It seems that after the Italian wedding soup, I just couldn’t resist making up a batch of Swedish meatballs. So, there you have it. Two meatball-based posts in a row.
It’s just that when I was rolling those little Italian meatballs on Sunday, I remembered that I had not made Swedish meatballs in ages. And that thought was all it took for me to crave them. I really had no choice but to give in to the need to make them so that I could have one or two (or five or six) to put that craving to rest.
I have a huge spot in my heart for all things Swedish. That’s because I grew up with many Swedish friends. There were a couple of Swedish manufacturing plants in Curitiba, the city where I last lived in Brazil, and the children of the Swedish executives attended the American school with us. The school was called the International School of Curitiba, or ISC, and it was a K-12 institution with about 100 students at the time. I attended from 5th grade until I graduated from high school.
We were a small student body, incredibly close and devoted to each other. Besides the Swedes, the school included students who were German, Bolivian, Colombian, American, Japanese, Brazilian, Italian…you get the gist. Hence the “international” part of ISC. Today, though we are spread all over the world, many of us stay in touch and have even visited each other in different continents. It was a beautiful and truly magical way to grow up. We all treasure the memories and each other as it is a feeling expressed over and over by everyone through the years.
Oh! And my sister Karen lives in Sweden with her husband Ronnie. As a matter of fact, in one of their visits to the US, Ronnie made Swedish meatballs for us at my sons’ request. It was delicious.
This is my homage to my amazing Scandinavian friends and family. Kramar till alla!
let’s look at what goes into making Swedish meatballs
I’m saying it right now, I have searched for a “traditional” recipe for Swedish meatballs, only to find out that there may not be one such recipe.
I have a friend who lives on the west coast of Sweden who insists that there is no allspice and nutmeg, but instead a ton of black pepper. Other recipes use heavy cream instead of sour cream. Many use the ground pork and ground beef mixture, but some only use the beef. So, at the risk of censure from some, I’m making it my way.
Cube some sliced bread and soak in milk for a few minutes until it is nice and softened.
While the bread is soaking, cook some chopped onions in butter until softened and allow to cool somewhat.
Add the meats, the spices, the egg and the cooked onions to the soaked bread. Also, add salt and pepper to taste.
Then form the meatballs into somewhat small circles. For cocktail meatballs, make them real small. For a meal, make them about the size of a ping pong ball.
This recipe makes about 35 meatballs. Fry them in butter in batches so that they do not crowd each other in the pan. Also, make sure that the pan is not too hot.
I use my electric skillet both because it is bigger and because I have a temperature setting that lets me control the heat a little more precisely. The key is not to cook so many at a time that they don’t brown well. But you also don’t want to burn the little caramel bits that stick to the bottom of the pan.
Those little caramel bits at the bottom of the pan help flavor the gravy, so you definitely don’t want to develop a burnt taste.
As the meatballs are cooked, transfer them to a platter and set aside.
There should be a nice amount of butter left in the pan after frying the meatballs. Whisk in some flour to make a roux. This is a great way to make gravy without lumps. The flour and butter paste dissolves in the broth.
Add the broth and whisk to dissolve the roux. The broth also de-glazes the caramelized bits at the bottom, so that you get a real beefy flavor to the gravy.
Cook at medium heat to encourage the de-glazing and to cook the flour so it does not taste raw. Use a whisk to stir the gravy as it cooks and thickens.
Once the gravy is rich and thickened, add the sour cream. Also, salt and pepper to taste.
Add the meatballs back into the pan and coat them well in the gravy. Cook for a little while longer to reheat them.
Then turn off the heat, garnish with fresh chopped parsley, and take it to the table to serve family style.
Some say to serve it over noodles, others, mashed potatoes. Whenever I had these with my Swedish friends and family, it was always with plain boiled potatoes and a side of lingonberry jam.
Don’t scoff at the jam! It MUST be lingonberry, which is fortunately very easy to find in American grocery stores nowadays.
Trust me, you have not lived until you have tasted those warm, tender, spiced meatballs with the rich beefy gravy, dipped in lingonberry jam, and stabbed on a fork with a chunk of clean, boiled potato. Because this is a meal made of stack-able stabbed bites that have to have all of the components, every time.
I’m a very happy girl today.
- FOR THE MEATBALLS
- 3 slices of bread, cubed small
- ½ cup milk
- 2 cups onion, diced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 pound lean ground pork
- ⅜ teaspoon allspice
- ⅜ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 egg
- salt and pepper to taste
- 6 tablespoons butter, separated
- FOR THE GRAVY
- Remaining butter from frying meatball, plus more, if needed
- ½ cup flour
- 1 cup sour cream
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Soak the break and milk in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
- Cook the onion in the butter until softened and allow to cool somewhat.
- Mix the ground pork, ground beef, allspice, nutmeg, and egg into the softened bread.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Shape into ping pong-sized balls and fry in batches at approximately 325° F to 350° F until golden and fully cooked.
- Move cooked meatballs to a platter and set side.
- Add more butter to the pan if needed to create the roux.
- Whisk in the flour until a paste is formed.
- Add the broth and whisk while cooking until the roux is fully dissolved and the gravy thickens.
- Add the sour cream and stir until distributed. Cook down for about 5 minutes so that the gravy thickens again somewhat.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour the meatballs into the pan with the gravy and stir to coat well.
- Cook for a few minutes more until the meatballs have reheated.
- Turn off the heat, garnish with fresh chopped parsley, and take to the table to serve family style.
- Serve with boiled potatoes and lingonberry jelly on the side.