It was time for a family reunion up on Stevenson Road in Utica Township last week and that meant it was time to make molsa-that thick Norwegian dairy product favored at such an occasion.
Donald and Rosemary Helgerson joined Donald’s brother John Helgerson over at Jim and Julie Wedeberg’s Wednesday morning to make the molsa. It started with 10 gallons of fresh milk from the Wedeberg’s herd and a clean chale. The chale is the copper pot used to cook down the milk on its way to becoming molsa.
Since its copper, the chale tends to turn a bit green between uses and must first be scoured clean and sterilized. Then, it was placed on a wood stove fire burning in the driveway and the 10 gallons of milk were added to be stirred constantly by the group present. The molsa makers will hand the stirring paddles off to each other during the more than four hours in which the molsa must be stirred constantly.
Meanwhile, another four gallons of milk had been turned into cheese with the help of some rennet in a shallow cake pan on the stovetop in the house. Rosemary had done that earlier.
With the whey drained off, the cheese is cut into small pieces and put into the chale and the stirring continues.
Despite the recent hot weather and the stove burning in the driveway, it was pleasant day with a nice breeze blowing under the maple tree in the Wedebergs’ driveway last Wednesday morning, as the Helgersons and Wedebergs took turns stirring the molsa.
Jim Wedeberg is a cousin to the Helgerson brothers. They’d all be attending the Wedeberg-Iverson reunion on Saturday.
Although it may in fact be “a Norwegian delicacy” as Rosemary pointed out, there are some Norwegians that don’t know much about it. It depends where your ancestors came from in Norway, according to John Helgerson, who now lives in Coon Valley. It seems that wherever the Norwegians in Coon Valley originated they don’t know much about molsa, he joked at one point.
Eventually, the paddles the men were stirring the molsa with would get a certain stickiness adhering to them and then the Norwegians would know their molsa was done. It would then be ladled, not poured, from the chale into a milk can, which is placed under cold running water until the molsa is cooled completely. The molsa would be kept cold in Donald’s spare refrigerator until it came out at the family reunion on Saturday. It would be enough for more than 30 people.
“Some don’t eat it at all,” John observed. “That’s better for us.”
“I don’t know how anyone won’t eat it, it’s so good,” Donald added.
Then, there was some speculation about the origin of the copper chale they were using to make the molsa. Did it come from Norway? Probably not. It’s too heavy. It was probably made here after their ancestors arrived here.
Well, the chale is important alright and so are the paddles that they’re using to stir the molsa because “if you scorch the stuff, you have to start over,” according to Jim.
Donald agreed scorching it would “spoil the whole batch.”
“There would be some disappointed people I’ll tell you that,” Rosemary added.
“You can tell it’s getting thick,” Wedeberg said as he resumed stirring at one point.
What’s molsa really like?
“It’s kind of like melted ice cream with chunks of cheese in it,” one of the Norwegians explained and they all laughed.
John Wedeberg, the son of Jim, had been watching the proceedings from about 30 feet away as he worked with another man on some farm machinery.
The younger Wedeberg’s opinion of molsa seemed to be that it’s fine and he’ll have some, but…maybe it’s not worth all that work—although he didn’t quite come out and say all of that.
There’s one more thing about making molsa though. These Norwegians all seemed to be enjoying themselves every minute of the way and that probably made it taste even better on Saturday at the reunion.