Saturday, January 17, 2015

"Lutefisk? Is that a thing?"

Hello, everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back and I have a fun blog post for you this weekend. Remember the secret German apple cake recipe I posted a few weeks ago from my friend Stacey? Well, she not only didn't take revenge on me for posting it here (AGAIN), she's now volunteered to be my international food correspondent... from the wilds of Savage, Montana.
   Her family was invited to the annual Lutheran Church fund raising dinner (that included lutefisk, lefsa, meatballs and fruit soup) and she knew I'd be SO EXCITED to hear about it. Because I love food. All food. And especially weird food.
  Here, I'll let her tell you the tale in her own words (with pictures, because she's just that cool). 
Since moving to Northeastern Montana, we have noticed the local people take pride in their Norwegian heritage. They're very happy to trace their family tree for you and  there are lots of blonde hair and blue eyed folks. We also have a sprinkling of Black Feet, Shoshoni and other Indian tribes, not to mention the migrant workers from as far away as South Africa and  as near as Idaho who have come to work in the oil fields.  Montana is a true melting pot of cultures.
Now let's get to the food.
Background notes of Lutefisk: Literally translated, Lutefisk means lyefish,which refers to the early process of soaking with a lye solution made of birch ashes was used in the luting process.  It is made from Cod or stockfish and was used in Viking trade way back in the 12th century.
Here in Montana you will find the Lutefisk in all its glory.  I even find it an option on salad bars. 
 A few locals gave me some tips on how to make Lutefisk at home.
First, buy some lutefisk. A good deal I am told is Olsen Fish Company.
Combine 3 quarts of water with 1 & 1/2 Tbsp. of salt.  Bring to a boil, turn down heat * Wrap fish in Cheese Cloth* then add fish to water (make sure water is NOT boiling, just under at this point). Cook for 7-11 minutes. Serve immediately with melted butter or cream sauce.Sounds just like the way I prepare crab. I added salt and pepper. My daughter says it has a "unique texture" and she traded me for my meatballs. 
 Other items at the dinner were boiled potatoes with white gravy and lefsa, a Norwegian flatbread.

For kids it was recommended to place a piece of lefsa on a plate, spread with thin layer of butter, then add mashed potatoes,  then flake Lutefisk on top of the potatoes and pour melted butter over the top.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Yummy!  
Some people spread the lefsa with butter and added packets of sugar. 

The fruit "Sweet soup" looked like baked beans at first, YIKES! But soon I discovered it is the best! You use lots and lots of the heavy table cream. Oh and it is served cold.  I couldn't get the recipe, my dearest friend Mrs. Munoz, so sorry.  I could identify at least apples, raisins, dates and possibly grapes.
(That part about the beans made me laugh. And here's a link to a few recipes for "sot soup" as it's called in most of Scandinavia. I couldn't tell if this was the recipe, or not, but the all seem pretty similar. It has tapioca, dried fruit, prunes, grapes, cinnamon and served hot or cold.)

Don't you just love the creamer dish?  I was tempted to swiped it for you, except I was in church at the time, so, I settled on giving it a loving stroke and whispered sweet nothings to it as it passed by.

(Again, I really laughed at this comment. She knows that I LOVE antique dishes. And it is a very lovely vintage creamer. I would be tempted to befriend the person who owned this because I know we would have so much in common... namely, an admiration for beautiful dishware.)
I hope everyone enjoyed this post from the wilds of Montana where it was recently -40F. Those sorts of thermometric numbers makes me think that people just aren't meant to live there, but my friend insists they're very happy in that frigid wasteland, populated by elk, moose, and the occasional lutefisk. To each his or her own, yes?
  Thank you, Stacey, for all the pictures and the informative "food from afar"!
Until next time, everyone!


  1. What a cool idea -- armchair food traveling. I like! And how interesting that Montana keeps a little bit of Norway flavour thanks to its pioneer ancestors.

    1. Isn't it? I mean, I think I had retained some vague reference to that from my 6th grade history class but it certainly wasn't anything I had really considered. Lutefisk on the salad bar! Crazy!

  2. Oh, this post should go viral!!!! WHAT A HOOT! And I can see why you guys are friends. First it was the weirdness factor, but I felt it rude to only comment on that, but whispering to stoneware opened all doors and dropped all pretense of propriety on my end.

    What a fun step into Norwegian food.

    I'm loving the kid trading for meatballs.... and whenever I read about salt cod in the Little House books, I ran and kissed our North Atlantic Haddock fish fries because I didn't have to eat or prepare salt cod.

    But I do love trying foods from other cultures. I love festivals and church dinners and places to go that let me explore their foods (do you know that countless countries claim baklava as their own???? Like the idea of nut pastry would only occur once, right????) without the expense of boarding a plane.

    Thank you, Stacey and Virginia!

    1. Isn't she hilarious? She's much, much , much funnier than I am but just about as weird, so I do everything in my power to keep her around.
      Except her demands keep changing. First it was just heavy cream in a saucer by her pillow. Then it was wearing my clothes inside out and backwards. Next thing I know I'm performing Hercules' 12 tasks and tracking the Nemean Lion.
      This is my last chance to keep her- a spot on Yankee Belle Café.

      And YES, isn't it funny how the same foods show up in different cultures? I think when we're left with just fruit and nuts and meat, we end of with pretty much the same dishes. It's when food starts to get processed and we end up with Vegemite and seaweed doughnuts and those chili covered lollipops my kids like.

  3. Oh, my!! Sherri Shackelford is a proponent of the lutefisk too. It sort of scares me. I am not sure it is wise to bring into your home. Where in Montana? Near Glacier National Park? STAY WARM!!!

    1. They have spotty internet access so not sure if Stacey will pop in. (Not to mention they've gone the Luddite route recently, which I completely approve of... except it cuts down on our online chatter).
      Didn't you look up Savage once to make sure it was a real place? I think it's in the Northeastern corner of Montana.

  4. Lutefisk reminds me of hominy here in the South. Lye makes everything better!

    I want that fruit recipe!

    1. I do, too! I'm a huge fan of tapioca but I never make it. I don't know why. Maybe I should make it today!

      And the fruit recipe is linked, Julie.

  5. The last time I bought a cod filet, it was the toughest piece of fish I'd ever encountered. It must have been the mortal remains of the grandfather of the oldest school in the fjord. I think the Norwegians invented the lutefisk process to tenderize it.

    1. HAHAHA! See, I think we've shared portions of the same Great-granddaddy cod. I thought it might be because I live in Eastern Oregon, where the nearest breathing seafood is 7+ hours away.

  6. I don't have to travel far for this post - northeastern Montana and western South Dakota aren't all that far apart! And we share the neighbors with Norwegian ancestry.

    My daughter's friend from Norway visited a couple summers ago and got a kick out of her taste of home here in the States. Uff da!

    I've had Julekake (mmm!) and a few other Norwegian dishes, but I haven't tried lutefisk. And I'm definitely not going to try to make it :)

    Great post, Virginia and Stacey!

    1. Isn't Stacey the bomb? What friend will text you that they're invited to the Lutefisk dinner because they want to know if you want pictures? Hmmmm, not many!
      Someone I just love about Stacey (I can talk about her because she hardly goes online) is that she has a real curiosity about her. She's passionately inquisitive... about everything. Nothing is every boring or "been there, done that".
      Another reason she makes such a great homeschooling mom- she's as interested in the world as her kids are!

    2. I meant "something I just love", not someone! Can't type today!