I’ve been up and down my family tree and like many Americans, I’m a crazy mix up of genes, but one thing I don’t have is a drop of Swedish blood. I do, however, live in Minnesota, you betcha, home of a large Swedish population and home of the American Swedish Institute. And I can attest that Swedish Meatballs are very popular in the Twin Cities, especially during the Holidays.
You’ll find Swedish Meatballs served for Christmas Eve dinner and maybe at New Years as a traditional meal. You’ll find Swedish Meatballs at parties, too. Served out of a slow cooker, or if it’s a fancy party, a chafing dish. Now and then you’ll see plates or platters of Swedish Meatballs, skewered with toothpicks, ready for the taking. No matter how they’re served, though, Swedish Meatballs are just a good dose of comfort.
About Tyler Florence’s Swedish Meatballs:
Most of my friends, even those with families originally from the Land of Midnight Sun, use a package of frozen meatballs for their Swedish Meatballs, and usually, they’ll make up a creamy and delish sauce with a lot of Sour Cream. That’s how I first learned to love Swedish Meatballs. But when I saw Tyler Florence make “Lena’s Swedish Meatballs” I knew I’d been missing out!
Tyler’s Swedish Meatballs have a darker sauce, which I’ve heard is traditional in Sweden, with just a touch of cream to round it out and make it silky. And while that silky brown sauce is so good I swear you’ll want to lick your plate, the meatballs are fantastic, too. They’re just tender little balls of love, all browned on the outside with just such a beautiful texture and flavor throughout. They’re a little labor intensive (a scoop helps so much for portioning and an electric skillet, for browning if you have one) but so worth it.
So, friends and family, the secret’s out, now, on “my” Swedish Meatballs with that traditional brown sauce. I hope ya love them as much as we do! Serve the meatballs and sauce over egg noodles and if you want to be traditional, serve a little lingonberry jam on the side but if it’s hard to find or super pricey, cranberry sauce is an excellent substitute. The biggest secret to this recipe? Toss in a few “uffdahs” and a “doncha know” or two and nobody will know/guess you’re not Swedish.
Making Tyler Florence’s Swedish Meatballs:
Over the years I’ve tried other recipes for Swedish Meatballs. Like lots of recipes. Recipes passed from friends, from books and magazines. I’ve tried the copycat Ikea Swedish Meatballs and of course, Alton Brown’s & Serious Eats’ recipes, too. This recipe for Lena’s Swedish Meatballs has replaced them all. It’s that good!
There was a problem in Tyler Florence’s original recipe, though, the measurements were off. Tyler said the recipe would make 50 small 1″ meatballs but it was more like a hundred. And in his recipe, he browned them off and then baked them to cook them through. I found that the 1″ meatballs are perfectly done once they’re browned and there is no need to bake. My guess is that he must have made much larger meatballs.
In the recipe below, I cut the meatball portion of the recipe down so there are only 50 or so 1″ meatballs but kept the sauce the same. The small meatballs with the amount of sauce is just perfect. We love love love that sauce. If you want to make the recipe as Tyler did, just double the meatball portion – you’ll be sad though if there’s not enough sauce!
I also used a little bit less of the butter and just a pinch of white pepper. When I make the meatballs, I use just ground beef, or sometimes just ground beef and pork, because veal isn’t readily available here. I think they’re fantastic either way.
Saving Money on Tyler Florence’s Swedish Meatballs:
Ground Beef by many, is considered to be”cheap” meat, but that’s really not the case any longer; sometimes a cheaper chuck roast is less than ground beef. Shop for it carefully, buy on sale and freeze for when you need it. For the most flavorful and unctuous meatballs, don’t use super lean ground beef, especially if you’re not using pork and/or veal.
Ground Pork isn’t always available at our stores up here in the Twin Cities and is surprisingly pricey when it is, especially considering it is usually ground from the shoulder, one of the cheapest cuts there is. If you can’t get, don’t want to pay so much or want the freshest ground pork, just buy shoulder, chunk it up and pulse in your food processor.
I’ll buy cream at Aldi (it’s around the same price at Costco but in a much larger container) or at the store during holiday sales. Cream keeps very well due to its high-fat content, usually a week or two past the “sell by” date. The sale price is generally about half that of the regular price so it’s a good practice to pick up a couple cartons on sale if you use cream regularly.
- 3 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1/2 small onion, minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons butter or oil
- 1/2 pound each ground beef, pork, and veal (may be all beef)
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 teaspoons salt
- a good pinch of white pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 1/2 pieces sturdy white bread, crust removed, torn and soaked in milk or cream
- a little additional milk if needed, see instructions
Add the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Remove the onion to a plate and cool. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground meats, egg yolks, and onion. Add salt, white pepper, and allspice. Squeeze excess milk from the bread and add the bread to the bowl. Measure the milk or cream left behind, add 1/8th of a cup to the meat mixture. If there isn’t that much, add more milk or cream to measure the 1/8th cup. Mix gently with your hands or wooden spoon until everything is fully incorporated.
With a bowl of cold water standing by, form meatballs about 1-inch across. Dip your fingers in cold water, from time to time, to keep the meat from sticking to your hands.
Melt the additional two tablespoons butter in pan. Add meatballs, working in batches if needed. (An electric frying pan works well here, too.) Do not overcrowd the pan. Brown all of the meatballs, turning often, until done. If working in batches, pan may need to be wiped out between them.
- The meatball portion of this recipe is half the size of the original recipe but does make about 50 meatballs, around an inch across. Tyler’s original recipe was “off” in the measurements, and the larger meatballs required browning and baking. These 1″ meatballs are perfectly done when browned on all sides.
- For forming the meatballs, a small scoop works very well, especially one with a lever that allows you to sweep the contents of the scoop out. Refrigerating the meatballs before cooking helps them to keep a round shape.
- 2 tablespoons butter or 2 tablespoons of fat from drippings
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 cups chicken or beef stock
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- pinch of white pepper
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 to 2 tablespoons black currant jelly or jam
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves for garnish
To make the sauce: Pour off all but two tablespoons of the fat from the skillet and return it to the heat, or pour it all off and add 2 tablespoons of butter and swirl it around to coat the pan. Sprinkle in the flour, and stir with a wooden spoon or whisk to dissolve the flour into the fat.
Slowly pour in the chicken stock, and stir to loosen the bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer, stirring now and then, until the liquid is reduced and the mixture starts to thicken to a sauce. This will take several minutes. Season with salt and peppers, to taste. Lower the heat and stir in the cream and the black currant jam. Add the meatballs to the sauce. Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly and the meatballs are heated through 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
May be made partially ahead:
If desired, meatballs may be made and cooked a day or two ahead. Add a little water to the grease and drippings in the skillet, pour into a cup and refrigerate. When ready to make the sauce, remove the fat (use two tablespoons of it for the sauce) and set aside the drippings to add in with the stock. The drippings may worked through a small strainer for an absolutely smooth sauce. Warm the meatballs through in the simmering sauce.
Nutrition: Based on 6 servings using Ground Beef (without noodles): calories 340, tot fat 18g; sat fat 9g; chol 127mg; sod 783mg; pot 199mg; tot carb 19g; fiber 1g; sug 4g; prot 25g; vit a 12%; vit c 8%; calc 5%; iron 19%
slightly adapted from Tyler Florence