Actual, Swedish, Swedish Meatballs

These meatballs are very close to how I interpret typical Swedish meatballs, the way they most often occur in Sweden. The big difference is that they’re made from ground veal only instead of a pork/beef mixture. The only reason for the veal is of course the near expiry discount.

So, what makes meatballs really Swedish? To me it’s mostly the potatoes, the lingonberries and the brown sauce (meaning stock based, gravy like sauce, not HP-sauce). Also important are seasoning and size. I vary the seasoning depending on the meat used and the time of the year – around Christmas the pork portion increases, as does the allspice and ginger.

Regardless of seasoning and intention, this is what one should start out with – dairy products and breadcrumbs (ideally stale bread soaked overnight). I use Swedish ‘cooking cream’ with 15% fat, a traditionalist might use old fashioned milk with 5-7% fat or something like that. One of the reasons for the high fat content is that the veal itself is rather lean and might get dry and tough. Traditional meatballs call for onions, but either you’ll have to pulp raw onion or risk the balls falling apart in the pan, so I chucked some onion powder in instead. Less work, basically the same thing. The purpose of this milk and crumbs goo is of course mostly making the mixture stickier than what meat by itself would be, but also, I think, to eke out the batch a bit (which is of course a time honored tradition in this formerly very poor country. I remember being taught in home economics to add grated turnip as a filler in bolognese sauce)

After sufficient soaking one may add meat and more seasoning. I used only salt and white pepper this time. If the texture is not to your liking, add breadcrumbs, milk, an egg or anything else that might be used to correct texture.

I like my meatballs to be even-sized, so I use scales. These guys are all 27-28 grams.

Frying in more butter than needed, since it’s going to become sauce in a while.

After frying all the meatballs, I add a bit more butter and some flour, making a roux and whisking good stuff from the pan surface simultaneously. Then I chuck a cube of beef stock in, followed by pepper, a bit of thyme and milk or cream. A less festive brown sauce from the olden days would probably have more water than dairy products but also be browner. The colour of milk-containing sauce can be regulated either by letting the roux brown for a while or by adding food colouring.

My final tip on sauce is this: If you do like I do and keep the meatballs warm in the oven while making sauce, make sure you put the meatball juices and drippings, that will have ended up in the container, in the sauce.

Swedish meatballs with brown sauce and mashed potatoes (one of the three allowed carb sides, the other two being boiled potatoes and elbow macaroni). Sadly we had to skip the lingonberry jam. It was months over expiry date. After the plate photo we secretly used blackcurrant jelly instead, with acceptable results.

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8 Responses to “Actual, Swedish, Swedish Meatballs”

  1. I would have used the jam anyway.

  2. Cool stuff.
    (I’m that one guy from deviantart).

    I used to have a friend online from Sweden, and she loved eating moose (she kept insisting moose burgers where better than beef burgers, but sadly I haven’t tried moose burgers. Yet.), which makes me wonder, in your opinion, would moose be good to use for meatballs? I mean, I don’t hunt or anything, don’t know anyone that hunts, or even where to procure moose meat,, but I am rather curious.

    • I’d say moose is good for meatballs, as long as one makes sure enough fat or moisture is added, to avoid tough meatballs, since moose is usually rather lean. Juniper berries are good for seasoning, and mushroom stew is nice, especially with a bit of black currant jelly in it.

      • Game animals tend to be lean, so it makes sense.
        When I make meatballs I like using leaner meat anyway, if I’m going to be slowly stewing it four a few hours in something later (spaghetti sauce for spaghetti and meatballs, gravy for pseudo-Swedish meatballs, broth for sopa de albondigas (latin meatball soup), but I do like adding a little bacon fat to the meat mix…

      • There’s another difference. Swedish meatballs are always fried nowadays. In the previous two centuries, though, stewed or boiled were much more common.

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