Attack of the Swedes

Professional songwriter, performer, educator

Attack of the Swedes

Well here it is…a new year and I haven’t posted since August. I guess it shows how busy being a new parent is. At this point Finn’s about 5 months old and he just got his second tooth. He’s saying syllables, dropping things on the floor and loving family cuddle time in the morning. Despite his early proclivity for blood-curdling screams he’s turning out to be a pretty happy kid.

So my buddy Marc, 5th cousin 4 times removed (or something like that) came over yesterday and shared with us his grandmothers recipe for Swedish meatballs. I know, you’re probably already drooling on your keyboard. It’s probably best if you get a towel or something….seriously. I’ll wait.

Let me start out by saying that there’s a difference between fluid oz. and oz. by weight. This is not how I messed up great-5th-grandma’s recipe, but it makes the error a little less egregious in my mind…I think our error may have led to a great recipe anyways.

So the recipe says to start out with 2 lbs of meat, 1 pork, 1 beef, 2 eggs, 2 cups crushed saltines, 12 oz. evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed milk), a bit of salt, and 1/2 tablespoon each of allspice, ground cloves, and nutmeg. So I went to the store…of course I was looking for the best deal, and the best deals come with the larger packs of meat (or at least that’s how I’m telling the story). So I come home with 1.5 lbs each of pork and beef. No problem! just multiply the recipe by a half right? so that’s 3 eggs, 3 cups saltines and 24 oz. of milk, right?

So, admittedly, math was never my strongest subject…

18oz. of milk, and I put in 24…what did I have? Well, when I put it all confidently in the blender, despite protests from Jenn, I was left with a meat paste the consistency of muffin batter. So add some more crackers, I thought. More and more crackers went in and still we had little better than dumpling dough. Not to be defeated by mere dairy I went to the freezer and procured a package of…of…hmm. We didn’t have any ground beef…just some mild pork sausage.

I didn’t want to introduce new flavors to this classic recipe, but there was no choice! I had to do it…so into the microwave it went, and into the mixer. Our Swedish meat paste thickened right up and Marc and I went happily to the task of making our meatballs. He opted for the hand-formed colossal meat softballs, while I grabbed the mini-muffin tin to try my hand at mumplings (meat+dumplings). 1/2 hour in the oven at 350 to brown (20 min for the mumplings), and then into a large-sided 9×12 baking dish to be covered in gravy.

Now I hear that grandma would make the gravy from the meatball drippings, but we didn’t have any! I think all the extra crackers must have soaked up the drippings (read, flavor) and kept them in the succulent little drops of nordic heaven. We opted instead for two packages of gravy mix, one brown, one turkey. Some of you would call that cheating, but gravy is not a commodity to be made in a pinch, OH NO, and sometimes you have to roll a hard 6 (as a certain BSG captain is fond of saying). Covered in gravy, back in the oven for another 1/2 hour. Just enough time to crack a few beers, make the rice and salad, and admire the meat-paste covered kitchen.

Honestly, we had our doubts about how this would turn out…but one juicy bite was all it took to know that we may have stumbled blindly unto greatness. The original recipe+mild pork sausage+extra crushed saltines=magic. We had delicious, firm, flavorful, juicy meatballs (4 lbs of them) to fill us up and when we had sated our appetites for meat and grain Jenn brought out her Christmas present, an ice-cream maker. Holding a packet of espresso and a bottle of Kahlua in one hand and a carton of cream in the other I knew we were in for the perfect nightcap.

and some people wonder why I’d rather stay home than go out…