What makes a cherished family recipe so special? It’s often loved so much because of the person that first made it, and if they are no longer with you, it’s the memories you have of recreating and enjoying it with the people you love. It might also be a recipe or dish that is only made for special occasions or during a certain time of year. For our family, Limpa is all of those things. The recipe came David’s great grandmother Olivia Christina Larson who immigrated from Sweden in 1896, it’s has had a very special place in our hearts and stomachs for 6 generations.
If you’ve heard some of our stories about our Swedish rye bread, you probably know about how David learned how to make Limpa as a twelve-year-old boy from his grandmother, Bertha Newman who had learned the recipe from her mother-in-law Olivia (aka Gacki). He stopped her hand as she threw ingredients into the bowl so he could measure and write down the quantities. This story will never get old to me because I love picturing my dad as a boy in my own grandmother’s kitchen as this fateful batch of Limpa was made. That was obviously just the beginning. I hope my dad doesn’t mind outing his age, but we have 60 years of Limpa batches to follow. As we enjoy the first holiday season at Hulda’s I have been reflecting on this special bread, that until this year only rarely got to be enjoyed outside of the November, December and January (unless you were really lucky and found a loaf of gold in the freezer in July).
When I was a little girl, I remember being in the kitchen when my dad baked. It was Limpa that gave me my love for baking. I especially loved the transformation of a batch of bread. From wet and dry ingredients to something you physically form with your hands along with the magic of each proofing all before the amazing aroma fills the house as it reaches it’s final delicious product. Limpa takes about 5 hours from start to finish and I have particularly fond memories of waking up to the sound of pots and bowls and my dad yelling “BAD MILK!” early in the morning. Get it? One of the first steps is scalding the milk, (sounds like “scolding the milk”) It’s a bad dad joke, but still part of the tradition. Anyway, when I got old enough and could help with the baking I eventually worked along side my dad as he taught me the little tricks that ensure a perfect batch of bread. I think I was 19 when I graduated what we called my apprenticeship and was rewarded with my own large stoneware Limpa mixing bowl that I still use today.
The memories and magic go beyond the baking though. My dad gifts dozens of loaves of Limpa for family and close friends every year. The freezer fills up and the Limpa List gets checked twice. Most are delivered in person to his brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews and some get shipped to those in Illinois, Indiana and Florida. One lucky loaf gets set aside for our Swedish Smorgasbord on Christmas Eve. Most of us who enjoy Limpa never met Gacki, but when we share a loaf or savor it’s unique flavor we are honoring her. And I hope we will continue to do so for years to come.
The beauty of this time of year isn’t all about the shiny new things, it’s about the traditions and connections we share with those around us and those who have come before us. Our holiday toast (Limpa is afterall best toasted with butter) from Hulda’s to you is that you find joy in tradition this season. We wish you God Jul and a happy New Year.