Messiah crew makes lefse a mission

Ingrid Steen checks for light brown spots on the lefse before flipping it to fry the other side, while Diane Johnson rolls another round ready for the griddle.

In the kitchen of Messiah Lutheran Church, a dozen people tend to their jobs mixing, kneading, rolling and frying Norwegian lefse.
It’s a process aimed at perfect rounds made from tender dough. The men mix flour into the potato batches, form it into logs and cut those into equal-sized pieces shaped like small pucks. Women and a few men and youth, roll the dough thin and fry it on griddles set up in the kitchen and fellowship hall.
“My mother made lefse years and years ago. I just like keeping the heritage going,” said Ruth Hellem, a Messiah member who drives up from Sioux Falls to attend church and help with the lefse project. “I’m all Norwegian.” She, her daughter Ingrid Steen and granddaughter Erin Steen, 15, all have their jobs making the delicacy.
Erin Steen of Jasper estimates she’s been helping fry the lefse since fourth grade; now she is in 10th.
“It’s something fun to do,” she said. “It’s just fun to spend time with family to make it.”
There’s one other reason the three make lefse at church and at home for the holidays. “We like to eat it,” Ingrid Steen said.
The church crew has a mission: Making enough lefse to satisfy the crowds at this Saturday’s vendor fair in Trent. Money raised through the church women’s biggest fundraiser will go to several of the causes the church supports, such as the Breadbasket in Flandreau, scholarships to help kids go to church camp, snow gear for elementary students and the local backpack project called Weekend Fuel.
Deon Jensen used Thrivent Choice Dollars to buy all the ingredients and other supplies for the project.
Messiah’s goal is to make 280 packages for the fair, which is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Trent gym. They sell the dinner-plate sized rounds in packages of five for $5. Later in November, they will make more packages so their own members can buy some.
“At our booth, we have a line,” said Jackie Ellefson, who coordinates the project.
Messiah, a church started in 1970 amongst the farmland east of Trent, has about 60 members who attend church each Sunday. The roots of the church go back to when Oslo and Bethania churches combined. Since that time, some members from the Lone Rock parish that closed have joined Messiah.
Several husband and wife teams share the work of lefse making, which has been going on for years with sales in Trent starting in 2013. They gather for part of a Saturday and take time to finish after church the following Sunday. Old and young get involved then, trying their hands to become experts at the craft. Everyone hopes for a mistake or two so they can eat the “rejects,” hot from the griddle, spread with butter and doused with sugar or brown sugar.
Farmer and member Terry Johnson took a day off between harvesting soybeans and corn to roll and fry on Saturday, something his family also does at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“I’ve got to practice a little bit,” he said as he got started. “It’s a tradition from my Norwegian heritage, and I love the taste of it and our grandkids love it.”

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