If you’re looking for a last minute hors d’oeuvre to serve at your New Year’s Eve party, meatballs are a pretty safe and easy option. They’re dead simple to make and everybody loves ’em. Italian meatballs with tomato sauce are a bit been-there-done-that, so why not go the Swedish route? A while back I spent a bit of time in Sweden and I fell in love with their meatballs. Over there it’s not just some Ikea cliché. They’re everywhere. I had some amazing meatballs from street-side vendors as well as some delicious homemade versions.
Swedish meatballs are a little softer that their Italian cousins, thanks to a healthy amount of breadcrumbs. What also sets them apart is the accompaniment. You’ll often see them served with gravy, but my favorite sauce to have them with is the uniquely Swedish lingonberry sauce. Lingonberries are small, sour, red berries. Unfortunately, they are pretty much impossible to find in North American stores, so for my version I went with plums. With a little honey and red wine vinegar, you get about the same effect.
The lingonberry sauce that you find in Sweden (and Ikea) is actually very similar to cranberry sauce, so if you have some left over from Christmas dinner, that would make a perfectly good dipping sauce for these meatballs. I recently posted a recipe for a tangerine cranberry sauce that I might have used here, but I already used it as my garnish for my duck rillette canapes.
The ginger & clove plum sauce is very easy to make. You simply simmer plums in red wine with honey and vinegar, add the ginger & cloves and then puree everything in a blender. The sauce comes out a brilliant purple with a perfect sticky-sweet texture. It’s something you might want to make again to go with chicken or pork chops.
Prep time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes. Serves 8
1 lbs (454g) medium fat ground pork
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 onions, finely diced
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning (dried basil, thyme & oregano)
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sriracha chili sauce
2 cups fresh plums, chopped
1 cup red wine
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped
1 pinch ground cloves
1. To make the plum sauce: In a small sauce pot, combine the chopped plums with the honey & vinegar. Add the ginger & ground cloves. Add the red wine and then just enough water to make sure that the plums are covered. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook until the plums are very soft – about 10 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature and then puree in a blender.
2. In a chilled mixing bowl, combine the ground pork with the remaining ingredients and mix well. The easiest way to mix the ingredients is with your hands, but be sure to thoroughly wash your hands before & after handling raw pork.
3. Roll the mixture into 20 balls that are about 25g, or 1 oz. Heat a small amount of oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry the meatballs until they are evenly browned. Transfer to a baking sheet and finish in the oven at 350F for 8 minutes. Check to ensure that they are fully cooked before serving. If they are still a bit pink in the middle, return the meatballs to the oven for another 8 minutes.
4. Serve with warm plum sauce
Derek Bocking is a professional chef with over 15 years culinary experience. On his blog, Derek’s Kitchen, he shares restaurant-style recipes for amateur gourmets to try at home, from quick and easy meals to more elaborate showstoppers.