There are quite a few things engrained into my mind from repeated years of Christmas Eves at Grandma and Grandpa Schick’s in Moose Jaw.
The old bungalow house was always hot and smelled of fish as the traditional halibut was fried and then stuck in the oven to keep warm. The kitchen was shoving-room-only as all the aunts drank wine and worked on side dishes for the big dinner.
The men gathered in the den where it was cooler, drinking beer, watching sports and staying as far away from the mayhem in the kitchen as they could.
The kids – the cousins who had been waiting months for this annual event – were in the basement playing tag, shuffleboard, or sampling off of Grandpa’s liquor shelf.
One thing I remember most is the lonely lefse dessert on the Christmas table. I barely knew what this was growing up and didn’t really ever eat it. No one really did it seemed, except for my cousin Darcy, who was basically a bottomless pit.
Lefse is a potato pancake of sorts, which always took up precious table space during the holiday dinner, but was rarely touched until dessert. It’s made of potatoes, butter, cream and flour.
I never appreciated the artery-clogging dish until Christmas 2008, a few months after my grandma passed away and there was suddenly extra table space. I asked my dad where the lefse had come from all those years, and he explained that grandma and Great Aunt Mable used to make it together every year.
And thus started my tradition of making lefse, a dish I’ve grown to love and appreciate. Every December for the last decade, I have made the dish. I started with a few years of learning the craft secrets from Great Aunt Mable.
She passed away in 2012 and I began to pass the craft on to aunts and cousins – who also had too much space left at the Christmas table – and now friends.
No matter who I make it with each year, it is always an adventure and I always learn something new. Like, lefse is Norwegian, not German as I had always thought; Grandma and Great Aunt Mable used to gossip about family when they got together annually to make it; and it doesn’t have to be eaten with butter and corn syrup as my grandma insisted.
Most recently, we have discovered that they can be eaten with ranch dressing, cheese, cheese and syrup, butter and brown sugar, and even peanut butter.
Try whipping up a batch of lefse yourself and create your own new tradition and memories.
16 cups or 10 lbs mashed potatos (I used Yukon Gold this year)
2 cups whipping cream
1.5 cups butter (I use salted and skip adding the salt)
*salt to taste
6 cups flour
Mix the whipping cream and butter into freshly mashed potatoes. Rice potatoes once then refrigerate overnight. When ready to make the next day, divide into four parts and mix/make a quarter at a time. Rice cooled mixture one more time for good luck, add 1.5 cups flour and mix by hand (Aunt Mable’s rule).
Take a ball of dough slightly larger than a golf ball and roll out as thin as possible. Use plenty of flour on the counter top and rolling pin when rolling out or the dough will stick to everything.
Place the thin pancake in a dry frying pan heated to about medium (depending on your stove). When the lefse starts to bubble and brown slightly, flip it.
Place finished lefses on a table of tea towels to cool. Don’t stack until cooled. You must eat any that are “burnt” (again, Aunt Mable’s rule).
Lefses can be frozen for months, although they never last that long in my house.
To eat: microwave for 10 seconds (if not eating from fresh), butter, drizzle with corn syrup, roll up like a crepe, and enjoy! And as great aunt Mable says in her recipe, “Forget about the calories. It’s Christmas.”