Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Swedish Meatballs

In my family, our big Christmas Eve dinner has always meant Swedish food. And what’s more Swedish than Swedish meatballs? Today I’m featuring a very special family recipe! Included is the notecard my mom bases her recipe off of. We doubled the recipe. Meatballs freeze great and are easy to make ahead of time and pop in the oven when needed (which is what we’ll be doing). Basically, making meatballs is a long process and it is best done with at least 2-3 people. So, if you’re going to all that trouble, you might as well make a LOT of meatballs, right? Also, you can totally halve the recipe if you desire, but then you’re left with all these awkward half pounds of meat. So this way is better.

What you need:

  • 3 pounds of different types of ground meat. We used a pound each of ground beef, ground turkey, and ground bison. You could also use ground pork and/or veal. It just needs to equal 3 pounds, and we always use three different meats.
  • 6 slices bread. Old bread is great.
  • Milk (any kind)-about ½ cup.
  • 2 eggs
  • 1.5-2 onions, finely diced
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Possibly bread crumbs
  • 4-6 T parsley (fresh is best but use dried if that’s what you have)
  • 2 T Worstershire sauce
  • ½ t pepper
  • ½ t allspice

For the gravy: drippings, butter, flour (approximately 1/3 C), beef bouillon (about 3 t), milk or half and half (about ½ C) *These measurements are all approximate but should get you started*

What to do:
First, put chopped onions in a pan over medium-low heat, with 1 T each butter and olive oil. Cook until softened but not brown. While the onion cooks, tear the bread into small pieces and put it in the biggest mixing bowl you have. Pour milk over it and stir. All the bread should be damp but there shouldn't be standing milk in the bowl. Add all meat, eggs, and spices (everything but the gravy ingredients) to the bread. Mix well, using your hands. It’s gonna be cold. When the onions are done, mix those in too.
At this point you’re going to need to evaluate your bowl of meat and decide if it is too moist to make into proper meatballs. Our mixture was *really* moist, so we added in a bunch of those canned bread crumbs until the mixture  was a bit less gloppy.

Round up all household members, from children to the very old, to help roll meatballs.
Meatballs should be small, about 1 inch in diameter. According to my mom, “Italians make big meatballs, but Swedes make small meatballs…almost dainty.” This works best if you have two meatball rollers, a meatball cooker, and maybe an extra runner if possible. We had three in our meatball crew. Roll meatballs so that they are holding together. It doesn’t matter if they are perfectly round as they’ll be turned around in the pan quite a bit.

Once you have about a plateful of meatballs, someone needs to start cooking them. Heat a skillet to medium and lightly grease it. Gently put meatballs in, but leave plenty of space between the meatballs. Every few minutes you’ll turn them, to they get a little browned on each side.  As they get nicely browned, put in a glass or oven-safe dish. We ended up with 2 pans going and 3 oven-safe dishes. With two meatball-rollers, and one cooker, she just rotated out plates with us as they put them in the pan, for us to load back up. It worked pretty well.

When all meatballs are browned (don’t taste yet, they’re still raw inside), it’s time to make gravy! For this we got all the meatball drippings consolidated into one frying pan. Use low heat and a whisk. We didn't have that many drippings so we added a couple tablespoons of butter to get things going. Once that is melted, add flour, a little bit at a time, so it can thicken with the butter. Add water and bullion cube. We used the powdered stuff, probably about 3 teaspoons, whisk constantly and bring to a boil. Add about ½ C half and half. Add pepper and taste.  When the gravy seems good and gravy-ish, pour equally over all dishes. Very gently toss the meatballs so they have some gravy over the top. Don’t over-handle them or they’ll fall apart. Put in the oven, covered, at 375. We did the smaller dish for 30 minutes and the bigger dishes for 40 minutes. When done,  serve with MASHED POTATOES. Most of my recipes are pretty flexible about these types of things, but this isn’t one of them. You HAVE to eat with mashed potatoes. Enjoy!

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