Sweden is a Northern European country that is part of Scandinavia. The land that gave the world Pippi Longstocking (or Pippi Långstrump as she is known in Sweden), crispbread, Ikea, Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman, Ann-Margret, Roxette, Ace of Base, The Cardigans, that awful (to me) and unmentionable band with the name that starts with A, the band Europe…and a bunch of other culturally important people and things. But the best thing to ever (as in like ever to infinity) come out of Sweden is my boyfriend Alexander Skarsgård…He’s dreamy…
Okay, so besides Alexander there are many wonderful things that Sweden gave to the world, like their national dish. I think it’s safe to assume that even if people haven’t eaten Swedish food, everyone has heard of Swedish meatballs. I have to admit that other than crispbread I had never eaten Swedish food. Regardless, I was super excited to give Swedish food a try and feature it as this Earth Eats instalment.
Since I am a total beginner to this cuisine, I spent many hours researching it. After looking up recipes I decided to go with the national dish of meatballs (or köttbullar) served in a creamy brown sauce, and with mashed potatoes, pickles, and lingonberry sauce. The meal was a huge success and one that will happily go into the rotation of comforting cold weather meals.
First let’s start with the lingonberry sauce: What exactly are lingonberries? According to Wikipedia “Vaccinium vitis-idaea (lingonberry or cowberry) is a short evergreen shrub in the heath family that bears edible fruit, native to boreal forest and Arctic tundra throughout the Northern Hemisphere from Eurasia to North America.” These berries are tiny in size but huge in flavour. They are naturally quite sour and so are mixed with sugar to make sauce or jams.People often compare them to cranberries, but they are quite different from each other in size, smell, and taste. Both are remarkably delicious and pair well with many foods. In fact, lingonberry jam is a staple on the Swedish table.
I (luckily) found a package of frozen lingonberries, and this is what I used to make the sauce. After thawing out I could smell a strong and bitter scent. Placing one in my mouth I tasted a strongly sour flavour that somehow still resembled a berry. The taste is quite unique. I highly recommend that you look for the lingonberry in your grocery store’s frozen section or where the jams are kept. If not your local IKEA will surely carry the jam or perhaps even the frozen berries. The lingonberry sauce is a wonderful tart and sweet addition to the meatballs and mashed potatoes, so do try to get your hands on some.
After reading many recipes for the traditional Swedish meatball, I settled on this one. The ingredients list and technique deeply intrigued me. First off, I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of meatballs, but I was still marching on with the dish. Am I glad that I did, these meatballs were among the very best I have ever tasted. Kalle’s recipe intrigued me because it didn’t involve using a bunch of breadcrumbs or eggs — them there’s the addition of beer, stock and cream; Simply fantastic!
I followed his meatballs recipe as he shared it. When I mixed in the liquid to the meat, it took on a very smooth and creamy texture. The seasoning is so simple, but the meatballs are bursting with delectable smells and flavours. Words can’t describe it. As for the lingonberry sauce I swapped out the sugar and used honey instead. The mashed potatoes are from my own trusty recipe. I know the ingredients list is long, but the process is super simple and it really doesn’t take that long to prepare. Let’s get to it, shall we?
- 1⅓ Ib (600 g) of lean ground beef
- 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
- 3 tablespoons of heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons of beef stock
- 2 tablespoons of dark beer
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- half a teaspoon of sea salt
- large pinch of black pepper
- ½ cup of beef stock
- 1½ cup of heavy cream
- large pinch fine sea salt
- large pinch of white pepper
- 1 small knob of unsalted butter
- a pinch of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of corn starch, mixed with a little cold water
- 1½ cups of lingonberries
- 1½ cups of sugar
- mashed potatoes
- pickled cucumbers slices
- fresh dill
- Defrost the lingonberries, rinse them and drain too. Place inside a pot with the sugar and under medium-low heat simmer until they have broken down, become a thick sauce. Turn the heat off and set aside.
- You should make them now, then set aside while the meatballs are prepared.
- Peel and finely chop the onion. Sauté it with a bit of butter until soft and translucent. Set aside.
- In a bowl, mix bread crumbs, heavy cream, beer and stock. Set aside for 5 minutes.Place the ground beef in a large bowl, add the onions and the beer/bread mixture. Season with salt and pepper, then mix until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap, place inside refrigerator for 10 minutes.
- Shape the meatballs into a diameter of roughly one inch. Heat a bit of butter or oil in a large pan, then fry the meatballs in batches until cooked through. They are ready when they are slightly crispy on the outside. Set aside while making the sauce.
- Deglace the frying pan with a littlewater and add the stock. Reduce by half, and then add the cream. Bring to a simmer, and thicken with butter and corn starch. Let it simmer for 5 minutes.
- Taste and season it with salt, sugar and white pepper. Add the meatballs to the sauce, or serve them separately.
- Serve the meatballs with a scoop of mashed potatoes, a spoonful of lingonberry sauce, a few slices of pickles, and a sprinkling of the fresh dill.
I hope you too will give this amazing recipe a try sometime. We ate it for two days in a row and absolutely loved it. The lingo berry jam made a huge batch and I used the leftovers in some creative ways — I’ll share soon.
The following are interesting books on Swedish cuisine you may want to check out.
Mmmhhh, mouthwatering! This is one of my favorite winter dishes.
Oh it looks so good.. I love that creamy sauce!
Joanne T Ferguson says
G’day Gorgeous photo and recipe Nancy!
I always get a craving for this after leaving IKEA like I did this week!
I made these and thoroughly enjoyed them too!
as a descendent of europeans, i am usually pretty skeptical of most european cuisine. it seems, however, that the vikings at least got this right, somewhere between the pickled fish and the band that starts with A. :)
Arthur in the garden! says
Always lovely! And now I am hungry! :-)
Frank @Memorie di Angelina says
I absolutely love Swedish meatballs! But I haven’t made them in ages—I’ve never found a recipe that did them justice, perhaps until now. I’ll definitely try these and let you know. If it convinced a sceptic like yourself, then it must be good.
Meatballs with lingonberries always reminds me of the wonderful but short Swedish summers.
I haven’t thought of this for years, it seems such a great idea to prepare this Northern delight.
Thanks for the inspiration!
Nancy, OMG, everything looks soo good! I am very familiar with Swedish meatballs and with lingonberries! Well done-))
There are so many recipes for Swedish meatballs it’s hard to nail down a good one. I like this one.
I love having meals with just meatballs and no pasta. I’ve never made real Swedish meatballs and I do love this recipe! Thanks Nancy!