 1/2 tbsp (150g) butter
1 7g package active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups (525g) whole milk
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 1/3 cups (300g) whipping cream
powdered sugar for garnish
1 egg

  1. In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, cardamom and yeast.
  2. In a medium saucepan melt the butter.
  3. If you are using fresh yeast, in a small bowl mix together the yeast with some of the milk.
  4. Add the remainder of the milk to the melted butter and mix.
  5. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add liquid ingredients. Mix well, work into a smooth dough and knead lightly.
  6. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise until it has doubled in size.
  7. Turn out the dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth. Form into 20-24 buns, rolling them into an even size with your hands.
  8. Put the buns on a baking sheet and leave to rise for another 15 minutes.
  9. Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C).
  10. Beat the egg and lightly brush onto buns with a basting brush.
  11. Place the buns into the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes.
  12. When the tops of the buns are light brown and there is a light brown ring underneath them, remove them from the oven and let cool on a wire cooling rack.
  13. While the buns are cooling whip the cream, add superfine sugar to your taste. Place whip cream in refrigerator while the buns finish cooling.
  14. Halve the cooled buns and fill with the whipped cream and sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.
  15. ** We like to mix lingonberry preserves into the whipped cream.

For more activities and ideas to explore Scandinavian culture, check out my Barnesklubb Pinterest Board.