Swedish meatballs are probably one of the best-known Swedish cooking
specialties, definitely a necessity on the smörgåsbord. Norway,
Denmark and Finland have their own versions, too. Every Scandinavian cookbook
has at least one recipe, usually several. The varieties are staggering to
think about! Why so many? How should you pick one?
Remember that meatballs were probably a way to use up leftovers, and then
the mystery of all the different recipes clears up. The cook used the
meat that was on hand, a filler that was available, and ingredients for the
sauce based on not only regional or family preference, but what was handy.
Some recipes call for half beef, half pork. Other recipes have half veal,
half pork. Some have one-third each of pork, beef and veal.
If you have dietary or political objections to any of the meats, substitute
others. Once, as a way to include a vegetarian friend in a smörgåsbord
I was serving, I made a recipe using only a vegetarian substitute for ground
beef (and only vegetable oil, no dairy or meat products in the sauce). It
wasn't great, but it wasn't bad, either.
For flavoring, some recipes use nutmeg and dry mustard for flavoring,
others use minced onions and allspice, others use thyme and marjoram.
White pepper is a common ingredient. I once made them with only minced capers
for flavoring, and loved it.
Then you'll want to choose oven-frying or pan-frying. I think that
oven-frying is a lot easier, but pan-frying gives a better result. I
choose oven-frying when I'm short on time and patience.
Sauces? Some prefer a brown gravy, others a white sauce. Sour cream
mixed with a bit of pan drippings tastes great. Gjetost (goat cheese) with
some parsley or dill in the white sauce or sour cream makes a tangy treat.
So I've developed my own basic Swedish meatball recipe, building in the
variations. Each time you make them, you can vary the meat,
spices, filler, and sauce, depending on what you have in your refrigerator or
pantry, or what your taste preferences are.
Jone's Swedish Meatballs
Meat: (the main ingredient)
2 pounds ground lean meat: use beef, pork or
(may use some textured vegetable protein ground beef substitute)
Filler: (to give the meatballs the right consistency)
1 cup milk, cream, meat broth or water
1/2 cup all-purpose flour OR 1/2 cup fine bread
crumbs OR 1 cup torn bread OR 1 cup mashed potatoes
Salt and Pepper:
Salt to taste (1 1/2 teaspoons suggested)
Pepper to taste (white or black pepper - 1/2 teaspoon
1 minced onion
1/4 tsp dry mustard or
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 tsp dry
1/8 tsp ground
By hand or on medium speed with an electric mixture, thoroughly blend the
ground meat, filler, salt and pepper, and other flavorings. Beat until
very well mixed. Form into balls about 3/4"-1 1/2"
in diameter: do this by hand, or use a tablespoon-sized cookie scoop, or a
melon baller. Makes 30-150 meatballs depending on how large they are.
Serves 6-8, more on the smörgåsbord.
Pan-fried: Heat a skillet with 2-3 tablespooons of
cooking oil to medium-high heat. Fill the skillet about half full with the
meatballs, and fry them for about 10 minutes. Shake the skillet gently
during cooking to keep the meatballs turning and to cook them evenly, about
10-15 minutes depending on size. You may need a spatula to encourage
some of the more stubborn meatballs to turn over properly. As soon as
meatballs are browned, take them out of the pan, let them cool and drain a
bit, and keep them warm (try using an oven-proof dish in a barely-warm oven)
until ready to add sauce and serve.
Oven-fried: Use ungreased baking sheets -- the kind with
rims on all four sides. Separate the meatballs slightly, bake at 450F for
10-15 minutes. Remove carefully from the baking sheets..
For most sauces, you'll stir the meatballs into the sauce then transfer
them to the serving dish. Meatballs can be prepared ahead, and
refrigerated in a covered container for 2-3 days or frozen in airtight
containers for several months. You can freeze cooled meatballs spread
out on a clean, cool baking sheet, then transfer them to airtight
containers, if you want to be able to make a large quantity of meatballs and
remove just enough at one time. Thawed or refrigerated meatballs
should be heated in a single layer on an ungreased rimmed baking sheet for
10-15 minutes at 375F.
Brown sauce or red wine sauce or sherry sauce:
2 tablespoons pan fat
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup beef broth (may be made from bouillon) or 1 can
condensed beef broth
1/2 - 3/4 cup water (to taste)
3 tablespoons red wine or sherry (optional)
Add the flour to the pan fat in a saucepan, mix thoroughly. Discard
the rest of the fat from the cooking pan, then rinse the pan in some of the
broth to loosen the bits of meat from the pan. Add the broth to the
fat/flour base in the saucepan. (Tip: at this point, mixing the
flour/fat mixture and the broth mixture in the blender removes all lumps
thoroughly.) Heating this mixture, slowly add the water to taste.
Bring to a boil. (Add red wine or sherry if desired at
Sour cream sauce or Gjetost sauce:
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup shredded gjetost
Transfer the meatballs to the serving dish. Discard the fat from the
cooking pan, stir the sour cream into the pan to pick up the rest of the pan
drippings and the bits of meat. Heat slightly, do not boil. Stir in
the shredded cheese if desired. Pour hot mixture over the meat.
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup half and half or cream
1/2 cup water or chicken broth (may be made from
Fresh dill leaves or parsley leaves (optional)
Add the flour to the butter in a saucepan, mix thoroughly, turn on heat
to low heat. Discard the fat from the cooking pan, then rinse
the pan in the water or broth to loosen the bits of meat from the pan.
Add the water or broth to the butter/flour base in the saucepan and mix
thoroughly. (Tip: at this point, mixing the flour/fat mixture and the
broth mixture in the blender removes all lumps thoroughly.) Turn up the heat
and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low, and add the half and half or
cream slowly. Simmer until a good consistency. Add dill or
parsley if desired. Stir the meatballs into the sauce until heated
through. Transfer to the serving dish and serve immediately.
Enjoy experimenting with your meatballs!
Don't miss: Scandinavian
meatball recipes on the web