Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance
FAMILY HEIRLOOM RECIPES
Wisconsin State Fair
August 4, 2013
(THE ALTERNATIVE TO LUTEFISK)
My first encounter with Lutesfisk was on December 1977 at the age of 19. How do I remember this date? It actually was a date with my then boyfriend, now husband, at his parents/grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. church. This taste of the Lutefisk I think was a test of “marriage potential” for anyone not born Norwegian or a lifetime member of this country church. I swallowed and smiled. Meatballs filled the portion left empty on my plate. This dinner was a family style event where everyone watched how full your plate was especially the new girl at the table.
Ask anyone who has every attended a dinner or knows a Norwegian about Lutefisk. Lutefisk is a food that definitely is not meant for the faint of heart. The odor of the fish is quite unique. It clings to your hair, clothes, and actually the churches where it is held typically “air out” the fellowship halls. Ironically, the fish is featured in December as a holiday tradition.
Now what exactly is Lutefisk, it is actually codfish that is dried and preserved in lye. It is reconstituted in saltwater the night before, then boiled in cheesecloth bags in boiling water the day of the dinner. It is not a Door County fish boil. The fish actually jiggles on the large serving platters and reminds me of tapioca pudding. Melted butter is poured over the huge portions Norwegians will consume at these dinners. New or wanna be Norwegians will take a token teaspoon or will pass the dish at all. The only alternative protein at these dinners are the meatballs. After 33 years, my portion of Lute fisk is up to about 2 tsp annually.
The meatball recipe Norwegians use is unique. It contains spices usually found in fruitcakes or spice cookies. Mashed potatoes is a key ingredient for them as well as cream for the gravy portion. I was raised on German “milk gravy” not cream. My husband’s family were dairy farmers who would dip the cream from the bulk tank for cooking. (Yes, as a new bride I had to learned the technique of skimming cream with the bulk tank turned off. I turned into a rebel, however, as I bought milk-skim and did not use cream. My in-laws would blame my town upbringing for this unheard of ideas) .
I was actually given a poem for my wedding shower in Spring of 1979 from his father’s cousin. The secret of the meatball was found in this poem. Marrying into a farm family and building next to my in-laws, I soon realized that the Norwegian meatball would be a expected tradition to learn. The key to these meatballs is the lean beef. Not a problems since we would have fresh meat in the freezer from the farm. My in laws did not believe in steaks so all the meat was ground into ground round.
The pork was purchased from a local butcher store in a neighboring town. Never was this pork bought at a grocery store! Years ago, my husbands’ extended family had pigs and did home butchering. I had the poem, but the actual process would be a hands on tradition I had to learn.
The week before the Lutefisk dinner, the country church, a mile from our home begins enlisting volunteers. I soon realized that the tradition and task assignments came with seniority. As a new bride, I could learn the ingredients, but I was a sous chef for the actual church matriarchs. (Most of them were relatives of my husband). The actual measuring of the ingredients was treasured job as well as the frying. I actually made it up to rolling and placing in the flour tasks before I stopped helping with the predinner activities. Not bad for 33 years of attempts. Actually, age/health/death promoted me to positions. Bringing your own electric fry pan was a guarantee for a fry spot, but unfortunately I did not own one or choose to invest in one.
The actual day of the dinner, I never did make it to working the “nesco” which meant stirring and “dishing up” the meatballs.
The recipe submitted also includes the trick I learned from my husband’s aunt who chooses to make these meatballs in summer?? (Typically, these meatballs are a Christmas only entree.) She stated that my husband’s grandmother would add onion to the mixture.
I will use the traditional-yes, with cream for special occasions. This dish is generally served with real mashed potatoes ,rutabagas, the Lutefisk salad(yes, jello based), and homemade Lefse. Norwegians pastries round out the dinner.
Enjoy this alternative found at Lutefisk dinners and in Norwegian homes.
(THE ALTERNATIVE TO LUTEFISK)
2 POUNDS OF GROUND ROUND
1 POUND OF GROUND PORK
1 SMALL ONION FINELY CHOPPED
2 T BUTTER
1 CUP OF COLD MASHED POTATOES
1 CUP OF BREAD CRUMBS
1 CUP MILK
2 TSP SALT
1 TSP BROWN SUGAR
1/2 TSP GINGER
1/2 TSP CLOVES
1/2 TSP ALLSPICE
1/4 TSP NUTMEG
1/ 4 TSP PEPPER
SAUTE ONIONS IN 2 T BUTTER, TILL SOFT
MIX ALL INGREDIENTS TOGETHER AND FORM INTO SMALL BALLS (MAY USE MEATBALL SCOOP)
ROLL IN FLOUR
IN LARGE PAN OVER MEDIUM HEAT,
FRY IN 1/4 CUP BUTTER TILL GOLDEN BROWN
REMOVE TO ROASTER
TO PAN DRIPPINGS OVER LOW HEAT
ADD 1/4 CUP FLOUR-GRADUALLY
—-WHISKING WHILE ADDING FLOUR
——–ADD 3 CUPS BEEF BROTH
POUR OVER ROASTER OF MEATBALLS AND SERVE MAY MAKE DAY BEFORE AND REHEAT
(**OR 2 HUNGRY NORWEGIANS**)