Friday, December 18, 2009

Swedish Meatballs-A Holiday Tradition (Sort of)

As the holiday season approaches I find myself thinking about family traditions. As my children get bigger, I feel like I owe it to them to create memories that they can pass on.

I don’t remember any really solid holiday traditions as a child in my family. We were dabblers (and still are!). Of course we had a tree, and certain ornaments that we loved, and my dad always brought out the angel chimes that spin from the heat of candles.

What I remember most about “our” traditions is trying out other people’s instead; some years I went to midnight mass with a friend (hey, I got to stay out late) and sometimes we went caroling with neighbors. Some years we opened gifts on Christmas eve (like our German and Swedish relatives) and sometimes we waited until Christmas morning. Sometimes, as we got older, the gifts didn’t even arrive wrapped.

As far as food traditions, we didn’t have any that stand out to me. Which is probably why, when I traveled to Sweden after high school to live with my relatives, I became fixated on their traditions. Learning about my own heritage, and searching for my identity meant that I could claim gingerbread cookies, whisked whipped cream, rice pudding and Swedish meatballs as my own. And, yes, lutefisk, too.

This year I made those Swedish meatballs, though I don’t have a personal favorite recipe. I turned to my handy Joy of Cooking cookbook, and found a recipe that sounded good. I mixed the meat, breadcrumbs and typically Scandinavian spices, nutmeg and allspice, and cooked them up.

After the first batch I decided they need some garlic. So I added in garlic. Then I decided they needed an accompaniment of some sort. So I boiled water for noodles. I stuck some garlic bread in the oven, heated some tomato sauce, and voilĂ , spaghetti and meatballs.

So much for tradition.

Swedish Meatballs

1 tbsp butter
4 tbsp chopped onions
1/3 cup (plus or minus) bread crumbs (can substitute mashed potato)
1/2 (plus or minus) cup water
1 pound ground beef, or beef and pork
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp each allspice and nutmeg
2 tbsp heavy cream
garlic (optional)

1.Saute onions in butter until soft.

2.Meanwhile put bread crumbs and water into a mixing bowl and let sit one minute.

3.Add in onions and remaining ingredients and mix vigorously (kneading or with mixer attachment) until meat balls are well mixed, and light.

4.Form small balls and cook in buttered skillet until browned and cooked through.

5.Enjoy plain or however else you like. Hey, it's your holiday!


Fran said...

Even though I have not eaten meat for years, I do remember this dish from my childhood, too.

IF I recall correctly, this dish is meant to be mild, and may not suit the taste of those who are used to garlic and lots of onion !

My Mom used 3 meats in the mix: beef, pork and VEAL. Less onion too.

Mom learned to cook with garlic and onions later, after marrying a Tyrolean man....we loved them all...the food and the man! His family used garlic and onion more...though not tomato-based sauces.

I enjoyed this trip down memory lane. And the recipes too.


Sophie said...

Your Swedish meat balls look so inviting & tasty!!


Carolyn Jung said...

Sounds like you created your own new tradition with those meatballs. Bravo to you. Here's to the start of many more happy holidays of meatballs.