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Patti Frazee (one of the kitchen helpers) with krumkake and Al Mathiasen with a roaster of klub. Photo from Kathy Mathiasen.
Patti Frazee (one of the kitchen helpers) with krumkake and Al Mathiasen with a roaster of klub. Photo from Kathy Mathiasen.

King of Klub

Mar 4, 2013

We’ve all heard of soup kitchens and spaghetti suppers. Feeds of lutefisk, Rocky Mountain oysters or wild game are not uncommon. But up in Milbank, folks feast on on a rarer delicacy — a Norwegian potato dumpling called klub.

It’s an early winter tradition in Milbank, thanks to local body shop owner and former assistant fire chief Al Mathiason. Over the years, Mathiason’s huge dumplings simmered in ham broth have raised funds for the local fire department and for youth groups at American Lutheran Church.

Mathiason learned to make klub at his mother’s knee. She was German and Irish, but picked up the technique from her mother-in-law in order to please her full-blooded Norwegian husband. “He liked potato klub, lefse, lutefisk, all the goodies,” says Al.

It’s still a Mathiason family favorite, mixed up for family dinners and special visitors. Kathy Mathiason, Al’s wife, says, “Our 90-year-old uncle George came from California. We offered to make him klub, so he was watching Al make dumplings and couldn't believe how much flour he was using.  After he saw how well they stayed together, he said that must have been what his wife and sister did wrong — their dumplings always fell apart.  Al told him not to mention that to the girls or he would never get dumplings from them again.”

Like so many ethnic foods, klub has many names and many variations. Up in Pierpont, South Dakota, they call it kumla. Others call the spheres raspeballer or potetballer. You can use red or white potatoes — both have their advocates. The Mathiasons use white flour to make light dumplings; others prefer wheat or graham flour. “Traditional dumplings would have a chunk of meat hidden in the middle,” Kathy explains. “It was probably the only meat you ate.” One variation, blodklub, requires boiling the dumplings in — you guessed it — pig or beef blood.

Serving suggestions for klub also vary. Like most Scandinavian foods, it’s good with butter. Some eat it with dark Karo syrup, and others fancy a slosh of ham juice. At the Milbank feeds, it’s often served with ham, coleslaw, homemade bread and butter pickles, salads and desserts. But Kathy tells us, “a real klub eater doesn’t eat any other sides — just dumplings.” Klub leftovers are a special treat when sliced up and fried in butter.

Milbank’s klub feed is usually held in November or December. If you don’t want to wait, try Al’s method below.

Klub for a Crowd

1/2 - 1 bone-in ham
20 lbs. potatoes
5 lbs. flour
Seasoning salt
Garlic salt
Ham bouillon, optional

In a large kettle of water, cook a half or a whole ham. When the ham loosens from the bone, remove the meat and leave the broth behind, adding ham bouillon cubes to intensify the flavor, if desired.

Peel potatoes, then shred them in a food processor. Add flour to potatoes until the mixture holds together and reaches dumpling consistency. The exact amount of flour used will vary depending on the moisture in the potatoes. Season to taste with seasoning salt, garlic salt and pepper.

Form the dumplings into balls — anything between tennis ball and softball size is fine — then drop them in the hot ham broth. Cook the klub at a slow boil for about an hour. “They’ll start to loosen and almost float when they’re done,” instructs Al.


03:58 pm - Mon, March 4 2013
Wow....left over Klub fried in smør....Wow....that sounds fantastic...Better than the klub itself....
10:58 am - Wed, March 6 2013
Marte Hult said:
The Norwegian spelling of klubb is with two bs at the end. Perhaps the spelling was changed to reflect English pronunciation? Also, authentic Norwegian blodklubb is not klubb cooked in pig's blood, but the pig's blood is PART of the ingredients ( no potatoes in blodklubb)
11:03 am - Wed, March 6 2013
gail torness strobl said:
My family always put a chunk of suet in the middle of the dumpling when making them. A little more taste! Then used pork meat - not bacon - in the water to cook them. Different family, different tastes------
02:36 pm - Wed, March 6 2013
Stephanie Klasi said:
We would make it with my Grandma, Aunts, Mom and cousins. Half the family loved it, half thought it tasted like wallpaper paste. Would it stick to the wall if thrown there? I love them. Since I'm a vegetarian now, I'll replace the animal chunk in the center.
02:49 pm - Wed, March 6 2013
Margaret Hawley Lehr said:
My 100% Norwegian father talked about bludkrub........describing it to us, but it was never made in our home.......nor do I remember it being served at my grandparent's home. Lutefisk & lefsa.......oh yah! That was made, but the bludkrub brought forth horrible faces from his 4 children. Some of us didn't care for lutefisk either! I sometimes wondered if there really was such a thing. Now I know!
04:31 pm - Wed, March 6 2013
Deb W said:
My great-grandmother came to the USA from Norway. She made klub with salt pork. She would then heat the leftovers by cutting the klub into small pieces and frying it in milk until the milk thickened. Yum Yum! Wish she was still here to make it.
04:19 am - Thu, March 7 2013
Elayne said:
I like Kathy's final comment that one needs nothing but kumla to make the meal. If there's some ham on the side, that's fine. My grandma had a sister who, for religious reasons, didn't eat pork, so when Aunt Jennie came to visit, grandma would make it with beef short ribs. I do it that way myself, but only because I can't find the type of ham or pork (uncured, I believe) that tastes like grandma's did. I think I'd better make me up a batch this weekend. Thanks for the article!
03:06 pm - Thu, March 7 2013
Jeff Holweger said:
My Swedish grandmother called them Kumps. Whatever the name
they're great!
03:51 pm - Sat, March 9 2013
Gary Barton said:
My grandmother came from Norway and I remember the great meals we had especially in winter. Sometimes we would have Klubb, Lutefisk and Lefse for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years.
I learned how to make Klubb and served to friends and family here in Southern California. Not too much interest from them, but just more for me.
Grandma would make a BIG kettle of Vegetable Beef Soup and would put the cooked Klubb into the soup. Then we'd have a bowl of soup with the Klubb on the side with butter, salt and pepper. But the best was having it later in the week as left overs! Sometimes it could last for a couple of weeks if you were careful!
I tried and tried but I could never get the soup any where close to tasting as good as Grandma Barton's.
Gary Barton
Menifee, CA
09:37 am - Fri, March 15 2013
sharon johnson said:
My Mother was born in Bryant and my Father in Lake Preston. My Grandparents came through Ellis Island before settling in Lake Norden. My family made something like your Klub, but it was called Ruspkaka. We used beef for the meat and boiled the dumplings in the broth. We served them with butter. Regrigerated overnight and he following morning we would cut the dumpling into slices and saute in butter for breakfast.
10:52 am - Sun, October 11 2020
Lynn said:
I have a recipe for Klub that has been handed down though the years. We use potatoes, white and wheat flour to make the balls inserting a sausage ball in the center. When balls are made we drop them into simmering water with rutabaga, carrots and turnips adding extra sausage balls to help flavor the broth. Yum!

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