Swedish Meatballs

bob_cvilleNovember 2, 2012

At our annual Halloween party one of the foods that I often make is an easy version of Swedish Meatballs, using pre-made frozen meatballs and then making a "special sauce" to pour over the heated meatballs. This year's version turned out the best ever. The main difference this year was that I had no beef stock, and instead used Better Than Bouillon brand beef base instead.

Swedish Meatballs

Two large bags home-style frozen meatballs

4 Tbsp butter

6 medium sweet onions (chopped)

1/4 cup flour

1 pint half and half

2 Tbsp Better Than Bouillon beef base

1/2 cup Madeira

1/2 cup sour cream

Thaw and heat meatballs in large glass bowl in microwave.

Melt butter in large pot, cook onions over medium heat until thoroughly softened and translucent (about 15 minutes)

Stir in flour, and cook another minute or so.

Add Madeira and beef base, and stir until much of the Madeira has boiled off.

Add half and half and puree sauce with stick blender until the sauce thickens.

Remove from heat and stir in sour cream.

Put heated meatballs in large crockpot, pour sauce over them, and set crockpot on low.

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I was expecting to see the grape jelly and ketchup or ketchup and Coke combo in this thread. Pleasant surprise. This really sounds good. Easy enough to make your own meatballs too or use the frozen shortcut. Filing this one away.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 6:20PM
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I was thinking the same thing, Cynic. Bob your recipe sounds good, but I'll be making the meatballs from scratch.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 6:55PM
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I've never heard of meatballs with jelly, coke, ketchup sauce. Not saying it wouldn't be good - just that I've never encountered that style of sauce.

Swedish meatballs here in Minnesota have a cream/sour cream/red wine/ beef broth sauce - and don't forget the nutmeg.

Sounds like a good quick way of making an old time favorite. This might be a good one for the boys at the hunting cabin up north! Thanks!

    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 7:02PM
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It's meat balls with a jar of chili sauce (Heinz) and a jar of grape jelly. Very good, and a tradition at church receptions since time immemorial.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 8:52PM
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momj47 - if it's been a staple at church receptions since time immemorial it must be good! Lindac must be familiar with it as she heads up a lot of church group gatherings.

I've just never experienced it as I said above.


    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 9:01PM
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I agree that making the meatballs from scratch would almost certainly be better. However for the party I was also making chili, curried spinach, roast pork tenderloin, deviled eggs, mummy dogs, rice, brownies and green slime punch. Making and baking 140 meatballs on top of all that might've pushed me over the edge and driven me bananas.

Oops. I guess it happened anyway.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 2:46PM
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LOL Bob. Oh believe me, I wasn't criticizing you for buying frozen meatballs. I know a lot of people that do. I would make my own, it was just a comment.

And yes, I agree that it's too late for you!! ;-)

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 3:02PM
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Certainly never have put red wine in my
Swedish meatballs....and sure have made that jelly, chili sauce BBQ sauce. but I use it on little smokies....and it is made with current jelly and some dijon mustard in addition to the chili sauce.
I have made that for mobs of teenagers at picnics and such.
Never would consider something like that for a church supper. Those meatballs in the cbhili sauce are for appetizers.
Swedish meatballs are served with noodles as a main dish.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 5:54PM
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I had them at my wedding reception 41 years ago, in the church social hall.

Very good, and a tradition at church receptions since time immemorial.

Never at a church supper. Never had swedish meatballs at our church dinners, either, though they did serve the worst spaghetti I've ever had!

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 7:27PM
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I'd never had the jelly/chili sauce meatballs either, until I made them a couple of years ago. The kids in the fmaily loved them.

jasdip, I agree that I'd also make homemade meatballs and that it appears far too late for Bob, LOL.

I have too much home canned beef broth in my basement to use any kind of beef bouillion or base but I figure I could sub beef broth for the Madeira (which I've never even seen here, let alone tasted). Thanks, Bob, for the recipe and the picture, LOL.


    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 7:36PM
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It isn't just the sauce that makes a Swedish Meatball. The meatball is seasoned differently as well.

No red wine in any Swedish Meatballs I've had, nor in my favourite Swedish Meatball recipe.

Bob, I'd be tempted to use frozen meatballs though if I had to make 140 and I was short of time. I'm sure your meatballs were delicious.


    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 10:03PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I think they sound good too, and so does your party food! I'm going to try a small recipe of them.
I'm so tired of the grape jelly/chili sauce meatballs, at one bridge (acbl) event, ten people must have brought that dish, including me, which is why I will never make them again!

    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 11:08PM
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As I think about it, I don't recall using Swedish meatballs for the grape jelly/chili sauce appetizer, I always bought Italian meatballs for that.

My Swedish grandmother made the best meatballs, of course, and they hold a special place in my heart. I only use gravy - cream, or beef, when I make Swedish meatballs.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 8:27AM
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Mom, the recipe I use also just uses cream, heavy cream, not sour cream.


    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 8:40AM
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I think traditionally you sear the meatballs in butter in a pan, and then make a pan gravy by adding flour, and beef stock, and then simmer the meatballs in the gravy and then add sour cream or heavy cream.

The above recipe was a attempt to capture the essense of the traditional recipe without the work of making meatballs from scratch, and with a goal of the meatballs serving as an appetizer rather than a main dish that would be served over noodles or rice, which requires that the sauce be thicker.

Given that all I can find in the stores are either Italian meatballs or "homestyle" meatballs, the sauce attempts to add some of the flavors that the meatballs are missing. You could probably get even closer to the traditional taste by adding nutmeg and/or cardamom to the sauce.

If you are using beef stock you might want to use less half and half or the sauce might end up too thin.

Lastly if you don't have Madeira, you could sub a dry cream sherry or even a dry white wine, but in my opinion Madeira is such a wonderful addition that makes almost any sauce better, its worth some effort to find some. I took a trip to the island of Madeira a few years ago and fell in love with the flavor. I brought home a couple of bottles, and was elated to find that my local grocery carried that exact brand that I brought home.

-Banana Bob

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 12:02PM
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Bob - there is no need to explain your variation on Swedish meatballs. Even if you used a pre-made meatball the sauces can vary greatly. One of the Scandinavian cooking sites I read lists a number of variances on the sauce. Some include a red wine, some sour cream and even one that is a sauce of sour cream and shredded gjetost. I'll pass on that one. And Beatrice Ojakangas a well known Finnish Minnesota author of several cookbooks lists many variations of the sauce adapted over the years.

Just because someone has not heard of it does not mean it is not correct or wrong. I think your variation of the recipe used for a large group sounded good and one I will save for future use.

The recipe for meatballs I use includes beef and pork, bread crumbs, eggs, milk, a couple Tbsp of red wine or sherry, nutmeg, allspice, garlic, white pepper and salt. The sauce is a cream based sauce, using cream or sour cream, beef broth, nutmeg, sometimes dill weed, sometimes sherry and sometime white wine. The Scandinavians (Swedes, Norwegians, Danes, Finns and Icelanders) were very creative with this recipe. They used what they had on hand. I believe they are all based on the same concept. A meatball with a sweeter taste and a creamy sauce that could include a variety of ingredients.
It's kind of like meatloaf or chicken soup. Many variations - none are "correct". Different recipes work for different people.
I bet your party was wonderful - not so sure about the banana suit!

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 1:32PM
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Everyone adapts to what they've learned and like. My family hails from small town Minnesota where "Madeira" is something you say to the little woman when you want something, i.e. "Madeira wanna beer and a foot rub. Been a long day in the fields...

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 6:58PM
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LOL - and what small Minnesota town are you from?

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 7:33PM
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LOL, cynic.

The real problem is that I don't like wine. Any wine. I've tried and I've tried, but I just don't, so I'm always looking for substitutes that will work.

Besides, people put wine in the meatballs and then they go and start dressing like bananas and stuff. (grin)


    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 8:00PM
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Cynic I thought you were talking about me for a moment. Small town Minnesota but it was Madeira not Madelia Minnesota. Patty

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 10:53PM
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My 100% Swedish mother in law would sooner eat a whole clove of garlic than she would put wine in her Swedish meatballs! LOL!...And about all she knew about Maderia was that old song..."have some Maderia m'dear".
Her meatballs were pretty much like Bob describes....with nutmeg and a pinch of all spice in the meat mixture, fried in butter and sauced with cream.
Much better than lutefisk!!

I've linked the song below....for Annie!! LOL!

Here is a link that might be useful: Have some maderia m'dear....

    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 12:31AM
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My parents came from farm country near the "towns" of Garvin and Sunburg. I live in New Uffda, MN, on the edge of the rhubarb patch where the winters are cold and the women are colder; the men are tough enough to fry bacon without a shirt on and all the mosquitoes are bigger than average.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of wine (in food anyway), so I often cook with beer. Even put it in the food at times too. Generally a great substitute for wine. Makes great ribs, chili and more.

And for those who think they wouldn't like Lutefisk, try my recipe:

Cynic's Lutefisk
Walleye fillets (fresh if at all possible)
Beer batter or seasoned flour Please do not substitute wine batter!

Dip the fillets in beer batter or in the seasoned flour and deep fry or pan fry until golden doneness is achieved. Serve with meatballs, potatoes, corn and toast with dessert of your choice. Although it smells great, enjoy the aromas while cooking - be sure to hold your nose while eating it so everyone else will think you're eating that stuff that's cured in an outhouse. That way nobody will try to steal your portion.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 3:58PM
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Thank you for the Swedish meatball sauce recipe.
I think the Madeira and sour cream will make it something special.
Clever you! Cheers.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 5:40PM
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"Everyone adapts to what they've learned and like.----"

Jacques Pepin in his many "authentic" French recipes soy sauce is used.

"---where the winters are cold and the women are colder---"

That explains where some of my female friends are from. :-)


    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 7:37PM
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I've only had Swedish meatballs at Ikea - they were so cheap that I could not pass them up. Normally I would not eat at a furniture store, although I do have hors d'oeuvres at our showroom when we have parties.

I'll have to try one of those meatball recipes - I normally make Japanese or Chinese style instead of Swedish.


    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 6:50PM
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