04 August 2011

The Joy of Cooking ... Swedish Meatballs!

...a classic at so many cocktail parties and church suppers ...

Thank you, Irma Rombauer!

Irma von Starkloff Rombauer
1877 - 1962

Her claim to fame - the reference cookbook for so many American households and college apartments that the numbers are truly staggering. One statistic I found claims that more than 18 million copies have made their way onto the shelves of cooks world-wide. Amazing, considering that the cookbook was originally self-published by Rombauer and her daughter, Marion. It might have disappeared into the annals of lost publications had it not sold amazingly well in its self-published phase. It caught the attention of an established publishing house and the rest is history.

Over the years, there was some acrimony and bickering between the Rombauer family and the publishers, who changed the book up, losing the 'voice' of Irma's original text. No loss of sales, though. Recently an edition has come out that restores much of the original recipes, text and Irma's 'voice', as interest in vintage recipes have become more attractive to foodies. And if you're REALLY a cookbook collector, you can have a first edition copy of Rombauer's self-published tome in 'like new' condition for a mere $5,800 at Alibris.com. I'm happy with my 1975 edition, though. It's a keeper.

This is my copy of The Joy of Cooking. It once had a dust cover - no longer, though. It's dog-eared and the spine is damaged from one too many trips off the counter, as I was making more room for a bowl or a pan or a cookie sheet. There are favorite recipes tagged, spots on the pages of the banana bread recipe where Silent Bob has spattered batter over the years. It is where I first learned to cook a Thanksgiving turkey, make fudge, perfect Bearnaise and Hollandaise sauces, and make Swedish meatballs. 

Swedish meatballs .... made from her German Meatballs base recipe - a perfect tribute for a German-American housewife and community volunteer who spent her married years providing good food for her family, her church friends, and various community causes - a woman who used her later years to put her experience to words and in doing so created a classic American cookbook- a woman who is # 9 on the Gourmet Live list of 50 Women Game-Changers. To view other tributes to Irma Rombauer, please link to One Perfect Bite. Mary has organized this educational and fun blogshare that is centered around writing and cooking to the women on Gourmet Live's list. Join us! The more the merrier!

Swedish Meatballs
adapted from a Joy of Cooking recipe

Meatball Ingredients:

1 slice bread, 1 inch thick
Milk to soak the bread
1 ½ lb meat – ½ lb. ground beef, ½ lb. ground pork, ½ lb. ground veal
2 eggs
3 tbsp. butter
¼ c. finely chopped onion
3 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 ¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. lemon juice
¼ tsp. nutmeg
⅛ tsp. allspice
2 c. boiling vegetable or beef stock

Gravy Ingredients:

¼ c. flour
1 c. cultured sour cream
2 tsp. chopped dill
2 tbsp. dry Sherry
more chopped parsley for garnish

Making the Dish:

1. Place the bread and milk in a bowl and soak for several minutes.

2. Smash the meat combo together until it is thoroughly combined.

3. Beat the eggs and add them to the meat.

4. Wring the liquid from the bread and add it to the meat and eggs.

5. Melt 1 tbsp. butter in a deep fry pan and sauté the onion until it glistens and has softened. Turn the onion into the meat and bread mix.

6. Add the chopped parsley, salt, paprika, lemon zest and juice, nutmeg, and allspice.

7. Combine until the bread is completely incorporated and the spices are distributed.

8. Shape into meatballs – 2-inch for entrée/ 1-inch for starters or cocktail treats.

9. Melt 2 tbsp. butter in a deep pan. Drop the meatballs into the bubbling butter and brown them on all sides. Add the 2 c. of stock, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

10. Mix sour cream, flour, dill, and Sherry in a small bowl. When the meatballs have simmered for the 15 minutes, spoon them onto a warm platter. Keep in a warm oven.

11. Whisk the sour cream/flour mix into the simmering stock and continue stirring to thicken.

12. Strain the gravy over the meatballs, garnish with fresh chopped parsley, and serve with boiled egg noodles or Spätzle and a green vegetable or salad.


  1. its been a long time since Ive had swedish meatballs..too long actually! I love this dish! and your photos are gorgeous!

  2. Mmm, I have been craving comfort food. Swedish meatballs are very popular here, especially at Christmas. This recipe sounds delicious, and your photos make me want to pick up a fork and dive right in!

  3. My Swedish grandmother used to make Swedish meatballs every Christmas so I always think of Christmas when I see them. I've never made them myself, but I do love them!

  4. My all time favorite cookbook (and I've had mine since 1978), but I follow the German Meatball (Konisberger Klops) recipe from the same page. Same basic recipe with different seasoning and skipping the browning step. Delicious.

  5. I'm hanging my head in shame here- the only place I've ever tried Swedish meatballs is Ikea! Shall have to remedy that as yours look amazing.

  6. I love how 'edgy' your meatballs are :)
    This is one of those books I'm yet to acquire, and I'm not sure why. I've been coveting my mother's copy, but I know it's a pretty serious sin to even THINK of 'borrowing' it...

  7. I hate to admit this, but the last time I had Swedish meatballs I bought a bag of them at IKEA. Maybe its time to make them myself. I have a Joy of Cooking, its older than dirt, but I always use it as a reference for cooking my roasts. Really nice post!

  8. Sprout Sara4/8/11 5:42 PM

    THESE ARE THE BEST MEATBALLS EVER! I loved this recipe growing up, and I still love it today. Throw 'em over some egg noodles, and steam up some fresh-from-the-garden green beans, and you're good to go! Oh, how I wish I was there right now to eat some up!!

  9. I love all kinds of meatballs, and I can't wait to make these, I don't care if it is August! I like them with noodles, but also just eaten with a toothpick. Great choice!

  10. I remember Swedish meatballs being one of the very first dishes I ever learned to make in my moms kitchen.

  11. This was my first cookbook, my grandmother gave it to me and it has been special ever since.

  12. What a classic recipe to honor Irma S. Rombauer by!

  13. These do look quite yummy! I must earmark this recipe!

  14. Now THAT is a well-loved cookbook =) I will stick with mine as well! I've never found the perfect Swedish Meatball recipe...why, oh why didn't I turn to Irma!? I will next time, they look fantastic.

  15. This is a seriously classic cookbook! I don't think I've ever had Swedish meatballs (or even Swedish pancakes for that matter). I definitely can't afford a first edition copy of this book! That's just crazy :)

  16. It's so fun to see your well loved copy of the Joy of Cooking. The meatballs look delicious. I'm glad to be cooking along with you!

  17. I am so happy I found this recipe. Tomorrow I will visit IKEA in Cyprus and I was thinking of having these meatballs. I am sure these are far more delicious than IKEA's one. Thans for sharing.

  18. Lovely post!! Thanks for introducing me to Irma, whom I didn't know! and the recipe yes, it's a classic, that my family got to know in ...Ikea !! We will now make it at home ....

  19. I've made these for years to raving compliments. Once my mother-in-law made some and complained they weren't as good. I asked her how she made them. "I bought frozen meatballs at the grocery store." "Stop right there!" I told her. "Some things just take some effort!"


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