Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Taking a whack at rullepølse

The last time I made rullep?lse, I was in my late teens. By then, my grandmother's hands were knotted by arthritis and I got the job of sewing up the rolled meat.

The last time I made rullepølse, I was in my late teens. By then, my grandmother's hands were knotted by arthritis and I got the job of sewing up the rolled meat.

Gram flailed the flank steak with her metal mallet, scattered chopped onions over the meat and sprinkled it with spices. I was instructed on how to tuck it in and tailor it into a tube.

An exotic aroma filled the kitchen as it cooked. The following day, after the meat was weighted and chilled, she sliced the rullepølse into thin pieces and we ate it with fresh bread slathered with butter.

Although I have eaten rullepølse in the intervening years, I have never made it.

Until last week.


Gram's recipe went with her when she died and I had to depend on the kindness of friends for instruction. I also checked out Fargo's First Lutheran Church cookbook and "Scandinavian Cooking" by Duluth author Beatrice Ojakangas.

The late John Hove, longtime head of the English department at North Dakota State University, made rullepølse. It was always part of the Hoves' holidays. John also cooked lutefisk, and his wife, Sylvia, made meatballs for an annual dinner.

John and Sylvia's daughter, Susan, and son-in-law Dennis Schatz, who live in Fergus Falls, sent me John's rullepølse recipe. He used equal parts of beef flank, pork tenderloin and veal, and boiled the meat-roll in water on the stove top.

He fastened the meat-roll with skewers and string, and sometimes bypassed the boiling, wrapping the roll in flour-sack cloth, weighting it with bricks and baking it in a slow oven at 225 degrees for several days, which these days is considered unsafe.

But the meat-roll may be baked in the oven at 350 degrees for three hours, covered with water, broth or brine. Use a Dutch oven or a heavy, deep roasting pan with a tight-fitting cover.

Rita Amundson of Walcott, N.D., also shared her recipe with me. She uses ginger and dried sage, nutmeg and salt and pepper to flavor the meat. And Rita cooks the meat-roll in beef broth with onion and celery added to the liquid for additional flavor. While I haven't tasted her rullepølse, she makes a wicked flat bread.

Rullepølse offers scope for the imagination. I used parts of John's and Rita's recipes and tossed in some variations of my own.

I still have Grandma's old meat mallet ... somewhere. But I get more swack from my French rolling pin, which is a heavy, solid piece of wood without handles.


I don't like the flavor raw onions give to a cooked dish. I sauté them in butter or olive oil before adding to any dish that is to be boiled or baked, such as soup or meatloaf. The sautéing brings out the sweetness of onions and contributes a much mellower flavor to the finished dish.

I also used freshly ground spices. I buy them in seed form and whiz them in a little electric gizmo to pulverize them. If you need to measure them, do so after they are ground. I prefer tossing them in with a measure of abandon. When whole spices are not available in town, I get them from Penzy's in St. Paul via mail order.

Sometimes I use a heavy-duty mortar and pestle and lots of elbow grease, but the electric spice grinder makes the job easier. The intensity of the flavor freshly ground spices give to a dish is worth the effort.

For the first meat-roll I made, I did not sew it up, but instead wrapped it in cheesecloth and tied it with string. It fell apart, which didn't affect the flavor. When I sliced it, the aroma evoked memories of my grandma and long-ago holidays.

I sewed the second one before rolling it in cheesecloth and binding it with string.

I cooked it in broth, and when it was done and cooled, I put it in the top of the roasting pan I'd simmered it in and set the pan filled with broth on top. It sat in our kitchen overnight. The next day, it was squashed, but that didn't affect the flavor either. My, but it was tasty.

Other recipes I looked at instructed one to cure the rolled meat in brine for periods ranging from a few days to several weeks. It was then removed from the brine and cooked in water. Brine recipes often called for pickling spice and saltpeter.

After checking out saltpeter -- also known a rock salt, which is sodium nitrate -- and finding that it is also used to make incense, gunpowder, fertilizer and diuretics, I decided I didn't want it in my kitchen. However, saltpeter is also used in magic as a protective agent and for conjuring spells. Now that I might consider.


Weighting the meat after it is cooked makes it firm and easy to slice, and some of the recipes mention a rullepølse press. I don't have one. Maybe if I did, I'd have round rullepølse rather than square.

At my friendly neighborhood Hornbacher's, rullepølse sells for about $7 a pound. On the Internet, it goes for more than $10 a pound. Round steak ranges from $3 to $4 a pound, pork from $2 to $4 and veal from $4 to $5, depending on the specials. And after it cooks, the meat-roll shrinks.

As far as time goes, I managed to get it swacked, sewn and ready for simmering in about an hour. I used the leftover broth, with the flavors of the rullepølse spices lingering, for a pot of mushroom soup.

Andrea's Rullepølse

2½ pounds beef round or flank steak

Suet trimmed from flank, finely chopped

½ pound pork or veal (cut in strips)

2 tablespoons butter


1 large onion, chopped

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground allspice

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley


2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)

2 cans (12 ounces each) beef broth

Water to cover

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 to 3 bay leaves

Cotton string

Plastic kitchen wrap or waxed paper



Place steak between 2 sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap and flatten it to ¼-inch thickness with a rolling pin or meat mallet. When finished, steak should be rectangular. If it isn't, carefully trim it and use trimmings, including suet, along with pork or veal, for the stuffing.

Sauté chopped onion in butter until onion is translucent. Cool and turn into a large bowl. Mix salt and spices together and add to onions along with parsley, thyme, suet and meat trimmings. Gently stir until well mixed. With a spatula, evenly spread mixture on steak. Place strips of pork or veal parallel to the grain of the steak.

Roll steak tightly, starting with the rectangle's long side. Then sew final edge and ends shut. Wrap roll in cheesecloth and bind entire roll with cotton string. Prick the roll well with a skewer.

Place rolled steak in a large pot with beef broth, water to cover, brown sugar and bay leaves. Cover and simmer slowly for 2 to 3 hours until tender. It should easily slide off a fork when poked.

Remove from cooking liquid and save broth for soup. Weight meat with something heavy (such as foil-wrapped bricks or an unabridged dictionary) and let stand in a cool place for 8 hours. Refrigerate overnight. To serve, remove cheesecloth and string, cut into thin slices and serve with buttered bread, lefse or crackers. Unsliced meat may also be wrapped tightly and frozen for future use.

Andrea Hunter Halgrimson writes a weekly food column for The Forum. Readers can contact her through e-mail at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com

What To Read Next
Get Local