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Meatballs are one of Sweden’s best known traditional foods — although we celebrate them in North America too, with National Meatball Day, every year on March 9.

Swedish meatballs.

Swedish meatballs at Tant Bruns Kaffestuga, or Auntie Brown’s Cafe, in Sigtuna, Sweden

When I visited Sweden, I was lucky enough to sample Swedish meatballs at the centuries old Tant Bruns Kaffestuga, or Auntie Brown’s Cafe. Check out my visit to the Cafe in Sigtuna, Sweden’s first town, in my post, Meet Vikings in Sigtuna: Viking Runes to Viking Ruins.

Traditionally, Swedish meatballs contain ground meat (often pork), minced onion, and bread or rusk crumbs soaked in milk to create the soft consistency associated with the dish.

While there are many different recipes for Swedish meatballs, most agree they must be served with a specific type of berry. What kind of berry is it? [Check your answer by clicking on the tab above.]

In Sweden, the meatballs are served with lingonberries on the side. What are they? They’re a member of the blueberry and cranberry (Ericaceae) plant family and are native to the Arctic and Subarctic areas of the world.

Lingonberries photo from Pixabay - Reprinted with a Creative Commons license.

Lingonberries photo from Pixabay – Reprinted with a Creative Commons license.

If you remember the 1960s (and I do — quite well in fact!), you likely remember the song, On Top of Spaghetti, sung to the tune of On Top of Old Smoky. Here’s an animation of the meatball part of the story.

The online Etymology Dictionary gives the first usage of the noun, meatball, as 1801. So, I thought I’d check through some cookbooks from Project Gutenberg to see what historic recipes I could find with meatballs.

Meatballs are popular in North America served as appetizers.

Meatballs are popular in North America served as appetizers.

Now, have some fun reading about how our ancestors made meatballs!

The Myrtle Reed Cook Book (Copyright 1905)


Chop fine a pound and a half of uncooked lamb. Peel and chop one large onion and mix it with the meat. Season with pepper and salt. Shape the mixture into small balls, cover with cold water, bring to the boil, and simmer slowly until done. Beat the yolks of four eggs with the strained juice of two lemons and a pinch of salt. Cook slowly over boiling water until it begins to thicken, then add slowly one cupful of the water in which the meat balls were boiled. Cook slowly for ten minutes longer, stirring constantly. Strain the sauce over the balls and serve very hot. [Line 337]

Good Things to Eat as Suggested by Rufus (Copyright 1911]

FORCED MEAT BALLS FOR TURTLE SOUP—Cut off a very small part of the vealy part of a turtle, mince it very fine and mix it with a very small quantity of boned anchovy and boiled celery, the yolks of one or two hard-boiled eggs, and two tablespoons of sifted breadcrumbs, with mace, cayenne pepper and salt to taste, a small quantity of warm butter, and well beaten egg. Form the paste into balls, plunge them into a frying-pan of boiling butter or fat, fry them to a good color, and they are ready. They should be added to the soup hot. [Page 52]

The Whitehouse Cookbook (Copyright 1887)

This cookbook contains recipes for various soups that include the force meat balls, including Lobster Bisque, as well as inclusion with roast turkey and beef tenderloin.


One cupful of cooked veal or fowl meat, minced; mix with this a handful of fine bread crumbs, the yolks of four hard-boiled eggs [Pg 44]rubbed smooth together with a tablespoon of milk; season with pepper and salt; add a half teaspoon of flour, and bind all together with two beaten eggs; the hands to be well floured, and the mixture to be made into little balls the size of a nutmeg; drop into the soup about twenty minutes before serving. [Page 43]

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