Every two years, the congregation at Faith Lutheran Church in Hamilton pays homage to their Scandinavian roots by cooking and serving a Scandinavian Dinner. This dinner is not a dinner that is just cooked and served on one day; it takes almost a month to prepare all the components and favorites of the meal. The meal features lutefisk, Swedish meatballs, lefse, boiled potatoes, salads and of course, cookies!
There are about 20 people who work every weekend on preparations, beginning the first of January. Those involved with the meatballs began preparing them on January 5. This is a special blend of hamburger and sausage that is ground at Hamilton’s Marketplace. The meatballs are then frozen until the day prior to the event which is January 26, 2019. The crew made about 5100 meatballs. These will be served with a brown gravy.
The next weekend, January 12, the lefse crew came in. Making lefse is a two-part process. First potatoes are peeled and boiled. Then they are riced, butter added and allowed to cool completely. The lefse is made the next day when flour is added and the lefse is rolled out. This year they made about 1,160 lefse rounds.
This past Saturday, another group of bakers gathered to make traditional Scandinavian cookies. One group was making krumkake, which is kind of like a thin waffle with a dash of cardamom. The batter is thin and ladled into a krumkake iron with designs on it. When the cookie is done, the baker deftly lifts the round out and wraps it around a cone-like roller where they stiffen as they cool. The cookies are stored in a cool room until this Saturday.
The other cookies that they made on Saturday were sand bakkels. These are a sugar cookie that is placed in molds of varying shapes. After baking, they are delicately removed from the molds and placed in boxes until the day of the dinner. Then, the sand bakkels will be filled with lingon berries and other berries and topped with cool whip. Rosettes and spritz cookies are also baked and ready for the dinner.
The ‘star’ of the meal for many is the lutefisk. This is cod that has been dried and treated with lye, then rinsed and cooked. The lutefisk is ordered from Milwaukee and shipped via truck the Monday prior to the event. It is cooked outside the church kitchen in a tent. Event coordinator Celeste Pogachar said between the humidity of boiling the fish and boiling potatoes, and the fact that the lutefisk has its own distinct odor that may linger, it’s easier to use the tent. They also offer pickled herring, which Pogachar describes as the “sushi of Norway.”
The Scandinavian Dinner began in 1974 at a church member’s home. Over the 45 years since, the dinner was moved to the church and has become a biennial event. They use the same recipes, ones that have been passed down from grandmothers and mothers to this generation.
Currently, Faith Lutheran is without a pastor but Pogachar said there was no talk of not doing the event.
“This is the fellowship,” she said sweeping her arm around the kitchen and dining room where everyone was working.
They can seat a hundred people at a time. Missoula Emmanuel Lutheran Church brings a busload of people down for the meal. Pogachar recommends coming prior to 3:30 or after 4:30 p.m. because of the bus from Missoula.
The Scandinavian Dinner is Saturday, January 26, from 3 to 7 p.m. at Faith Lutheran Church, 171 Lewis Lane, Hamilton. Tickets are $17 for adults and $5 for children. The tickets may be purchased at the door or at the Paper Clip.
They also offer ‘Fish on Wheels’. For those in the Hamilton/Corvallis area who are homebound, a meal may be purchased by calling the church at 363-2964, and one will be delivered to you. The church office is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.