Swedish Meatballs with Gravy
Swedish Meatballs or köttbullar are a classic dish from Sweden, characterized by a mixture of beef and pork with strong spicing, usually involving allspice, and served in a heavy gravy that lands somewhere on the spectrum between American beef gravy and country-style white gravy. These are traditionally served with a lingonberry jam in Sweden.
This is an old family recipe for Swedish Meatballs. It is simple to make and goes well with egg noodles or mashed potatoes. It creates a serving for 4-6 people. The prep and cook time is about 40-45 minutes.
The relish adds a sweet taste to the meatballs, but doesn't overpower with its flavor provided it is used in the proper amount.
I would suggest serving this with mashed potatoes or perhaps egg noodles. You may add the meatballs back into the gravy or keep the gravy on the side, depending on the tastes of your guests.
- 1½ lb ground beef (80-85% lean is ideal, the 90% and higher are too lean and make for a dryer meatball, the less lean kind is too greasy)
- 1 cup plain bread crumbs
- ¼ cup sweet dill relish
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 2 eggs
- 4 regular size cans of cream of mushroom soup (I prefer Campbell's, but it's all the same I imagine)
- 1 tsp Gravy Master
- 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- ¾ cup sour cream
- Combine the ground beef along with the bread crumbs, relish, sour cream, and eggs until thoroughly mixed.
- In a large frying pan, put enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Roll the mixture into meatballs and place into the frying pan.
- Allow the meatballs to cook on a medium temperature for 10-15 minutes or until thoroughly cooked.
- Once cooked, put the meatballs aside in a bowl and combine the drippings from the frying pan with the cans of mushroom soup, the gravy master, and Worcestershire sauce in a large pot.
- Stir the gravy, add water as needed to obtain the right consistency. The gravy should be a medium brown color. Once it reached a boil turn the heat down to a simmer and add the sour cream. Stir until mixed. DO NOT add the sour cream before bringing the gravy to a boil, heating the sour cream may cause it to curdle.
A Norwegian family variation
This version of Swedish Meatballs, handed down through a Norwegian family, has been modified by the realities of available ingredients in the United States. What I show below is the result of the negotiation between my mother and I over the course of my lifetime, so while it may not be strictly traditional in the broader context, this is what Swedish meatballs are to me. Enjoy!
This recipe is intended for parties or other large events. If you're just serving 2-3 people, reduce the meatball recipe to a third of the suggested ingredients, and the sauce to half.
- 1 lb ground beef (medium lean)
- 1 lb ground veal (see note 1, below)
- 1 lb ground pork (see note 2, below)
- 2 cups finely ground breadcrumbs, unseasoned
- 2 raw eggs
- 1 tbsp allspice + 1 tsp allspice
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 dash celery salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup (e.g. Campbell's)
- 2 cans Beef Consommé (e.g. Campbell's; see note 1, below)
Optional (to taste):
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 4-8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 small bunch fresh parsley, chopped fine
There are two parts to this dish: the meatballs and the sauce. The meatballs are prepared first, and then put into the sauce to finish in the oven. For cooking the meatballs, you will want a large frying pan, though if you wish to do the entire dish in a dutch oven, that will reduce cleanup by one large item. If you don't use a dutch oven, you'll want a casserole for the final stage.
In a large bowl, combine the beef, veal, pork breadcrumbs, eggs, 1tbsp of the allspice (1 tsp is for the sauce), and all other spices. Mix with your hands, folding and pressing until the mix is even, then shape the meatballs. They should be larger in diameter than a quarter, but smaller than a silver dollar. They're meant to be about right for one or two bites.
Once you have the meatballs formed, get them into the frying pan in batches. You want to avoid having so many in the pan that it's hard to turn them. Roll them around frequently with tongs or a fork and when they're all browned, add them to the cans of soup and the extra allspice in a casserole or dutch oven.
Place them into a pre-heated 350 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked all the way through (you may have to make the supreme sacrifice and eat one to test ;-)
- If you don't like veal or just can't find any, you can substitute with regular ground beef and 1/3 of a pack or half a sheet of gelatin (which must be "bloomed" by stirring into hot water before use). Gelatin is also useful if you can't find beef consommé. Just mix beef broth with 1/3 of a pack or 1/2 sheet of gelatin (again, blooming before adding). Gelatin gives a texture and flavor to meat-based dishes that enhances their flavor and both veal and consommé have a fair bit of it by default.
- If you are trying to keep Kosher, you'll need to skip the pork. Since ground pork has more fat than beef, I suggest using a slightly fattier beef.