Posted by: Jim E | December 14, 2011

Ingebretson’s…Swedish Sausage…And A Christmas Story…

This post I wrote one year ago…and it starts with comments about the year before that…but that’s okay…and you will have to put up with my Minnesota/Scandinavian talk again…but it really won’t hurt you, I promise…just a little trip down memory lane for me…and for you, well, to get you to go back to your memories…stretch a little and remember…it’s where life really begins, when you begin to remember…and don’t miss the very short story at the end…it is full of  forgiveness, giving, mercy and grace…and part of small town living, that is, for the most part gone…it happens here and there, but for the most part gone from our “popular culture”…so this then, if we will “remember”, is all part of your and my Christmas celebration…enjoy…

I started this blog a year ago…and one of the first posts was about our son Jess, in Minneapolis, sending us Swedish sausage from Ingebretson’s on Lake Street in South Minneapolis…and you can read that post by browsing the archives on the right of this post…it was a great moment as Jeremy and I saw that Fedex truck…and knew it was the Swedish sausage that was going toward our house…well, read it for yourself if you wish…

Ingebretson’s…they have been on that corner of Lake Street in South Minneapolis for longer than I have been alive…it was started in 1921…so that is 89 years, give or take a month here or there…I mentioned that we bought some Swedish sausage (also some meatball mix) when we were in Minneapolis this summer…we have had some at Thanksgiving and will have another “ring” at Christmas…although Swedish sausage is available all over the Twin Cities, of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Ingebretson’s is the best I have ever had…my grandparents, my parents, and now our family has had their sausage for most of that 89 years…that area of Minneapolis was filled with Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Finish and Icelandic immigrants at the turn of the twentieth century…and they looked for what they had in the old country…Ingebretson’s is still run by the family…and the meat market is very busy at Christmas time…they will sell more than 7 tons of Swedish sausage in one season…in fact at the height of the Christmas season the butcher shop sells a ton (literally) of Swedish sausage and meatball mix daily…so out of that store on Lake Street not only those two meats but lutefisk, herring and all kinds of specialty items for Scandinavian tastes…like lefse and of course something I forgot to add to my post yesterday was, Lingonberries…lingonberry jam for lefse…it is so good…a tart taste but wonderful on pancakes, toast or lefse…we will have some of that when we make lefse in a few days…

One of their sayings that hits a homerun with me is: “Come to Ingebretson’s…where some things never change because some things never should.”…and, “Keeping traditions alive.”...they also are teaching Scandinavian crafts and their gift shop is wonderful…(is this an ad or what???)…okay enough…you can see I kinda like the place…I just hope you are making traditions at your home…or continuing to carry on traditions…what ever it is for you…keep it up…

So if it’s not Swedish sausage or Swedish meatballs or lefse or lutefisk…make it your traditions that will make Christmas season a special time for your family…to gather to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child…it is a family time to be shared and to share with another generation what Christmas is and is about…

I promise a Christmas story in the title…this is one I have had for some time…it is short, simple but full of what Christmas is all about and relates to all of us at some level…for me, I know the small town in the story…know the streets…and have known people who lived there…but also I grew up with a small grocery store nearby who we knew as a friend and neighbor who allowed my mom to charge groceries from time to time…(hope you enjoy this story that came from the Minneapolis Star and Tribune on December 8, 2001…sent in by Rod Broding of Coon Rapids, Minnesota, called: Paid In Full)…

I remember the winter in Lake Benton after my dad died. It was cold. Money was scarce. We had bought fuel twice already before Christmas. Mother had charged nearly $50 worth of groceries at Ernie Gieneart’s grocery store, and it bothered her.

One morning she put $10 in an envelope for me to drop off at the store on my way to school. In fact, she insisted on pinning it to my shirt so I would not lose it. I delivered the envelope, and Ernie told me to stop by after school and pick up the receipt.

When I arrived home, I gave it to Mother. She opened it and began to cry. The $10 bill was still there, along with a wad of grocery slips. On the top one was written: “Paid in full. Merry Christmas!”

Now if that doesn’t turn on some emotion…check your pulse…I have saved that story all these years…and have read or shared it every year since 2001…

May this bring memories, hope and joy…Merry Christmas…



  1. Your timing is PERFECT Jim! I planned on making an Ingebretson’s run over my lunch hour today to pick up lefse, Swedish sausage, meatball mix, and lingonberries (for the lingonberries and rice dessert on Christmas Eve and Day). I’ll be thinking of you as I stand in line to write my check (they still don’t take plastic!) and walking away with my share of their ‘scandahovian’ traditions!

    • Patty…Green with envy, that’s what I am…on our trip to Minneapolis this summer (and our planned trip to Ingebretson’s) we were waylaid by Jeremy’s needed surgery at Mayo Clinic…so we did what we had to do…but now we suffer a bit from not being able to stop there…Jeremy was grumbling a bit about that the other day…but I told him, next year we won’t miss the stop off at Ingebretson’s…but your comment does help because it is so great to see someone stopping off there like my Mom used to do every year…and then we did…so the traditions that you have, help us in this Christmas season…

      As you describe it in your comment…I see you in my minds eye…I think I still have some Swedish meatball mix in the freezer…hopefully I will do some on Christmas Eve…I would love to have the recipe for your lingonberries and rice dessert…would you consider sharing???…it sounds wonderful…a little color in a sometimes “white” meal of Swedish sausage, potatoes, lefse, Swedish meatballs and white gravy…maybe a little rutabaga…anyway…thanks so much…I will share this with Judie, she will love your comments too…you have made my day and Christmas season…heavens, a trip to Ingebretson’s…Wow…even though it is in my mind…thanks again…(the recipe???…a little pleading at the end here)…Jim E

  2. Hi Jim, Judie, Jeremy, and everyone else!
    Greetings again from the (snowless!) land of Scandinavian immigrants – and home to the famous Ingebretsons! I made my annual Christmas sojourn this afternoon and was once again welcomed into the Christmas cheer that is Ingebretsons. Today there was actually a bit of room to wander about – next week the place will be packed and the lines will be wrapped around the butcher counter into the retail area. You can really smell the “butcher shop” aroma’s as you enter the place and it floods you with the memories of years gone by. As ever, the butchers are friendly and helpful despite the fact they face hordes of impatient customers racing towards their holiday traditions. I managed to acquire all the necessary goodies and even got some pickled herring for my brother-in-law…I think I’ll be welcome at his house this year! : )

    In the “old days” my grandparents would make the lefse themselves – grandma would make the dough and roll it…grandpa would cook and “flip” it! Even though we inherited the lefse maker and sticks, we’ve given up on trying to make it ourselves. Grandma always had the “touch” – you know what I mean…the dough has to “feel just like this” – unfortunately she was never able to pass along that special touch and our lefse always ends up thick and heavy. I truly hope your own family tradition has been safely preserved and passed down to the upcoming generations!

    Thankfully – that’s where Ingebretsons has come to our family’s rescue. Oh you can buy Mrs. Olson’s lefse in several of the local grocery stores but it seems it’s always dry and heavy. Not so with Ingebretsons! I swear – their lefse is “almost” as good as grandma and grandpas!!! : )

    Did you know Ingebretsons has an international following??? A year ago last Thanksgiving I traveled with my father to visit my sister and her family in San Francisco. I discovered a Swedish/Norwegian holiday bazaar was being held at the Norwegian Seamen’s church while we were there and wanted to share some of our family’s heritage with my young nieces. The congregation is made up of Swedish and (mostly) Norwegian nationals who are living in the San Francisco area. When some of the women found out we were from Minneapolis, they all crowded around and asked all kinds of questions about Ingebretsons. Apparently, they make a point of stopping in Minneapolis long enough to visit Ingebretsons whenever they travel to or from Scandinavia! I learned something very interesting from them during that visit – apparently as descendants of Scandinavian immigrants, we’ve captured the cultural traditions and frozen them in time whereas the people of Sweden and Norway have let the traditions morph over time and what we consider “tradition” here in the US are often things that are no longer observed in the “Old Country”.

    You asked about the Lingonberries and Rice recipe. I’m more than happy to share! You’re absolutely right – a bright spot of color is the perfect end to an otherwise “white” meal (not to mention a great alternative to all the other sweets that are so prevalent during the holidays!) You asked…you shall receive! : ) Be warned – it’s a time consuming process but well worth the effort. The recipe instructs you to actually cover and simmer, but I’ve found it a bit faster to leave uncovered and stir almost constantly. This helps to dry out the rice while it cooks – you’ll want to make sure it’s fairly thick – think tapioca pudding consistency. I often pull up a stool and a good book and stir and read all at the same time!

    Lingonberries and Rice Cream Pudding

    Rice Cream Pudding:
    6 cups milk (whole milk)
    1 cup plain white rice (not instant)
    3 Tbs sugar
    ½ tsp salt
    1 cup heavy cream/whipping cream

    Heat first four ingredients until tiny bubbles form at edge. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 45-50 minutes until rice is tender (make sure to stir frequently as rice/milk will easily scorch on the bottom of the pan). Chill.

    Beat heavy cream/whipping cream to a soft peak. Fold into chilled rice. Chill mixture until served. To serve, top with Lingonberry sauce.

    Lingonberry sauce:
    ½ lbs. Lingonberries (drained)
    ½ cup sugar
    1 cup water (or ½ cup water and ½ cup Lingonberry juice

    Mix ½ cup Lingonberry juice (or water) with sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add Lingonberries. Cool 5-10 minutes.

    Enjoy! May your Christmas be filled with peace and the joy of the season!


    • Patty…thanks so much for this report on your visit to Ingebretson’s…I took all the “steps” you took…no doubt Lake Street is not the Lake Street of 90 years ago…even 50 years ago or so when my Mom would go down and pick up Scandinavian fare from Ingebretson’s…but now, going in the front door off Lake Street…it’s like going from one world into a world of decades ago…and you captured it so well…I loved every word you wrote…and the aromas, yup, they are surely there…I know when I go in, I move rapidly through the “gift shop” part of the store and into the meat market…(I love going to the gift shop but that comes later, if we have time)…

      You mentioned herring…yes, they have great pickled herring…and we often got theirs…but the herring at Hackenmueller’s in Robinsdale is just a step ahead…the get theirs from Day, Minnesota…the masters of the art, it is like eating soft bread, if you know what I mean, not tough at all…just so good…I think Ingebretson’s do their own…and it is very good too…but it is a battle during Christmas time on which meat market we went to first for herring…Hackenmueller’s or Ingebretson’s…but always Ingebretson’s for Swedish sausage and other Scandihovian specialties…you mentioned lefse…we will have a family get together to make lefse in the next few days or so…I stopped off and got Felix lingonberry jam and some lingonberry sauce at a specialty store here in Little Rock (people here have never heard of Swedish sausage, lefse, etc…all foreign to them)…we are able to get that down here…everyone doesn’t like to eat lefse (and that I can’t believe) but they love to make it…it is such a good time, you know trying to get it “just right”…but I love the stuff…two grills going, lefse sticks flying…and flour dust in the air…melted butter on hand, and lingonberries…Oh, my what a good time…

      You mentioned meeting with some Norwegian nationals and they asked about Ingebretson’s and the fact that time didn’t stand still in the “Old Country” like it did here…a few years ago one of our relatives (my great grandparents came over from Sweden on a sailing ship in the mid 1800’s and settled in Marine on the St. Croix…their house is still there right on Hiway 95 in “downtown” Marine)…anyway, he said that he noticed as well, how we “hung” on to the language and traditions of our Swedish ancestors but Sweden, both culture and language has changed much over the years…he spoke very good English, though we could get the “touch” of Swedish accent, we are so used to in skits, comedy, etc…(he had been to Marine and was going to California to see more relatives)…but I so love the traditions, that they no longer even remember…we will keep them alive if we can…

      So Patty, as you can see, you have hit on wonderful memories…and I really thank you for describing your trip to Ingebretson’s…it was great…you have a wonderful Christmas with your family and friends…and thanks for the rice dessert recipe…we will try it (hopefully other who read your comment will try it too)…and it sounds wonderful…I love rice pudding…and it sounds a lot like that…but the lingonberries…Wow…best to you and yours this Christmas season…I hope it is filled with memories, joy, peace as you celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ…Merry Christmas…

      Jim E

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