As Mother’s Day approaches, we all start thinking of motherhood and family, both of which are very important to me. Although my mother and father have passed away, my family now includes a wonderful husband, two lovely grown daughters and two small grandsons that my husband and I adore.
We all have memories of the food we ate while growing up and it’s amazing how eating that food, years later, can transport us emotionally back to our childhood and thoughts of a mother’s kitchen. I wanted to share a recipe from my childhood that most clearly stands out in my memory.
Since my ancestry is Danish with grandparents or great-grandparents from both sides of my family immigrating from Denmark, frikadeller were something that was a recurring dish on our family table.
Paraphrasing from Wikipedia…Frikadeller are flat, pan-fried patties of minced meat, often compared to meatballs. Although there are many variations of frikadeller, they are usually made with a combination of of ground pork and beef (salted pork was a staple in early Danish kitchens). They include chopped onions, eggs, milk (or water – sometimes selzer water), bread or bread crumbs, salt and pepper and sometimes allspice. They are made by forming the meat mixture into slightly flattened patties and pan-fried in pork or beef fat. Today, butter, margarine or vegetable oil are used for frying. Small patties would be made for lunch and larger ones for dinner. At dinner, they would be served with boiled white potatoes and gravy and accompanied by pickled beets or cooked red cabbage. Cold frikadeller and potato salad is a popular choice for picnics or potlucks and cold, thinly sliced fridadeller are also enjoyed as a traaditional Danish open faced sandwich on rye bread topped with pickles or red cabbage.
They were an inexpensive and filling way to feed a family. I remember my mother making a pan gravy from the browned bits in the frying pan after frying the frikadeller.
Above, my mother with me in her arm, my big sister and my dad. A crocheted tablecloth that my mother made as young wife before I was born, a craft I’m happy she taught to me.
When I became a mother, my two daughters grew up enjoying frikadeller often
in our home as well. Made with love, as my mother made them. I usually made them without gravy and my girls would eat them with
ketchup on the side, along with a green vegetable and sauteed potatoes.
Although mine were most often made with plain, lean ground sirloin, for
this post, I decided to add the traditional ground pork and prepared some beets (pickled beets would also be a traditional side dish). I made a pan gravy, like my mother’s, which my husband really enjoyed.
One of the best things about making a big batch of frikadeller is using the patties the following day to make Danish open-faced sandwiches! I found a very good substitute for Danish rye bread in this Sunflower rye by Rubeschager. No need to go all Danish though, a good hamburger bun is fine 🙂
Frikadellers (My Mother’s Way)
This is a simple and traditional recipe. Make them with love for your family.
1 pound lean ground beef or a mixture of half ground beef and half ground pork (ground veal may also be used)
1 small onion, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 large slice hearty white bread, cut into small cubes – about 1 cup (day old is good but not necessary)
1/4 cup milk
Salt and Pepper to taste (feel free to add your favorite seasonings)
Pan Gravy – Recipe Below
Soak the cubed bread in milk for 5 minutes – do not drain.
Place the ground meat in a large bowl and add the soaked bread cubes along with any remaining milk. Add the beaten egg, chopped onion, and salt and pepper and mix until blended. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes to make handling easier.
Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add about two tablespoons of butter or vegetable oil to the pan.
Form the beef mixture into patties with your hands. You can make them as small or large as you wish. Flatten slightly with your palms. Add to the preheated skillet and brown the patties well on both sides, about 3-5 minutes per side. After they are well browned, add some water to the pan (about 1/3 to 1/2 cup). Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, covered, for about 20-25 minutes.
You can make a gravy with the pan drippings and serve with boiled potatoes.
To make the pan gravy, remove the cooked frikadeller patties from the skillet, leaving the juices in the pan. Place 1 heaping tablespoon of all purpose flour into a glass or small bowl. Stir in about 1/2 cup of water, a little at a time, to the flour, mixing until smooth. Add this to the pan juices and turn the heat to high. Stir until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add a little more water, as needed if the gravy is too thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with the frikadellers. Strain the gravy through a sieve, if necessary.