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Spotlight on Culture

People that call this area Home:

European cultures and the people that emigrated

looking for a better life in a continent across the Atlantic


The Norwegian/Scandinavian Dakotan people
Cuisine

The Dakotas are, together with Minnesota, famous for their typical Scandinavian cuisine. Lefse, Krumkake, Lutefisk, and Raspeball/Komle/Klubb (called Potato Dumplings in the United States) are just some of the food traditions there, not only eaten by Norwegian Americans, but by other people in the states. Lefse can be found in most supermarkets in Fargo.

Churches throughout the state commonly host annual fellowship dinners open to the community. Perhaps one of the largest authentic Norwegian dinners is the annual Lutefisk Dinner hosted by the First Lutheran Church, in Williston, North Dakota, every February. A local church also hosts a Lutefisk Dinner in the Summer.

The largest Scandinavian Festival in North America is the annual Norsk Høstfest held every October in Minot, North Dakota. This five-day cultural event features Scandinavian dishes, but does accommodate those who are not fond of lutefisk by providing German entrees.

Lefse

(Norwegian pronunciation: [ˈlɛ̂fsə]) is a traditional soft Norwegian flatbread. It is often made with potatoes, flour, butter, and milk, cream or lard. It is cooked on a large, flat griddle. Special tools are used to prepare lefse, including long wooden turning sticks and special rolling pins with deep grooves.

Lefse is a Scandinavian treat that is especially popular around the Christmas holidays. Many Scandinavian-Americans eat it around Thanksgiving and Christmas, and while it is usually not eaten with day-to-day meals in Norway today, Norwegian Americans traditionally like having lefse with their dinner.

The people in the Midwest generally make their lefse with potatoes, but this is not necessarily the case in Norway. When one uses the term “lefse” in the United States, it typically refers to what Norwegians call potato lefse.

This tradition was brought over by Norwegian Americans, and potato lefse itself was made when their potato crop was successful. Due to this, it became more prevalent than other types in the United States. When lefse was able to be made, it was stored in small storage buildings called bryggehaus. When Norwegian immigrants first arrived in America, they did not have the usual foods they were used to back home, including milk and porridge, dried meat, and lefse, but early Norwegian-American immigrants brought folded lefse to eat for the beginning stages of their journey via ship. After these were eaten, the lack of food they were used to is likely why they turned back to tradition so quickly. During World War I, Americans were encouraged to eat potatoes to be patriotic, as wheat was needed to feed the troops on the front lines. Lefse, a staple for Norwegian Americans, became even more popular during this time.

Lefse is a traditional accompaniment to lutefisk, and the fish is often rolled up in the lefse.

There are many ways of flavoring lefse. The most common is adding butter and rolling it up. In Norway, this is known as "lefse-klenning". Other options include adding cinnamon and/or sugar, or spreading jelly, lingonberries, or gomme on it. Scandinavian-American variations include rolling it with a thin layer of peanut butter and sugar, with butter and white or brown sugar, with butter and corn syrup, or with butter and salt, or with ham and eggs. Also eaten with beef and other savory items like Ribberull and mustard, and it is comparable to a tortilla. The Sons of Norway have lodges to teach making lefse to younger generations. They have a lodge here in Fargo, you can find their page here.

If you'd like to have some lefse from a local company, you can order it online here. Freddy's Homemade Potato Lefses have been making them since 1946. They also have a physical location and are open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at 176 E. Main Ave., West Fargo.

For those adventurous enough, who'd like to make their own- you can find the recipe here. A local Farm also offers classes to learn how to make it, and you can find more information here.


Krumkake

(Norwegian: [ˈkrʊ̀mˌkɑːkə], meaning "curved cake"; plural krumkaker) is a Norwegian waffle cookie made of flour, butter, eggs, sugar, and cream. Descendent from the Italian pizzelle, a special decorative two-sided iron griddle, or the Sicilian cannolo, or similar to a waffle iron, is traditionally used to bake the thin round cakes. Older irons are used over the stove, but modern electric irons offer the convenience of nonstick surfaces, automatic timing, and multiple cakes per batch. While hot, the 13–20 cm krumkaker are rolled into small cones around a wooden or plastic cone form. Krumkake can be eaten plain or filled with whipped cream (often multekrem) or other fillings.

These cookies are popular not only in Norway but also among Norwegian immigrant descendants in New England and the American Midwest. Krumkaker are traditionally made in preparation for Christmas, along with other cookies of Nordic origin including Sandbakelse and Rosettes. They offer a sweet dessert after the traditional Christmas Eve dinner.

In Germany, the cookies are commonly filled with sweet stuffings. They are also used as a type of ice cream cone.

To make your own, there's a recipe here.


Lutefisk

(Norwegian, pronounced [ˈlʉ̂ːtfɛsk] in Northern and parts of Central Norway, [ˈlʉ̂ːtəˌfɪsk] in Southern Norway; Swedish: lutfisk [ˈlʉ̂ːtfɪsk]; Finnish: lipeäkala [ˈlipeæˌkɑlɑ]; literally "lye fish") is dried whitefish (normally cod, but ling and burbot are also used). It is made from aged stockfish (air-dried whitefish), or dried and salted cod, pickled in lye. It is gelatinous in texture after being rehydrated for days prior to eating.

For it to become edible, lutefisk must again be soaked in cold water. The first step is soaking for five to six days (with the water changed daily). The saturated lutefisk is then soaked in an unchanged solution of cold water and lye for an additional two days. The fish swells during this soaking, and its protein content decreases by more than 50 percent, producing a jelly-like consistency. When this treatment is finished, the fish (saturated with lye) is inedible with a pH of 11–12. To make the fish edible, a final treatment of yet another four to six days of soaking in cold water (also changed daily) is needed. The lutefisk is then ready to be cooked.

After the preparation, the lutefisk is saturated with water and must therefore be cooked extremely carefully so that it does not fall to pieces. To create a firm consistency, it is common to spread a layer of salt over the fish about half an hour before it is cooked. This will "release" some of the water in the fish meat. The salt must be rinsed off carefully before cooking.

Lutefisk does not need additional water for the cooking; it is sufficient to place it in a pan, salt it, seal the lid tightly, and let it steam cook under a very low heat for 20–25 minutes. An alternative is to wrap in aluminum foil and bake at 435 °F for 40–50 minutes.

Another option is to parboil lutefisk, wrapped in cheesecloth and gently boiled until tender. Lutefisk can also be boiled directly in a pan of water. Lutefisk may also be cooked in a microwave oven. The average cooking time is 8–10 minutes per whole fish (a package of two fish sides) at high power in a covered glass cooking dish, preferably made of heat-resistant glass. The cooking time will vary, depending upon the power of the microwave oven.

Lutefisk is prepared as a seafood dish of several Nordic countries. It is traditionally part of the Christmas feast; Norwegian julebord and Swedish julbord, as well as the similar Finnish joulupöytä.

It is traditionally served with boiled potatoes, mashed green peas, melted butter and small pieces of fried bacon. Regional variations include a sprinkle of freshly ground allspice or black pepper and the addition of coarsely ground mustard in the white sauce sometimes served over it. In the United States, lutefisk is often served with a variety of side dishes—including bacon, peas, pea stew, potatoes, lefse, gravy, mashed rutabaga, white sauce, melted or clarified butter, syrup, and geitost, or "old" cheese (gammelost). It is sometimes eaten with meatballs, which is not traditional in Scandinavia. Side dishes vary greatly from family to family and region to region.

The taste of well-prepared lutefisk is very mild, and the white sauce is often spiced with pepper or other strong-tasting spices. In Minnesota and Wisconsin, this method (seasoned with allspice) is common among Swedish-Americans, while Norwegian-Americans often prefer to eat it unseasoned with melted butter or cream sauce.

Far more lutefisk is consumed in the United States than in Scandinavia, much of it by Scandinavian Americans in Lutheran churches and fraternal lodges. If anyone would like to sample this delicacy, head out to the Sons of Norway and enjoy their Lutefisk and Meatballs Dinner on January 16.

Here's a video of someone tasting it for the first time:

And here's a video of the Sons of Norway in Oregon, talking about their Lutefisk dinner- with testimonies from people that like it:




Next week we'll continue this series with more information on the Norwegian Dakotan Cuisine tradition, their culture and way of living, and how they have impacted the culture in the Prairie.

Stay tuned for more information on more cultures in future posts. Our area is blessed to be called home by many people of many cultures, and they deserve to be acknowledged.