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Swedish meatballs and a cup of Yuletide cheer

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Christmas Eve when I was young was filled with Swedish tradition. The tinkling angel chimes spinning merrily over white candles, the brightly colored Dala horses on the kitchen table, the festive green and red banner on the wall that read “God Jul” (Good Yule)—all meant Christmas to my siblings and me. But it was our traditional Swedish supper that really clinched it. Swedish meatballs, rice pudding (if you got the hidden almond, you were next to get married), pickled herring (my siblings wouldn’t touch it, but I was a weird kid), some piping hot Glögg for the adults, and a scrumptious array of Swedish Christmas cookies for dessert. Best of all, there was no lutefisk. Even I wasn’t that weird.

Whether or not your ancestors were Vikings, these recipes for Swedish meatballs and Glögg may come in handy for holiday gatherings. The meatballs can be baked without the cream, but go for the holiday splurge. The Glögg is guaranteed to warm up your party in more ways than one, so be sure to keep the fire extinguisher nearby. And if for authenticity’s sake you simply must have dried fish that’s soaked in lye and literally disappears when you boil it too long (my personal preference), you’ll need to look elsewhere for that lutefisk recipe.

God Jul, Merry Christmas, and a very blessed New Year to all.

Swedish Meatballs

  • 1 1/2 lbs. each lean ground beef and lean ground pork
  • 1/2 cup cracker meal
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk or half & half
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 T. minced onion
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 pint light whipping cream

In a large mixing bowl, soak the cracker crumbs in the beaten eggs and evaporated milk by whisking them in gradually. Add onion, meat, and seasoning. Use your hands to mix it (you can do it!). Be careful not to over mix—like pastry dough, ground meat can become tough if you overwork it. Form into small balls and brown them on all sides in a frying pan with butter (don’t cook all the way through). If making ahead of time, you can freeze them at this point by placing in a single layer in a large baking dish and covering tightly with foil. Thaw before baking. Add the cream to the baking dish and heat slowly at 300 degrees (don’t preheat), basting occasionally. Start checking for doneness after 30 minutes. Serve them in the pan juices or make a thicker gravy from those creamy drippings if you wish. If you and cream simply don’t mix, you can bake the meatballs on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. To ensure juiciness, watch carefully and start testing after 10 minutes. You can serve them as is or make a sauce using 1 jar of grape jelly and 1 bottle of Heinz chili sauce. Makes about 80 small meatballs.

Glögg

  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 cups port
  • 1 Tbl. lemon or orange peel, cut up
  • 5 cardamom seeds
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 6 cloves
  • 1/4 lb. almonds
  • 1/4 lb. seedless raisins
  • 1/4 lb. cube sugar
  • 2 cups brandy

Pour the red wine and port into a large pot. Put spices and peel in a cheesecloth bag and simmer in the red wine and port for 20 minutes. Add almonds and raisins, simmer 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and remove the spice bag. Put sugar cubes in a metal strainer and place over the wine mixture. Light the brandy as it is poured over the sugar cubes (without lighting any part of yourself or your kitchen on fire). Serve in hot mugs.

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