Harsh Times

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This selection of recipes are from around the world. These were staples used in harsh times. These helped keep people stay warm and to give them nutrients during the harshest winters and when food was scarce. If you have something that people used as a staple, send those to me along with a short story of how and why the staples came to be. John....


Lefse (pronounced 'lef-suh') is a traditional soft Scandinavian flatbread made out of potato, milk or cream and flour, and cooked on a griddle.

In central Norway, a variation called tynnlefse (thin lefse) is made, which is rolled up with butter, sugar and cinnamon (or with butter and brown sugar), and eaten as a cake.

Or another example on the same lines:
Potato lefse is usually spread with butter and sprinkled with sugar, then rolled up like a small burrito; other traditional Norwegian lefse recipes call for smoked meats and cheeses. Other variations of potato lefse recipes include jam, brown sugar, honey, even a spritz of lemon juice; many toppings compliment soft and supple potato lefse!

Tjukklefse or tykklefse (thick lefse) is thicker, and often served with coffee as a cake.

Potetlefse (potato lefse) is often used in place of a hot-dog bun and can be used to roll up sausages. This delight is also known as pølse med lompe in Norway, lompe being the potato lefse.

There are many ways of spicing lefse up. The most common is adding butter and sugar to the lefse and rolling it up. Other tasty ways to eat it include adding cinnamon and spreading jelly upon it.
Scandinavian-American variations include rolling it with a thin layer of peanut butter and sugar, with butter and sugar, with butter and corn syrup, or with ham and eggs. Also quite good with beef, and other savory items, it is comparable to a thin tortilla.

Since potato lefse is somewhat time-consuming to make, it is usually reserved for special holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, with the right Norwegian lefse recipes and tools-especially lefse grills (an electric griddle), rolling pins, and a heavy-duty potato ricer-traditional Norwegian lefse can be an anytime treat!

How To Make Lefse

6 heaping cups mashed or riced potatoes
1 tsp salt
3 tblsp margarine or butter, melted
1 tblsp sugar
2 tblsp heavy cream or evaporated milk
1-1/2 c all-purpose flour

Combine all ingredients except flour.
Cool in refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
Add flour to cooled potato mixture, mixing well.
Form dough into 12 golfball size portions.
Roll out one portion very thin on floured surface. (Dust board with flour when turning lefse dough.)
Cook on hot, ungreased griddle or non-stick pan just until brown spots appear, cooking once each side.
While first portion cooks, roll out next portion, etc.
Stack lefse between two towels to cool.
Store in refrigerator in plastic bags.

Lefse (Norwegian Flat Bread)

3 c potatoes, mashed
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tblsp sugar
5 tblsp shortening
2 tblsp sweet cream
1 c flour

Peel, boil, mash the potatoes. Then add everything but the flour, mixing well. Cool for several hours...the dough must be thoroughly chilled. Add the flour and mix well. Roll out the dough on a floured board as thin as you can (thinner than a burrito shell). Bake on a prepared hot lefse grill (about 500°F) until brown spots appear on the cooked side. Flip the lefse using your lefse stick, and brown until spots show on the second side. Remove, fold it in half, and cool before eating.

Pemmican, Wasna or Scout Meat

Pemmican, Wasna or Scout Meat is an ancient staple, variations of it exist around the world, and probably go back to the begining of man kind. This is a high protein food, and is very nutritious, and if prepared properly, it can last forever.
In the Dakotas of The United States where the Buffalo roamed, this was a staple for the Lakol Oyate People (Sioux Nation).
Some of the recipes below are adapted from this tribe.


2 cups buffalo jerky or beef jerky, shredded
1 cup dried chokeberries or tart red cherries, chopped
6 tblsp tallow(beef fat) or butter, melted

Combine all ingredients and form into 6 patties. Refrigerate until serving.

Saskatoon Pemmican

1 c Jerky; beef or venison
1 c Dried Saskatoon berries or -dried blueberries
1 c Unroasted sunflower seeds or -crushed nuts of any kind
2 tsp Honey
1/4 c Peanut butter
1/2 tsp Cayenne [optional]

This version uses peanut butter rather than melted suet or lard as the binding agent, which is more palatable for today's health conscious diets.
Grind [or pound] the dried meat to a mealy powder. Add the dried berries and seeds or nuts. Heat the honey, peanut butter and cayenne until softened. Blend. When cooled, store in a plastic bag or sausage casing in a cool dry place. It will keep for months.
Makes 3 cups


Tallo or Lard (or substitute water)
Dried Chokecherry or Juneberry (Saskatoons)
Ground Dried Corn Kernals

Grind dried flour corn kernals in a hand grinder.
Grind dried Chokecherry or Juneberry (Saskatoons).
Mix the corn and berries together at a ratio of 4 corn to 1 berry.
Put tallo in a frying pan and lightly brown the mixture.
Note: The old timers at this point would put more tallo/lard in the pan.
Dig into the corn mixture with the fingers and an elongated (four fingers wide) mass is formed. Thats why they call it in Dakota Wahuwapa (corn cob). Note: In English they are called Corn Balls probably because some tribes formed them into egg or ball shapes.
Dry them in the sun for later storage.


1 buffalo
16 lbs. choke cherries

Take one buffalo. Skin. Cut the meat in thin strips and sun-dry on racks (takes several days to dry). When meat is dry, pound it into a coarse meal. Set aside.
Break and boil bones of buffalo. Skim off fat and extract the marrow from the bones. Render all fat from buffalo in cauldron (or in hide-lined pit in ground with hot stones). Pound choke cherries into coarse meal. Retain seeds and skins.
When buffalo fat becomes liquified, add meat, fat, and cherries. Place mixture into bladder or water-tight skin containers (parfleches) and seal (sew shut).
Note: This mixture has been know to last for as long as 80 years!

Pemmican (Cree Indians)

Lean beef into thin strips. Dried until brittle, either in the sun or over hickory coals, but not over a flame. Grind strips alone or with raisins, prunes or apricots. Add just enough hot fat to make a thick dough. Form into small loaves and enclose in a muslin casing. Dip loaves into melted paraffin to seal. Store in a dry place. Will keep for months and is great for hiking or camping trips.

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