7 Iconic Church Supper Foods in Wisconsin, from Lutefisk to Pierogies Page 1 of 0

From creamy rommegrot to crispy krumkake and savory pierogies, Wisconsin church ladies cook the best suppers.

When the nights get chilly, you know church supper season has arrived. Whether you’re a fan of lutefisk or just showing up for the meatballs, here are some foods we love to see at church supper. These traditional foods also tell us the story of where our ancestors came from.

Lutefisk: what were these Norwegians thinking?

The classic Norwegian Lutheran dinner here in Wisconsin includes lutefisk, which takes its name from its components: lye (lut) and cod (fisk). The dish is ancient, dating back to Viking times in Scandinavia. The Vikings dried their cod for the winter. Then an enterprising Viking chef figured out that if you add the caustic chemical lye, it reconstitutes the fish into a jelly-like substance. We don’t invent anything. Wisconsin law had to be changed to clarify that lutefisk was not a toxic substance.

The pro-lutefisk prepare a pile of mashed potatoes (or rutabagas, depending on the name) and top it with a little lutefisk and lots of butter.

While lutefisk is rarely eaten in Norway, it is still an immigrant thing. And in the fall, you’ll find lutefisk suppers in many churches. The pandemic has not spared Lutefisk. A recent report from Minnesota hints at a shortage of lutefisk due to supply chain issues. So get your lye reconstituted jellied fish while you can!

A fork next to a serving of lutefisk during a Norwegian celebration at Christ Lutheran Church in Preston, Minnesota. (Photo via Jonathunder/Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Meatballs: King of the Church Basement Kitchen

Whether they’re presented as Swedish meatballs, German meatballs or Norwegian meatballs, church ladies know how to cook them and they’re always good. If you’re lucky enough to live near an Italian-American church, you’ll get the Italian kind in red sauce.

There’s even a Swiss meatball, which is served every year at the Swiss Church in New Glarus. The meatballs are part of the annual Kilby dinner, an annual event in Switzerland, which welcomes church members back from their summer of farming in the high mountain meadows of the Alps.

At Polish church suppers, say “Pass the pierogies please”

At a Polish religious holiday, entrees may be golabki (cabbage rolls), kielbasa (Polish sausage), or pork and sauerkraut, all served with parsley potatoes. But everyone is really there for the pierogies. These little stuffed dumplings are the best, whether stuffed with cheese, mushrooms or the traditional prune filling.

Can’t get more German than pork knuckle and sauerkraut

St. James Parish in downtown Madison has long been known for its pork knuckle and sauerkraut food, held most years in late winter. To properly cook pork legs, cooks start a few days before, so the feet have time to sit in their broth, which becomes a jelly as it cools.

They are reheated, then served with homemade sauerkraut and cream of corn for a rib meal.

Lefse: What God gave us to compensate Lutefisk

These Norwegian immigrants knew how to manage with a potato. Lefse, if you’ve never eaten it, is a potato-based tortilla, but so much more tender and delicious.

Purists like it spread with butter and a pinch of sugar then roll up before eating. Others have also spread cranberry jam on it.

And a truly innovative soul came up with the Norwegian taco: meatballs and gravy rolled up in lefse with maybe a little more of that lingonberry jam for the “salsa.”

Lefse with butter and sugar. (Photo via Andrew Horne/Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-3.0)

Rommegrot: a funny name for a delicious dessert

Not everything white at a Norwegian church supper is as scary as lutefisk. Try rommegrot, a thick sour cream pudding, which is usually served warm and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.

It is delicious and excellent when served with these traditional crispy Norwegian treats of rosettes, sandbakkels and krumkake.

Kolacky or Kolache? It’s Czech for Sweet Roll.

Wisconsin has several Czech communities, including those in Kewaunee and Manitowoc counties, one near Hillsboro, and another in northern Grant County.

If you’re lucky enough to attend a supper or festival at the Bohemian Church, you might be spoiled for kolaches. These sweet yeast buns usually have a filling of apricots, cream cheese, poppy seeds, or prunes, and you can’t eat just one or you’ll drive the ladies of the church crazy.

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