Danish variations on Swedish meatballs (if any)
December 22, 2019 5:23 AM   Subscribe

When my son was living in Denmark, he developed a taste for Swedish meatballs. I wanted to make some for him.

There are a whole lot of meatball recipes out there. I wanted to use one that Danes prefer. Here's the differences between recipes that I notice:

Allspice, nutmeg, cardamon, ginger, and/or other?

Whole cream or sour cream?

Lingonberry jam, black currant jam, and/or other? (My ex-mother in law, who was Danish, seemed to favor red currant jam in her cooking.)

On the side: noodles, potatoes (mashed or whole), and/or other? (my ex-MIL seemed to like small whole potatoes)

So do any of you Mefites with Danish connections have insights on these burning issues?
posted by Transl3y to Food & Drink (6 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
First of all, Danish meatballs are obviously not Swedish meatballs.
The Danish meatballs are bigger in size and often have a more oblong, flattened shape. Or you make them with two spoons to form a pointy egg shape. In any case that means you just fry them on two sides.
Another important difference is that Swedish meatballs are sweet. They add honey or sugar or something.
You eat Danish meatballs with boiled potatoes, gravy, and pickled red cabbage. You use red current jelly for seasoning the gravy and the cabbage, and you can serve it on the side as well, but it's been a while since I've seen that.

IMO, they are hard to get right. I've googled a lot of recipes, and this is what I think will be the best. But I haven't tried it out. (Maybe I'm not good at it because I always just wing it).

500 g of chopped pork, or half and half of pork and veal. It has to be 10% fat at least
10 g salt
1 finely chopped or grated onion
1 æg
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 dl milk
freshly ground black pepper to taste
allspice to taste
ginger to taste
(I suggest starting with 1/2 teaspoon of each, and then making a tiny test ball to check out how you like it)

Start by stirring the meat and the salt well until the meat becomes sticky and a whole mass rather than grains of meat. This is very important for the texture, and best done in a stand mixer. Then add the onion, and the egg with the spices. Stir more, then add the milk gradually. Fry your little test ball and adjust. When you feel it's ready, let rest for 30 minutes in the fridge.
Heat up the oven to keep the meatballs warm when they are cooked, at perhaps 150 celcius.
Form all of your meatballs, to at least the size of a small egg, and flatten them a bit.
Now take a big skillet, and put in a lot of butter and oil. Heat the pan to medium and fry the meatballs, probably in two batches. Don't overfill the skillet, and put the finished meatballs in the oven while you make the gravy. They should be golden brown on the outside, about five minutes on each side. Some like them darker, try out what you like, or ask your son, but don't let the pan get too hot, or you will ruin the gravy. Here's a video.

Now there should be a lot of delicious juices and fat on your pan, hopefully not too burnt. You can make gravy out of this in many ways. My way is the best way, even though my meatballs aren't. But maybe you can''t get the key ingredient: a 1/2 cup of meat jelly. In Denmark you can get that in every supermarket or butcher's store.
If you can get it, pour the meat jelly and the same amount of cream into the pan. Add a spoonful of red currant jelly to the mix, and turn down the heat to low. Simmer till you have the right consistency. Season with Worcester Sauce to taste and maybe a bit of ketchup. Maybe give it a dash of browning, but don't overdo it.
If you can't have the meat jelly, I'd suggest you use a 1/2 cup of chicken stock instead. In this case, you may need a bit of flour to begin with, and definitely browning.

For the red cabbage, I just buy the stuff in a jar, and add red currant jelly to taste while heating. If I have a bit of duck fat, I add a spoonful of that, too.

BTW, I really like them with spinach instead of the cabbage, or even both. People do all sorts of sides depending on the season.

My kids like the potatoes to be a bit on the mealy side, for better scooping up the gravy. It's seen as more elegant with yellow, firmer potatoes, but meatballs aren't really about elegance, are they?
posted by mumimor at 6:50 AM on December 22, 2019 [8 favorites]


Nice. Just want to add 2 cents: my Swedish immigrant grandmother (RIP) and her first-generation son (my dad) make Swedish meatballs that are basically the same recipe that you just posted. They do in fact make them on the small side, as you mentioned. My dad skips the gravy/sauce these days and serves them slightly crisp on the outside as appetizers/hors d'oerves (sp). The onion and the "baking" spices (not actually sweet) are all that makes them sweet.
posted by SoberHighland at 7:37 AM on December 22, 2019 [2 favorites]


mumimors recipe looks about right. The danish meatballs is one of those recipes where every family has their own take on it :-) I'd like to substitute the flour with breadcrumbs to avoid the floury taste, though.
posted by Thug at 8:59 AM on December 22, 2019 [2 favorites]


Seconding mumimor's recipe, and hopefully this is not a derail, but if red cabbage is on the menu as an accompaniment (and it should be!) don't get the stuff in a jar, here's a simple, cheap and cheerful recipe that I make every single Xmas:

Shred a red cabbage, throw in a stick of butter into a large pot and cook until melted. (Yeah, if you happen to have duck fat then use this). Toss the shredded cabbage in and stir to coat with the butter. Add a jar of red currant jelly and then half cup of white or cider vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir everything around again.

Turn heat to medium low and cover. Set a timer and stir every 10 minutes or so. The cabbage will quickly begin to generate it's own juices. Overall it will take about an 45 minutes, but it really depends on what your preference for mushiness is.

The only tricky part can be the balance of sweet and sour, so feel free to add more sugar and/or vinegar as needed.

Serve with meatballs!
posted by jeremias at 9:28 AM on December 22, 2019 [4 favorites]


My grandmother's recipe doesn't add spices other than salt and pepper and she'd serve them with a parsley sauce (a simple béchamel sauce with chopped parsley) as well as red cabbage.

As for the meat, she used either pork or a combination of pork and beef. When purchasing the meat at the butcher, she would ask them to grind the meat separately and then have them grind the meats together. At home she would grind the meat at least once more before making the meatballs. I remember having to set up the meat grinder on the kitchen table and help grind the meat when I was small. Now we don't bother with this and the meatballs still taste great but are not as tender.
posted by bCat at 11:32 AM on December 22, 2019 [2 favorites]


Nice. Just want to add 2 cents: my Swedish immigrant grandmother (RIP) and her first-generation son (my dad) make Swedish meatballs that are basically the same recipe that you just posted. They do in fact make them on the small side, as you mentioned. My dad skips the gravy/sauce these days and serves them slightly crisp on the outside as appetizers/hors d'oerves (sp). The onion and the "baking" spices (not actually sweet) are all that makes them sweet.

SoberHighland, you sent me down a rabbit hole of Swedish recipe pages, because the Swedish kötbullar definitely taste sweeter than the Danish frikadeller, and now I am really curious why. (Also, it turns out that many Danes, like me, think they put sugar in them).
After far too much research, I have some different theories.
#1: in many Swedish recipes, they fry the onions gently in butter before mixing them into the meat. This could be a thing, but I know a lot of Danes who do that too
#2. in many Swedish recipes, they use half-cream instead of milk. That could definitely be something
#3: Swedish bread is much sweeter than Danish bread, and many of their recipes use breadcrumbs, like Thug suggests. I think that is a good idea. But if the crumbs are made of sweet Swedish bread, that might make a difference. This theory is supported by a comparison of the ingredients of commercially produced breadcrumbs from the two countries
#4: image search and also my limited personal experience suggests that Danish meatballs are fried a little harder than the Swedish ones. This releases a bit more bitter taste which might counterweigh the sweetness from the onions
#5 the tradition is to serve the Swedish meatballs entirely coated with the sweet gravy. You don't usually do that in Denmark, and that may influence ones perception, not least because the Swedish gravy is a lot sweeter.

I'm posting all of this because I think it may inform the OP's proces ;-)

Velbekomme!

On preview: my grandmother did the grinding thing like bCat's, and she only put in the spices for Christmas. Sometimes she'd spice up the red cabbage too.
posted by mumimor at 11:41 AM on December 22, 2019 [4 favorites]


« Older Tempe, AZ vacation/hotel choosing!   |   Groovy Chanukah videos wth no sound required? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments