The Swedish immigrants brought with them many peasant traditions and foods of the time. Clinging to their heritage, many kept up the traditions in the new world, especially at Advent and Christmas, and even as they became less common in the mother country. The Christmas Eve feast for Swedish immigrants would include a smorgåsbord of traditional dishes such as lutefisk, potato sausage, Swedish meatballs, pickled herring, lefse, rice pudding with lingonberries, spritz, rosettes, and kringler, which are still familiar to many families in this area.
Lutefisk remains an important traditional dish in Minnesota. Salt was expensive or unavailable, so Swedish and Norwegian peasants dried fish to preserve it throughout the year and for travelling. Dried whitefish, most often cod, is rehydrated in cold water for five to six days and then soaking it in a solution of cold water and lye for an additional two days, giving it the consistency of Jello. To remove the lye and make the fish edible, it is then soaked in cold water for another four to six days. Finally, the lutefisk is ready to be cooked, most often simmered in cheesecloth until tender.
At Zion’s annual Lutefisk Dinner, on the last Friday each October, the lutefisk is served with Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, mashed rutabagas, peas, lefse, and cranberries. Proceeds from the dinner support Zion ministries and local community ministries.
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