When asked what he would like for dinner, chances are the average Swedish man will answer “Mothers Meatballs”, traditionally served with lingonberries. The berry contains a natural preservative and has enriched Swedish meals since before the days of regrigeration.

Although meatballs have a firmly established past in Sweden, the prefix “Mothers” dates from 1959. It arose in from the world heavyweight fight in the USA between Ingemar Johansson (challenger) and American Floyd Patterson (champion). During the build up to the match it emerged from the Swedes camp that his entire family were with him and that his mother was doing his cooking.

Because of this and because Johansson was often seen out in Manhattan nightlife, the Swedes unexpected victory caused a big, worldwide sensation, but his mothers meatballs received almost the same attention and it was even suggested that they provided the power for that celebrated right hook. The secret of mother Ebbas recipe? “Lots of onion,” according to the champion himself.

Classic meatballs

400 g minced meat
1/2 onion
150 ml milk or cream
1 egg
5 tbsp breadcrumbs
1-2 tsp salt
1-2 pinches allspice (alternative cayenne pepper, Dijon mustard or similar)
Butter and/or oil for frying

Mix milk or cream, breadcrumbs and spices and leave to soak for at least 10 mins. Peel onion and chop finely, brown on low heat. Mix all ingredients. Roll into small balls (works best with wet hands) and fry. First brown to seal, then lower heat and fry the meatballs in another saucepan or in a roasting dish in the oven.

“Things Swedish” by Mari Hemming

I can confirm that mothers meatballs (mammas köttbullar) really is delicious, but I wouldn’t do meatballs on only 400 g, I would do it on 1 kilo, because the are disappearingly yummy and if I’m going to dirty my hands with it, I want a lot of them. I wouldn’t take allspice, I would take white pepper and then grated onion instead of chopping it.

There are a lot of different recipes how to make them. Some put in a bit of liver paté too, but I’ve never tasted that myself. I don’t use to change to another saucepan either or put it in the oven.

Usually we eat meatballs together with pasta and ketchup or boiled or mashed potato and the lingonberrys. There is always meatballs at the christmas dinner table too.

They’re perfect to throw into the freezer to take out and warm up again – or eat cold on a sandwich. A very useful picnic ingredient.

Oh my, I’m beginning to drool here….

22 Comments on “Mothers Meatballs”

    Walker said:

    I love meatballs.
    My mother makes them too and you are so right. Never make less than a kilo.
    My mother does them the same as you but she adds dry mint.
    But I guess you can experiment until you find the taste you like but they never seem to be better than MoMs

    Lifecruiser said:

    Ah, that was something new for me, Walker, dry mint hey? Interesting!

    fartin martin said:

    Oh, I am really sorry but did you not know that Ireland is shut in June, yup!, a big closed sign goes up on the door but perhaps you may both be able to stick your noses up to the window and peer inside.

    Hope you have a good time, I would love to go myself, wave as you fly over Devon (if you do?)

    Bye Bye

    Lifecruiser said:

    Hm, if you’re not good to us fartin martin, maybe we’ll jump from a parachute over Devon and come and visit you ;-)

    sisiggy said:

    This was very educational for Dirtman and me. Here we call them “Swedish Meatballs” and they are a staple at pot lucks. We never knew where they came from or that they were actually Swedish!
    Around here they have chile that doesn’t feature chile and marinara sauce that features (shudder) ketchup. So it’s nice that Swedish meatballs are actually — well — Swedish.

    Lifecruiser said:

    Yes, Sisiggy, even Swedes often don’t know what the expression “mothers meatballs” comes from…

    We had problems to translate “a staple at pot lucks”? What does it means?

    Dave said:

    I’ve made meatballs but never added milk. It sounds like a good idea.
    Pasta and ketchup sound like a very good way to mess up a meatball. I like the potato idea better.

    Lifecruiser said:

    I agree Dave, the potato is better, but kids almost always prefer the pasta…

    mrhaney said:

    there is nothing like spaghetti with meatballs. my mother use to make them all the time. you sure aren’t helping me talking about meatballs. i was trying to cut down on my calories.

    Lifecruiser said:

    Yes, MrHaney, then meatballs is very dangerous, because if you’re taken just ONE of them, you can’t stop… Just one more little… and then one more…. and it’s impossible to stop until they all are gone!

    sharlet said:

    I think you just made a whole lot of people hungry, including me!

    Lifecruiser said:

    I’m always hungry, so it’s only fair that you too get your part of it ;-)

    Mandy said:

    Okay now I’ve got more time, I really fancy making my own meatballs.. and serving them with spaghetti sounds yummy.

    I’m hungry dammit :)

    Lifecruiser said:

    Everybody seems to got hungry by this post…. hm… Maybe I shall throw in a recipe now and then here…

    sharlet said:

    I think you should cook it, and show us a photo!!!

    Lifecruiser said:

    Actually sharlet, that was my intention first, but I was in a hurry when throwing in the post so….

    sharlet said:

    Never mind, next time! :D

    Marinara Sauces said:

    Sounds like a great recipe. I will have to try it out.



    The Dude Deans last blog post..TheDudeDean is Watching the Dolphins vs Chiefs.

    aithne said:

    I am recovering from a 5 day stomach flu and this is the first time in a week I am hungry!!!!!

    aithnes last blog post..ANOTHER NEW BABY IN THE HOUSE!!!

    astrid said:

    Will try this and I’ll let you know how it went!


    Looks so yummy! I tasted them and loved! And I love the lingon berries with! I share your recipe on my face book profil! I’m sure some of my french friends will be so glad to know your recipe! I will cook one kilo of them!

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