Recipe: Swedish Meatballs

Because they were on sale and we were desperate for quick lunches, I bought a couple of frozen dinners, in typical frozen dinner varieties: salisbury steak, shrimp-pasta-something-or-another, lasagna, and swedish meatballs. After nomming on the latter, I realized that I had never eaten swedish meatballs outside of a frozen dinner. Oh, I had had “Swedish Meatballs” of the quick and easy American cookbook variety, a la “meatballs spiced with worcestershire sauce in a campbell’s cream of mushroom soup with a touch of sour cream sauce over noodles” but I’m sure that resembles the Swedish variety about as much as a bowl of instant udon resembles a cauldron of nabeyaki udon:

So I set out to find a fairly authentic recipe and came up with this page from a Scandinavian cooking site: Jone’s Swedish Meatballs.

I was interested to learn that there were so many different ways to cook this, varying the ingredients of the meatballs and the type of sauce.

I worked pretty closely to the meatball recipe, using some crushed crackers left over from our wedding instead of the breadcrumbs, and using all the spices mentioned instead of just one.

Here’s my official notes:

Jone’s Swedish Meatballs (Edited)

     2 pounds ground beef

Filler: (to give the meatballs the right consistency)
     2 eggs
     1 cup milk
     3/4 cup crushed crackers
Salt and Pepper:
     Salt to taste (1 1/2 teaspoons suggested)
     Pepper to taste (white or black pepper – 1/2 teaspoon suggested)
More Flavor:
      1/4 minced vidalia onion
      1/4 teaspoon allspice
      1/4 tsp dry mustard
      1/8 tsp cardamom
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

From making German type meatballs, I learned that the torn bread/breadcrumbs/crackers have a better consistency when mixed if you let them soak in the milk and egg before you mix them into the meat. Otherwise mix and form as directed.  Made about 36 meatballs for me, as I like them a bit larger. I pan-fried these, half at a time, browning on one side, then flipping to the other side and covering to steam. This is important when you have larger meatballs, or your center takes a long time to cook and onions can remain crunchy. Beef meatballs always end up swimming in fat, so I sucked out the fat with a baster, saving it for later, leaving a thin layer to brown and to help keep the meatballs from sticking.  Usually I don’t bother as we’re never going to eat all the meatballs I make, but since I was going to make the sauce in the same pan and they were all going to have to wait, I popped the first batch into a casserole dish in a barely warm oven while I did the second batch. This also helps the meatballs drain well and to firm up after steaming. I added the second batch to the oven. Note that at this point, the bottom of the pan is very sticky with carmelized meat juices and you need to be careful when removing the second batch.

I wanted to do a sour cream sauce, but I didn’t have any of the Gjetost cheese (though it is dead simple to make, and I will try it when I make this recipe again). I decided that I would make homemade cream of mushroom soup and add my sour cream to that as a base.

This is also the time to cook your noodles.

Stacey’s Sauce:

1 cup of chicken broth (beef would have been better, but you take what you can get)
1 cup (or so) of milk (at least 2% if you want a thick sauce)
Enough roux (beef fat and flour) to make 2c of sauce. For me this was several tbsp of each.
8-16oz sour cream
1 heaping tbsp mushroom powder
salt and pepper to taste

Caveat: I am the Roux Queen, so I suggest you *not* follow my directions to the letter, but to pour out the broth before you make your roux and add it back in again after you’ve gotten your roux.

I drained most of the remaining fat out of the pan, leaving enough to just cover the carmelized bits. I added some of the chicken broth and boiled it to take up the scrapings. Using the baster, I sucked up all the dark sediment at the bottom of the fat bowl (this will be more flavorful) and added it to the pan, which is tilted to collect all the broth at one end. The fat will not mix with the broth at this stage. I added flour and fat alternately, mixing it to make my roux, and pulling up broth as needed so that it did not scorch until all the broth was mixed in. Once everything was combined into a thick liquid, I added the milk, stirring until it re-thickened. At this point, I turned the pan to low and added the sour cream, mushroom powder and a bit of salt and pepper.

I do not mix cream sauces with other ingredients. In this case, the noodles would soak up the sauce, leaving them dry, and the meatballs would suffer. I combine on the plates at the table. The sauce goes a long way because it melts when it is mixed with the warmer ingredients, so start off with a little and mix, then add more. Also note that the sauce may split if reheated in the microwave, so I recommend reheating the meatballs and noodles to very hot, and then adding the cold sauce, mixing, and letting it sit for 30 seconds or so to warm. If it is still too cold, microwave in 15 second bursts, stirring and testing between each.

We thoroughly enjoyed this meal.  Future incarnations may include mushrooms and green peppers for integrated vegetables. Indeed, the final product was far superior to the “quick and easy” versions, and I found it took no more time and hardly more effort. I will experiment further with sauces, but I suspect the tastiness comes from using full-fat dairy products, making this recipe one to be enjoyed on occasion in all its glory rather than often in a crippled state.

I hope you enjoy, and I would love to hear your incarnations of this recipe.

3 responses to “Recipe: Swedish Meatballs

  1. dangerouspenguin

    I’ve never even heard of mushroom powder. I’m not a big meat eater, but I do love me some mushroom soup.

  2. homespunheretic

    We have an awesome spice store in town, but you can make it at home by powdering dried mushrooms in a food processor or coffee grinder. I have a porcini powder, and also a general mushroom powder made from a mix of porcini, shitake, and something else I can’t recall.

    On the scandinavian site, they say you can use tvp for the meat as well. I think the egg/crumb mix would hold it together handily.

  3. Thank you for such a good blog. Wherever else could a single get such information written in this kind of an incite full way? I have a presentation that I am just now working on, and I have been looking for this kind of information.

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