Photos by Caitlin Abrams
You can't get much more Swedish than a Swedish institute in Minnesota. Unless, of course, you're a cafe that serves Swedish meatballs inside that Swedish institute. Chef John Krattenmaker heads up such a place—FIKA, The American Swedish Institute's Nordic-inspired cafe—and he does it right. Not only will you find cozy baked goods like cardamom bread pudding and artfully arranged, savory smörgåsar, you're going to get the belle of the Scandinavian comfort-food ball: Swedish meatballs.
These morsels are easily made in bulk for a hearty, cold-weather feast. Adding some traditional Swedish aromatics—like allspice, juniper, and pepper—is what results in that comforting Scandinavian flavor. Just keep a close eye on the meatballs while they're in the oven since the cook time will vary based on size. "I always break one open and look at the center to make sure they are cooked all the way," Krattenmaker says.
This recipe makes about 60 meatballs, which should be enough for 10 people if you're serving them as a main course Swedish-style along with mashed potatoes, lingonberry jam, sweet pickles, and bread. Krattenmaker advises not scaling the recipe down, so you'll want to stick to this quantity and either stuff your guests or save some for later.
"They do keep well and make great leftovers," he says, adding what we’ve all thought at some point in our lives: "It is tough to beat a meatball sandwich.”
Swedish meatballs recipe from FIKA at American Swedish Institute
FIKA's Swedish Meatballs
Makes about 60 meatballs
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground veal
2 Tbsp. butter or oil
1 1/4 c. finely diced onion
1 1/2 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. ground allspice
2 tsp. ground juniper
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
3/4 c. toasted panko breadcrumbs
1/2 c. heavy cream
3 Tbsp. chopped parsley
2 1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt
- Preheat your oven to 350°F.
- Heat a large pan on the stovetop and add oil or butter. Once the fat is hot, add your onions and garlic and stir until they become translucent (about five minutes).
- Once the onions and garlic are cooked, add the allspice, juniper, black pepper, and white pepper, stirring everything together. Continue to cook for one minute. Transfer the mixture onto a flat pan or plate and cool in the refrigerator.
- After the onions, garlic, and spices have chilled, combine with all the other ingredients in a large mixing bowl. With your hands, thoroughly mix together all of the ingredients (you know you’re done when all of the meatball mix looks exactly the same.)
- Once everything is mixed together start pulling off golf ball-sized pieces and roll between your hands into a ball.
- Place the meatballs on a sheet pan fitted with a wire rack.
- Put the meatballs into the oven and roast until they are cooked through (about 25 minutes).
+Pairings from Surdyk's
We asked the experts at Surdyk’s for beverages to complement Swedish meatballs. Here’s what they recommend:
Pairing #1 (Wine): Marietta Old Vine Red
This dish is like a warm hug, and your wine pairing should be, too. Marietta Old Vine Red is the original blend that started the craze many decades ago. Now sourced entirely from estate-owned fruit, this is full bodied, round in the mouth and smooth as can be. A perfect partner for such a comforting dish.
Pairing #2: Vikre Aquavit
Served ice-cold in small glasses in Scandinavia, this herb- and spice-infused vodka is meant for sipping, and the caraway in it is said to be an indigestion remedy. (Hey, it happens when you're pounding meatballs and mashed potatoes.) Sip made-in-Duluth Vikre Aquavit on its own, make an aromatic martini using aquavit and dry vermouth with an olive or lemon peel garnish, or combine it 1:1 with cherry brandy for a sweeter drink that will help cut the fat of your meal.