My Grandmother: A Great Swedish Cook
Mark Baldwin, Jr.
Grandma Ethel grew up in a family of new
Swedish immigrants to
I am going to explain about the various
Swedish foods that my Grandma grew up with, because she has got to be the
"best” Swedish cook in
Ethel Lundberg Larson, born
The family moved into Kennedy in the early 1900's. Here Albin became a rural mail driver. He kept his job for 40 years.
The Lundberg children all went to school in Kennedy. Grandma’s cooking talents were developed at the very early age of 13. To help support the family, Grandma worked as an assistant to a lady who ran a "cook car" during the harvest season. Grandma found the life very exciting, but the days were long and hard. She was up every morning by , because all their bread and pastries had to be made fresh for breakfast. This was no small job for the threshing crews were large groups of men, often 15 - 20 of them - all had big appetites.
There are many different types of breads that Grandma made back in that "cook-car" during those harvest days. But I will only tell you about 4 of my favorites.
1. Lefsa: Lefsa is made with potato flour that starts out as mashed potatoes. This is made into a thick paste and fried. The best way to eat Lefsa is cold with lots of butter and brown sugar on it.
2. Limpa: Limpa is a dark rye or graham bread with lots of grated orange peel in the batter. Grandma just showed me this past summer how to make it. At first when I started to knead the dough, the flour just wouldn’t mix in. Finally, Grandma came to my rescue and showed me her technique. That is to roll the dough around your knuckles, fold in the ends, and turn the dough part way around. After seeing how easy it was, I plunged back into the dough and became an expert in no time. After I finished kneading it we put it into the traditional round pans and baked it. Mmmmm! Was it good!!
3. Caraway Rye bread: This is another favorite among Swedes. This bread is made with lots of caraway and shaped into long rolls. This bread is to be eaten with cheeses, especially Caraway Cheese.
4. Yule Kaka: This is my favorite Swedish bread. This bread is made in nearly every Swedish household for Christmas. Never has a Christmas gone by when Grandma hasn't made some of this delicious sweetbread. Yule Kaka is a sweet bread that is chocked full of candied fruit, braided with cinnamon, and frosted with a powdered sugar almond icing.
After her experiences with the "cook
car", Grandma went to
During the time she spent at sewing school
Grandma met and married Frank Herman Larson, who was from
After they were married, they decided to buy a butcher shop. Grandma's father, Albin, who had been helping Mr. Swanson with the business, was the main instigator for the sale.
Grandpa soon built the business up to include a rural mail delivery route. This took place during harvest when the cooks needed to feed their work crews.
While Grandpa was out on this route, Grandma had to mind the store. Grandma often hired a baby sitter or had her sister, Myrtle Lundberg, run the store for her.
Their store also included dry goods, groceries, selling chickens to a produce company, and buying and selling cream and eggs for a creamery. In later years, Grandpa Frank bought and sold carload lots of potatoes.
There were 7 children born to Frank and Ethel Larson -=5 boys and 2 girls in this order:
1. Ronald Kenneth Ruby,
2. Loyal Leonard Oliver,
3. Frank Winslow,
4. Grace Joyce, my mother,
5. George Leland,
6. Ell Kay Clause,
7. Ethel Jane,
All their children attended school in
Grandpa Frank was well known in
Grandpa Frank worked with his sausage recipe until its flavor was just right. Then the recipe was followed exactly, right down to the last pinch of salt. They put in lean beef and pork - ground onions and potatoes - salt, pepper, and allspice. This was all ground together and stuffed into sausage skins. The sausage skins were bought salted and dried, so they had to be soaked before the stuffing process began.
Because Grandpa Frank made so much of the sausage he bought ton electric sausage stuffer and grinder. The slippery skins were slipped over the opening and were filled very rapidly. Grandpa pinched the sausage every so often to make them into 1 or 2 pound sections.
Potato sausage or "Korve" was a very popular item at his meat and grocery store, especially during the Christmas Holidays. Grandpa also ground and sold the perfect complement to "Korve", Cranberry/Orange relish. This was also made in great quantities and put into glass sealers. To make this relish, Grandpa Frank put into his electric grinder raw cranberries, whole oranges, and an equal part of white sugar. This relish kept well in a cool place. Grandpa had his hands full trying to keep ahead of the demand.
Where was Grandma Ethel during all this? Well, many times it was she that peeled that sack of potatoes and onions, and, of course, it was she that put the raw sausage on to boil and later to fry to a golden brown before serving. Boiling the sausage before frying keeps the casings from bursting. And the sausage always had to meet with Grandpa's approval before Grandpa considered it a happy batch of "Korve"
Before Grandpa Frank died in December 1970, there was rarely Christmas season that he let go by that he didn't make at least one batch of "korve" to dole out to his seven children's homes. His craft and recipe, however, is still followed by most of his sons and daughters, and several of his grandchildren.
Another spectacular winter Swedish food that Grandma and her sisters always talk about, although I have never tasted it, is called "Pult." It is pronounced exactly as written. The first ingredient necessary was 2 gallons of fresh beef blood that had been taken out at the butchering and cooled immediately in the snow. This was mixed into bran and flour with fried bacon and drippings. This made big round dumplings by putting a quantity in cheese cloth and dipping it into boiling water.
These dumplings were then put out in a large metal canto freeze out of doors. Several dumplings were retrieved to prepare for breakfast or for supper. The dumplings were cut up in thin slices and then cut into inch squares, then fried in butter. As soon as they reached golden brown, they were covered with cream, allowed to bubble up and thicken. Grandma said is made a terrific breakfast and made her hungry just to think about it.
There are a few more foods that are a commonplace in my family’s diet. The first is "Peck Finga". This is a mixture of eggs and bacon mixed into a milk gravy. This is really good over toast on a cold winter night.
I couldn't find the correct Swedish name for
this dish, but our family always calls it "Rice Pudding". This consists
of a milk and rice mush that was served with cinnamon, sugar and cream. I
always like to have Mom put raisins into it. This was THE meal for Christmas
Eve and my Great-Aunt Myrtle told me about how she and Ethel used to race
through it to get to the package opening. The next morning the family was
disappointed if they didn't wake up to the smell of hotcakes smothered with Lingon
Berries and fresh cream. Lingon Berries are grown in
That night for Christmas Supper came the biggest feast of the year. The menu started out with "Lutefisk", a kind of white fish found in Swedish waters. "Lutefisk" has very little taste of its own and is nearly always served with a butter or mustard sauce. Then comes "Korve" and the special relish, candied yams, Yule Kaka, and "Calvadunce". This is a cheese like pudding baked from the 3rd day milk from a newly freshened or a new mother cow. This is a type of jelly-like or Jello pudding and is fun to eat. Also, on the menu is Apple Sauce Cake. This starts out with 2 round cakes that look like flat pancakes when baked. They are soaked with the juices from the warm apple sauce. Then they are covered with apple sauce and served with whipped cream icing. Grandma always warns the family to save some room for her specialty, Cranberry Pudding. It wouldn't be Christmas without Grandma’s Cranberry Pudding. This is a type of cake that is loaded with whole cranberries. The topping is a delicious butter sauce that is Grandma's secret recipe. No one has ever left without being "stuffed" almost beyond limits.
Grandma Ethel has cooked for more people in her lifetime than anyone else I know. Not including relatives, or the threshing crews, or the teachers she often boarded at her house because of its closeness to the old Kennedy school. The reason I can say this is that Grandma and Grandpa have had a food stand at the Kittson County Fair for over 45 years. That's an awful lot of hamburgers served to an awful lot of people. When I asked Grandma why she has continued to run the food stand even though Grandpa isn't there to help her anymore, she just smiles and replies, "I think that it keeps the family together, and I get a chance to see all my friends".
Grandma now lives in
Grandma Ethel is quite a remarkable lady. I'm sure I will never find any other person who is so busy all the time. As she looks back and tells me of the many things she has done, places she's been, and the names of all the people she can recall never ceases to amaze me. To raise a family, to be President of the Ladies Aid for 12 years, to be a 4-H adult leader for more than 20 years, to run a butcher and grocery store, to run a food stand at the fair as well as one in their backyard, raise turkeys, to run a show hall in Kennedy, and to raise a large family seem to me to be an impossible feat for even a "Superwoman."
Even now, when she is supposed to be retired, Grandma never seems to rest. She is enrolled in craft classes and is always making something for her 7 children, 25 grandchildren, or her 8 great-grandchildren. Some of her hobbies are collecting china and copperware, painting ceramics, she also oil paints, does glass art work, makes Raggedy Ann Dolls, and during her spare time, she works in the garden, knits afghans or practices that special talent of hers, SWEDISH COOKING!!!
Dowdall, Cindy L. Baldwin, Interview on
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Larson, Ethel Lundberg, Interview on
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Larson, Ethel Lundberg, Interview on