Swedish meatballs (köttbullar) are a Jul tradition in my family. Where everyone is either having ham or turkey, we have meatballs and brown beans on our julbord. On the occasion of my best friend converting to Judaism, as well as her first official Hanukkah as a Jew, I modified my grandmother’s recipe to omit both pork and milk. This worked pretty well, but then anything tastes good cooked with lots of butter! In retrospect, I should also have not used butter (dairy), so I would recommend using some margarine (kosher of course); it would make it more kosher-style, although as my kitchen is not kosher, nothing I could make in it would ever be actually be kosher.
Thoughts behind modifications – I think the pork is there to add a bit of fat to the meatballs. I usually process pork and beef together about three times through a grinder to get it fine enough, but turkey always is a bit sloppy to work with and I figured the extra fat in it would help the texture; I was able to skip having to hand grind it, and still get a similar texture to the original. As for the rice milk, I suppose almond milk would also work and I would like to try it on another occasion. Historically, during medieval Lent, you were not allowed to have dairy, so they would substitute almond milk in those recipes; I figured this would probably work the same.
1.5 lb ground sirloin
1.5 lb ground turkey (25% fat or so… I don’t think the lean would be a good)
1 cup plain bread crumbs
1.5 cup rice milk (unsweetened if possible)
¼ cup chopped onion
½ tsp ground white pepper
3 tsp salt
1. Take bread crumbs and put in bowl large enough for all ingredients. Add rice milk and allow to soak for 10 minutes or so.
2. Take onion and saute with about 1 tbsp of butter in a medium pan until slightly brown and translucent.
3. Add salt, pepper, egg, and onion to bread crumb mixture and mix thoroughly.
4. Add meat to bread crumb mixture and mix with hands. This will be a bit soft, but you don’t want very firm meatballs. The meatballs will not stand on their own if you roll one in your hand – it should sag a little like it’s melting if you set it down. If it is too soupy, add some more bread crumbs.
5. Heat some butter in a medium pan on medium heat. Use a mechanical scoop to make meatballs into the pan, approximately a 1.5 to 2 tablespoons of meatball mixture per scoop. Originally, this was done with two spoons and cold water, but if you do more than a pound of meat it takes forever. You can make these meatballs larger or smaller as you like, but if you make them too big they do not cook evenly and they tend to fall apart when you roll them over and around.
6. Allow to brown a bit on once side and start rolling the meatballs over with a spoon to cook all sides. Don’t rush this, you want to make sure the meatball sets up and does not fall apart. They will almost never be round; mine are usually pyrimidal or oblong. I usually undercook these if I have to reheat them, since I generally cook them ahead of time.
7. Put meatballs into a container after you cook them, and scrape drippings into it. Deglaze the pan with a little water and wipe out with a paper towel. Repeat steps 5-7 until all the meat mixture is cooked.
If you’d like to learn a little about Swedish feasting, Wikipedia has a pretty good summary: