Swedish Christmas meatballs

 

Swedish Christmas meatballs

Christmas is approaching. I presume that most of you are aware of that. You may have started putting up the Christmas decorations yourselves. If not, you just have to walk out through the door to be surrounded by glittering stars, flashing raindeers with associated Santa Clause, obscure little gnomes, and millions of Christmas lights.
You know it’s high time to start planning the Christmas dinner.
Here in Sweden, we must start planning in good time if we are to have a chance to be ready on time.
The list of required food items is long. There has to be, ham, potatoes, stewed kale, pickled herrings, smoked salmon, spare ribs, mushroom omelet, mustard, sausages…..

It’s easy to get overwhelmed. And from a food waste perspective, it’s quite depressing. We have to waste most of the food we are cooking because there’s no chance that we can eat all of it. Something I use to rant about to my family’s dismay.

But we have tried to reduce the amount of food the last years. Instead of cooking everything that is supposed to be on the Christmas table, we are focusing on what we want.
For me, that includes three things. Ham, pickled herring, and meatballs. A small potato to the herring is desirable, but not necessary. If I can also get a glass of good Christmas beer and a schnaps, I’m more than happy.

But meatballs are a must.

And for most other Swedes too. I don’t think I have ever experienced a Swedish Christmas meal without meatballs. What can I say? We take our meatballs seriously.

I searched for Swedish meatballs on Pinterest and found lots of recipes. They seem to be quite well-known around the world, and I suppose we can thank IKEA for that.
Most of the recipes claim that they are traditional and authentic, which is not entirely correct, I’m afraid. I’m sure that most of them are delicious, but I only found a handful that can be classified as authentic.

And let me get this straight. There is no such thing as Authentic Swedish meatball soup. Ask a Swede for a recipe for that, and you will see a face in complete confusion.
And don’t mention anything about vegan meatballs. You can almost compare that to shouting obscenities in church. There is nothing wrong with the vegan food. I’m trying to reduce my meat consumption as well, but it’s not an option when it comes to meatballs.

You see how important this subject is, even for me? I have used a whole paragraph nit-picking on other peoples enthusiastic attempts to create new exciting dishes. It’s time to stop that and give you my version of a Swedish meatball recipe. My traditional Christmas meatballs.

Perhaps I shouldn’s say it’s my recipe. I have been inspired by a recipe by the Swedish chef Leif Mannerström. I have of course tweaked it a little bit, but it’s very close to the original.
Leif points out two important things to consider when frying meatballs.

Use a mixture of ground meat from both beef and pork.
If you only use ground beef, there’s a risk that the meatballs will become a bit dry.

Use both fried and raw onion.
Fried and raw onion taste very different, and you want both these tastes.

frying onion

 

 

 

The original recipe, like most other, contains egg. The egg acts as a binder, keeping the ball together during the frying. It also adds a more compact, and in my opinion, a bit gummy texture that I don’t like. I want a more loose texture, so I use to exclude the egg. You have to be more careful when frying meatballs without egg, but it is possible. Just watch all the pictures in this post.
However, this is a matter of taste (and courage). Try both versions and see which one you prefer.

Frying meatballs

What distinguishes Christmas meatballs from the ordinary are all different types of seasonings. The most common is allspice. Cinnamon and clove are also quite popular. My favorite is no extra seasoning at all. I prefer ordinary meatballs even when it’s Christmas.

Spices

 

Traditional Swedish Christmas meatballs

I know. Sometimes I can be quite boring. But I think Leif Mannerström agrees with me. He has no extra seasoning in his Christmas meatballs either.

Print Recipe
Swedish Christmas meat balls
There will be no Christmas in Sweden without meatballs. At least not a merry one.This is a recipe for traditional Swedish Christmas meatballs.
Servings
meatballs
Ingredients
"Standard" meatballs
Seasoning. Choose one of the following aternatives.
Servings
meatballs
Ingredients
"Standard" meatballs
Seasoning. Choose one of the following aternatives.
Instructions
  1. Boil and mash the potato. Mince one onion and grate the last half. Fry the minced onion in butter until it gets translucent. Mix all ingredients. Add some salt and pepper and fry a small dollop of the mixture and taste. Add more salt and pepper if needed.
  2. Form the meatballs by rolling a piece of the mixture with your hands. Fry them in batches with butter in a skillet for 4-6 minutes on medium heat. They shall have a nice brown color.
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Buttery sourdough pesto rolls

Sourdough pesto rolls

I know that I have already written a recipe for sourdough bread for beginners. But perhaps this recipe suits even better.
You only need a minimum of experience and equipment to succeed.
This recipe requires a big kitchen bowl, kitchen scale, cling film (or a food-safe plastic container with a lid), a sharp knife, and a working surface. It helps if you have a rolling pin and some parchment paper, but it’s not necessary.
The ingredients required are wheat flour, butter, milk, sugar, sea-salt, pesto, and a mature sourdough starter.

The mature starter is probably the biggest challenge in this recipe. But if you haven’t cracked that code yet you can always buy a starter. But I urge you to try to make your own. It’s more satisfying, and it’s not that hard. Besides, buying a starter feels a bit like cheating, don’t you think?

Sourdough starter

I found a half-filled jar of pesto in my fridge that had to be used. I bought it to save time on another occasion. It’s not anything I do very often. Homemade pesto tastes better, but some brands are not that bad (did I hear anybody saying anything about cheating). So you will not find any recipe for pesto in this post, but that shouldn’t be any problem. Just Google “Pesto” and you will have more recipes than you will ever have a chance to try. If you want to be adventurous, you can always try my kale and Rucola pesto. Or you can be as lazy as I was and buy your pesto.

Kale and Rucola pesto
Kale Pesto

 

There’s a lot of milk and butter in this recipe, so you will not get that crunchy crust that is typical of sourdough bread. Both the crumb and the crust will be quite soft. But with much more taste. That’s the reason why I try to exchange yeast for sourdough starter most of the times. It takes longer, but it will be tastier. Adding the pesto and you will have an unbeatable combination. They will taste like an Italian cinnamon roll, but without cinnamon, if you know what I mean.

Kneading all that butter into the dough by hand take some time. But it can be done. I did it and so can you. So if you don’t have a dough mixer, don’t let that stop you. Besides, there is no better way to get to know your dough. You will experience how your dough transforms from a sticky mass to be more and more manageable during the process. So get your hands down to the bowl and start working.

Dough

Forming the loaf when you are baking sourdough bread is important. I don’t claim it’s rocket science to form a loaf, but it still requires some training. Scoring the loaf is even trickier. With these sourdough pesto rolls, you don’t have to bother about that. You only have to roll out the dough into a square. If you don’t have a rolling pin, you can just flatten it with your hands. Spread some pesto on top of the dough and roll it tightly.
Scoring the dough is even easier because it’s not necessary. You only have to cut the rolled dough into pieces and place them on an oven plate with parchment paper.

Rolled dough

 

Dough with pesto

 

rolling dough

 

rolls

 

roll close up

That’s it.

Everybody can do that. So start softening the butter and measuring up the flour, and bake some irresistible sourdough pesto rolls. Eat them with your favorite soup together with some friends. But beware. These rolls will disappear quickly.

Sourdough pesto rolls

 

Buttery sourdough pesto rolls

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Print Recipe
Sourdough pesto rolls
Irresistible, soft dinner rolls with lots of flavors from butter, pesto, and sourdough. Serve these sourdough pesto rolls warm with your favorite soup.
Sourdough pesto rolls
Servings
big rolls
Ingredients
Servings
big rolls
Ingredients
Sourdough pesto rolls
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients except salt in a large kitchen bowl. Use your hands so that you can feel when all the pieces of butter have been incorporated into the dough. Place the dough somewhere warm and let it rest for one hour.
  2. Add salt and stretch and fold the dough according to the video in the recipe notes. Perform 3 more stretch and folds during the bulk fermentation, spaced by 30 minutes.
  3. You can, of course, use a dough mixer if you have one. Add all ingredients, except salt and run until the dough passes the windowpane test. Add the salt the last minutes.
  4. The time required for the bulk fermentation can vary a lot. Mine took 3 hours. Don't focus on time, but observe how the dough looks instead. It should have risen 40-50 % and show some bubbles on the top. The best temperature for bulk fermentation is about 77ºF/25ºC. If you have trouble finding a sufficiently warm place, you can place the dough into the oven with just the lamp lit.
  5. Lightly flour your working surface and dump out the dough. Flatten the dough into a rectangular shape, about 3 mm (1/10 inch) thick. Use a rolling pin. Spread pesto on top of the dough and roll the dough from one side to the other. Place the seam downwards.
  6. Cut the roll into pieces, about 2,5 cm / 1 inch thick and place them on a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cover with clingfilm and let the rolls rise for about 60-90 minutes.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 445ºF / 230ºC. Bake the rolls about 15 minutes. They should have a nice golden brown color when ready. Let the rolls cool on a wire rack.
Recipe Notes

For those who prefer to use a stretch and fold technique instead of running the dough into a dough mixer, you may find this video helpful. You can also look at one of my previous recipes.

 

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