What makes a meatball Swedish? The spices? Allspice? Nutmeg? Maybe even cardamom, cloves, or ginger? Is a smörgåsbord required? Is it the filler? Bread cubes or crumbs? Mashed potatoes, perhaps? Or grated onion? Should pork, beef, or veal be the bulk? Just pork and beef, or all three? Should they be fried or baked? After studying a myriad of recipes, my conclusion is that any combination of the above can result in a Swedish meatball! According to Sweden’s official website, the most important thing is that they “must be prepared, above all, with love.” As sentimental as this might be, I agree. But don’t forget the lingonberries!
Potato Bread Buns
Since Swedish meatballs are usually served with potatoes, I decided to put the potatoes in the buns.
Lightly adapted from Betty Crocker.
1 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
175 ml (3/4 cup) warm water
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 dl (scant 1/2 cup) warm mashed potatoes
75 g (1/3 cup) butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
510 g (3 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
In a mixer bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in a the warm water. Let it sit for 5 minutes or so until it starts to foam. Add the potatoes, butter, salt, egg, and about half the flour. Mix with a dough hook attachment, on medium speed, until smooth. Turn to low, and gradually add remaining flour. Mix until a ball forms. Oil a large bowl, and add the dough, turning to coat in oil. Cover and let rise for about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 205C/400F. Shape the dough into about 25 slider buns, about 5 cm (scant 2 in) in diameter each. Place slightly apart on a lined baking sheet. Reduce oven temperature to 150C/300F, and bake for 25-30 minutes, until lightly golden. These can be made a day ahead (store loosely covered).
In perusing many recipes, I mostly came across bread crumbs and panko as filler, but decided for mine to do a variation of my usual oats (in this case oat flour) and also mashed potatoes and a bit of brown sugar, which comes from my sister-in-law’s Swedish grandmother’s family recipe. I opted for allspice and nutmeg (I reserved the cardamom for the chutney) and added some thyme to make them a bit more savory.
280 g (9.9 oz) ground pork
250 g (8.8 oz) ground beef
30 g (1/4 cup) oat flour (or ground oats)
.5 dl (1/4 cup) mashed potatoes
1 shallot, minced (about .5 dl or 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
dash of allspice
dash of nutmeg
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Vigorously mix all ingredients until well incorporated.
Preheat oven to 230C/450F. Shape into 3 cm (1.2 in) balls and flatten into patties on a lined baking sheet (makes about 25). Bake for about 15 minutes until browned and no pink remains on the inside. Remove from the oven and pat with paper towels to absorb excess fat, if desired.
While the patties are baking, prepare the lingonberries and carrots.
270 g (2 cups) lingonberries
3-4 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons red wine
If you can’t find lingonberries, cranberries may be substituted.
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes until slightly thickened. Remove to a serving bowl.
Quick Warm Pickled Carrots
2 large carrots
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
About 1 liter (generous 4 cups) boiling water
Wash and peel the carrots, and slice on the diagonal into .5 cm (.2 in) slices. Put in a heat-proof bowl and add the vinegar. Pour over boiling water and let steep until the water cools. Drain the water and remove carrots to a serving dish.
To serve, slice the buns in half, place a carrot on the bottom half, top with a patty, and put a teaspoon or so of chutney on each. Put the top half of the bun on and secure with a toothpick, if desired.