Recipe: Grandmother's Swedish Moose Meatballs

This is a Swedish meatball recipe adapted from one given to my mother from her mother, who was a Massachusetts Swede. They call these meatballs Svenska Kottbullar, and they are traditionally served with a lingonberry sauce. You could use any red meat.

Serves 8 to 12

For the meatballs:
    • 4 slices of stale bread, crusts removed
    • 23 cup milk
    • 2 to 3 pounds meat (beef, venison, lamb, elk, moose, etc.)
    • 1 pound pork or beef fat (preferably pork)
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
    • 2 teaspoons ground allspice
    • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
    • 1 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1 grated yellow onion
    • flour

For the sauce:
    • 1 quart beef or wild game stock
    • ½ cup sour cream
    • ½ cup highbush cranberry or lingonberry jelly
    • salt
    • butter or oil for frying

Make the meatballs:
Chill the moose and pork fat until it is almost freezing by sticking it in the freezer for an hour.

Cut both the meat and fat into half-inch chunks.

Grind through your fine die in a meat grinder. If you do not have a meat grinder, you can use a food processor, set on pulse. Don't crowd the processor and chop the meat in pulses until you get something that looks like ground meat—it will not be as good as with a grinder, but it is easier than hand-mincing everything, which is also an option.

Put the meat in the fridge.

Pour the milk into a pot and set it on low heat.

Cut the crusts off the stale bread and break it into pieces. Add it to the pot. It will begin to absorb the milk. When it does, turn off the heat and mash everything into a paste. Let it cool to room temperature.

In the meat bowl, add the salt and spices. Crack the eggs into the bowl, then pour the bread-milk mixture in.

With clean hands, gently mix everything together. Do not knead it like bread, and do not squeeze things together. Just gently work the mixture—think cake, not bread.

When it is mostly combined—you need not get everything perfect—grab a tablespoon and scoop up some. Roll it into a little ball with your palms, not your fingers.

Gently roll the meatballs in the flour; you'll probably need about a cup. You may need to re-shape them before putting them onto a cookie sheet lined with wax or parchment paper.

When the meatballs are all made, get a large pan ready; I use a big, old cast-iron frying pan. Fill it with a little less than a quarter-inch of oil. I use canola oil with a little butter tossed in for flavor. Bring it up to temperature over medium-high heat. When a drop of water splashed in the oil immediately sizzles away, drop the heat to medium and add the meatballs. Do not crowd them.

You want the oil to come up halfway on the meatballs. Add a little oil if need be; don't worry, you can reuse the oil. Fry on medium heat for three to five minutes. You are looking for golden brown.

Turn only once. The other side will need two to four minutes.

When cooked, set the meatballs on a paper towel or wire rack to drain. They can be used right away or cooled and then refrigerated for a week, or frozen for several months.

Make the sauce:
Once the meatballs are cooked, drain all but about three to four tablespoons of butter or oil from the pan. Over medium heat, add an equal amount of the flour left over from dusting the meatballs.

Stir to make a roux and cook slowly until it turns a nice golden brown. Think coffee with cream.

Add the stock gradually and turn the heat up to medium-high. Stir well to combine and add more stock or some water if need be—you want this thicker than water, thinner than Thanksgiving gravy.

Taste for salt and add if needed.

Put the meatballs in the pan, cover and cook for 10 minutes over medium-low heat.

Add the lingonberry or highbush cranberry jelly to the pan. Let it melt and then mix it in gently. Coat all the meatballs with the sauce.

Cover and cook another 10 minutes over very low heat. Add the cream and just warm through, maybe three to four minutes.

Serve over mashed potatoes or with German egg noodles.

To read Hank's story about preparing meatballs so good they make him say "Yeah, baby, yeah," click here.