I grew up eating meatballs – but this was not due to having a grandmother hailing from Italy. On the contrary, it was the result of having a Danish/Swedish grandmother on my mother’s side of the family. My Grandmother Stave had a knack for making anything taste good. I’m sure this had something to do with raising six kids during the height of the Great Depression.
Her specialty was comfort food. She could make the cheapest roast from the market as tender as butter. Her secret was to bake and baste for sometimes up to 24 hours. Her mashed potatoes were a thing of wonder; fortunately a culinary gift that was passed on to my mother – of course, doesn’t everyone’s mother make the best mashed potatoes. My favorite dish of hers, though, was her meatballs – a legacy handled down to her from her Danish ancestors.
A Bite of History
The meatball is an iconic food item known throughout the world. The ancient Roman cookbook Apicius included many meatball-type recipes, but today they are known in Italy as polpette. In Greece, fried meatballs are called keftédes, usually served over rice; while in Indonesia, meatballs are referred to as bakso, used in soup. The other Scandinavian versions in Norway (gehaktbal) and Sweden (köttbullar) are most often made with beef.
My grandmother’s meatballs, known in Denmark as Frikadeller, are made with pork, generally served with mashed potatoes and gravy (which my grandmother referred to as ‘the goodness.’) I was in comfort food heaven long before the term existed. On a trip to Copenhagen, I couldn’t wait to sample this sublime but simple dish on its home ground. And sample I did; having them with mashed potatoes, sliced on open-faced bread (smørrebrød), and even carrying a bag around as a snack. Now I know why the Danes are reportedly the happiest people on the globe.
Frikadeller are typically fried, and made out of ground pork, onions, eggs, salt and pepper. They are then formed into balls and flattened somewhat, so they are pan ready.
- 1 lb. ground pork
- 1 slice bread soaked in 1/4 c. milk
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. sage
- 1/4 tsp. all spice
- 1/8 tsp. onion salt
- Chop the onion into fine pieces, and mix meat and onions together.
- Add egg and mix again.
- Add flower, and remaining ingredients.
- Form mix into 6-8 balls.
- Melt butter on frying pan.
- 10 min. on each side medium heat.
Frikadeller can also be served with boiled skinned potatoes with brown gravy, or with cold potato salad.