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By Brien R. Sörne

A Swedish word derived from three other words: smör (butter), gås (goose) and bord (table). The old Swedish peasants, so the story goes, saw the small pieces of butter that Xoated to the surface of the cream while it was being churned which reminded them of geese swimming to the surface on a pond.

These butter pieces were just the right size to be spread on a slice of bread. So eventually, smörgås came to mean “buttered bread.” The Swedes’ love of open-faced sandwiches and their generous approach to inviting all to share in a bounteous meal, provided a natural fit for the two ideas: open-faced sandwiches piled high with a variety of spreads and toppings laid out in a sumptuous display of delectable items from which to choose.

The traditional Swedish smörgåsbord consists of both hot and cold items. Bread, butter and cheese are a must. Customarily, cold dishes are offered first, usually beginning with various fish like salmon and herring, accompanied by salads, deviled eggs, goose liver pâté and plenty of cold cuts. Hot items include Swedish meatballs, brown beans, sliced ham, boiled or mashed white potatoes, pork sausage and sweet and sour red cabbage. Another must is knäckebröd which Americans might know as “hardtack” or “crispbread,” which comes in a variety of styles and flavors. It is ideal for serving as a plate upon which your items can be
stacked! Beverages include Aquavit (a flavored distilled spirit), beer and stout, and a uniquely Swedish mulled wine called Glögg. Deserts often include a wide variety of baked goods, and especially Pepparkakor (thin, crisp, gingerbread cookies).

If all of this is new to your way of celebrating, you may want to start with a few simple dishes, and ones that your family is less likely to find unusual. (Pickled herring is an acquired taste). Here is our favorite recipe for Swedish meatballs that will be a welcome addition to your feast!

Swedish Meatballs

Prep Time :: 30 minutes, Cooking Time :: 45 minutes

Yield :: serves 12 to 15


1 pound of ground pork
2 pounds of ground beef
1 cup of unseasoned dry breadcrumbs
1 large sweet onion
1 raw egg
1 cup of half-and-half
2 tablespoons of ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
½ cup of your preferred cooking oil



1 teaspoon of nutmeg
Cooking oil

Mince or finely chop the onion. Thoroughly mix the meats together in a large mixing bowl.

Add the breadcrumbs, onion, egg and half-and-half and continue mixing until all of the
ingredients are well incorporated. Continue mixing while you add your seasoning.

Cover the mix with waxed paper or a damp dishtowel and chill for at least 30 minutes.
This will help keep the mix from sticking while you are rolling each meatball.

Heat a small amount of cooking oil in your best fry pan over medium heat. Don’t let the
oil get too hot or you will burn your meatballs before they are cooked through.

While the oil is heating, roll small amounts of the mixture (about 2 or 3 tablespoons
worth) in your hands to form bite-size meatballs. If the meat mixture is sticking to your
hands, you can wet them periodically to keep that from happening.

Once the meatballs are made, place them gently into the hot oil until the pan is full and
the meatballs are nearly touching each other. Carefully move your pan in a circular fashion
to get them to roll, or gently move them with a wooden spoon or spatula without breaking
them up in the process.

Keep cooking until the meatballs are brown and firm. You can always open one up to
be sure it’s cooked through (grey in the middle). Note how much time it took for them
to cook. As one batch is finished cooking, remove from your pan, place in a large, shallow
casserole dish and keep warm in your oven at a temperature of 170˚.

For the Gravy

Using the same pan you used for your meatballs (oil discarded), add the butter and melt
over medium-low heat. Once the butter is melted, sprinkle the flour into the pan, distributing
evenly. Using a large spoon or wire whisk, work the flour into the butter and keep working to loosen all of the remnants of your meatballs from the bottom of the pan.

Continue cooking, allowing the roux to bubble slightly without browning. While stirring,
add the nutmeg, then the ketchup. Continue stirring as you slowly add the milk about ½ cup at a time. Work the milk into the roux completely before you add the next portion of milk. Continue until all of the milk has been blended into the gravy. The consistency should be thin. It will thicken as it continues to cook over low heat.

Remove your meatballs from the oven and pour the gravy over the entire batch. You can reserve some of the gravy if you choose to for those who want additional gravy. Serve immediately.

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