If it’s fall in Minnesota, it must mean lutefisk
With the coming of fall many turn their thoughts to a Minnesota tradition, perhaps a midwestern tradition, — the church supper. The suppers take many forms from turkey to chili to Swedish meatball to oyster stew meals. And then there is lutefisk.
Lutefisk has long been a staple of Norwegian Lutheran congregations and St. John’s Lutheran in Kasson is one of those with a long tradition of the lutefisk dinner. This year’s event is still weeks always but already the members of the congregation are hard at work making lefse, the Norwegian flatbread made with potatoes that traditionally accompanies the lutefisk.
To ensure there is enough lefse for the dinner and for the bake sale that accompanies the event, church members began the process a full eight weeks before the October 26 dinner. Every Tuesday night, a group of church members gathers in the church kitchen to peel and boil 120 pounds of potatoes and get them ready for the next step.
The lefse mix is placed into long pans and scored into eight or nine sections and then refrigerated overnight.
On Wednesday morning, another crew arrives to actually make the lefse. There is a specific order and rules to the procedure, lefse makers say.
The refrigerated lefse dough is then broken into smaller portions and rolled into balls. The next step is for the dough to be rolled until it is thin and perfectly round, and a precise diameter. It is then carefully passed off to another person who finishes the cooking process on grills specifically made for lefse. And church members say they are serious about that — the grills, which were made by Einer Jorgensen years ago, are never used for another purpose.
The lefse are then sent to another area where they are stacked under a cloth for some final steaming before being carefully inspected by the “quality control” group. Quality control is responsible for grading each individual lefse. Some are labeled for sale, others for serving at the dinner and still others for “eating.”
They are then sent to the final station where they are folded and bagged and taken to the freezer where they will remain until the day of the dinner.
While the lefse can be prepared in advance and frozen, lutefisk preparation is another story, and that effort will involve another crew of workers the day of the dinner as well as the advance work of preparing the meatballs, rutabagas, cookies, cabbage slaw, and relish.
For those interested in statistics, the St. John’s website reports that in 2018 the dinner involved 1,700 pounds of lutefisk, 880 pounds of potatoes, 925 pounds of rutabagas, 550 pounds of Swedish meatballs, 315 Scandinavian cookies, 36 gallons of cabbage slaw, 34 gallons of cranberry relish and 464 dozen lefse.
All of this involves a lot of people. The 2023 Lutefisk Dinner Steering Committee includes Amy Flickinger and Amy Weaver who are dinner co-chairs. Then there are Marge Albright and Jeannine Allen who are lefse co-chairs. Rounding out the committee are Judy Reimeyer-Hunt the treasurer and Ardis Grovdahl and Janet Solberg.
The St. John’s Lutefisk Dinner tradition began around 1930, according to the church website and continued annually until 1942. It was resumed in 1962 and continued every year through 2019 when the COVID pandemic put a halt to the dinners in 2020 and 2021. The event resumed last year and continues in 2023, though with several changes.
The main change is that this year reservations must be made in advance as there will be no walk-ins. Tickets for the dining room seating or for take out must be pre-purchased and paid for online. The link for the reservations at stjohnskasson.org opens at 8 a.m. on September 20 and continues until all places have been reserved.
Seating times will be 10:45 a.m., 12 noon, 1:15 p.m., 4:30 p.m., and 5:45 p.m.
The traditional menu will include lutefisk and lefse, meatballs in gravy, rutabagas, mashed potatoes, cranberry relish, cabbage slaw, and Norwegian baked goods. The bake sale opens at 9:30 a.m. at the church and continues until sold out.
Cost for this year’s dinner is $25 for adults and $10 for children under 10.
For more information call (507) 634-6021.