Swedish Meatballs and Cucumber Salad

Adapted from Eric Akis, cookbook author and Times Colonist


This dish has been made for centuries in Sweden. There are numerous variations on how folks say it should be made. Some recipes ask for cooked, diced onions to be added to the raw meat, others call for raw, grated onion. Some prefer to make the gravy creamy by adding milk. Others use cream, while others, sour cream.

Meatballs freeze well.  They can be served with mashed  or boiled potatoes. This recipe calls for the traditional sides—lingonberry sauce and pressed cucumber salad. (A lingonberry is a tart, small, red fruit also known as a mountain cranberry). Prep time for the meatballs is about 40 minutes and they cook for about 25 minutes.

Swedish Meatballs:  Makes about six servings of about eight small meatballs
3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/3 cup half and half (10 per cent) cream
1 large egg, beaten
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp coarsely grated onion (about 1/2 small onion)
3/4 lb. (340 grams) lean ground beef
3/4 lb. (340 grams) ground pork
2 Tbsp butter (divided)
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups beef stock or broth
1/2 cup half and half (10 per cent) cream
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Place breadcrumbs and 1/3 cup cream in a large bowl. Mix until the breadcrumbs absorb the cream. Mix in the egg, allspice, salt, pepper and grated onion. Add the ground meats and gently mix to combine. Moisten your hands with cold water. Roll 1 Tbsp scoops of the meat mixture into one-inch balls and set on a baking sheet. You should have about 48 meatballs.

Place 1 Tbsp of butter in a very large skillet (mine was 12 inches wide) and set over medium to medium-high heat. When the butter is melted and no longer foaming, add half the meatballs to the pan. Fry the meatballs, shaking the pan occasionally, until nicely browned and cooked through, about eight to 10 minutes. Set cooked meatballs in a nine-by-13-inch casserole.

Preheat the oven 200 F. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp butter to the skillet and fry the remaining meatballs in the same way you did the first batch. Set those meatballs in the casserole. Cover with foil and keep warm in the oven.

Set the skillet back on the heat. Stir 2 Tbsp flour into the fat in the pan and cook one minute. While whisking, slowly mix in the beef stock (or broth). Bring the mixture to a simmer, then simmer two minutes. Whisk in the 1/2 cup cream, return to a simmer and season the gravy, if needed, with salt and pepper. Uncover meatballs, top with the gravy, sprinkle with parsley, if using, and serve.

Eric notes that to get the 3/4 cup of fresh bread crumbs needed for this recipe, place one and a half to two slices of regular white bread, cubed, in a food processor and pulse until crumb-like. If you don’t have a food processor, freeze the bread slices until solid, then use a box or other grater to finely grate them into crumbs.

He also suggested if you want to make the meatballs in the morning to serve for dinner that evening, don’t keep them warm in the oven once they’re fried.  Place in oven safe dish, top with gravy, then cool them to room temp. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate until ready to reheat. To reheat, set  in a 350 degree oven for about 30 to 35 minutes, until hot and bubbly.  Remove the foil, sprinkle with parsley (if you like it) before serving.  To freeze meatballs once they’re fried, top with gravy, and cool to room temperature before sealing, labeling with date and freezing.  Thaw before reheating.

Pressed Cucumber Salad
In this recipe, cucumbers are thinly sliced, salted, pressed and then drained. That technique extracts moisture from them, which is then replaced by soaking the cucumbers in a sweet-and-sour vinegar mixture, creating a pickle-like taste and texture. Prep time is about 20 minutes with additional time for the marinating and pressing involved.  This recipe makes about 2 cups picked cucumbers.

1 medium English cucumber
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, or 1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp granulated sugar
pinch or two of white pepper

Thinly slice the cucumber by hand or with a slicer or food processor.  Lay a third of the slices on a large plate, then sprinkle with a third of the salt. Lay on a third more of the cucumber slices, then sprinkle them with half the remaining salt. Set on the remaining cucumber slices, then sprinkle with remaining salt. Set a plate on top of the cucumber slices. Now set some heavy cans of food on that plate to press them. Allow to press for one hour.  Uncover the cucumbers and drain away the excess liquid. After drained, toss with parsley or dill.

Place cucumber slices into a two-cup jar. Combine water, vinegar, sugar and white pepper in a bowl and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. You can also use honey or any sugar product (stevia, etc. ) you prefer. Pour the vinegar mixture over the cucumbers. Seal the jar and refrigerate and marinate cucumbers in this mixture for at least two hours. Leftover cucumbers will keep for several days in the refrigerator.  The longer they sit, the more intense the pickle flavor.


Comments are closed.