It happened like a scene right out of Carl Larsson, the renowned Swedish painter who captured home and family scenes in the Swedish countryside in the last 1800s and early 1900s.
There we were on an unseasonably warm afternoon on the last day of November, the grandmother all organized and prepared, the kids smart from school, me bearing a camera and a tin of allspice -- all gathered in the kitchen to make one of the family's traditional Swedish recipes, an important dish for the feast on Christmas Eve.
The dish? Homemade potato sausage, 'potatis korv' en svenska. Here's how it's made, with love.
"We had a ball this afternoon grinding everything, cleaning the casings and just putting it all together." ~ The Larson Family
"I followed the recipe (except I used a sausage stuffer) and it turned out fantastic! My brother-in-law claimed it is the best he has ever had!" ~ Grant
(This post contains meat, a note to vegetarians.)
|My neighbors across the street celebrate St. Lucia Day on Christmas Eve, not on the traditional date of December 13th. The tradition began when Max and Doris' own children were young. Now their children – and their grandchildren – help prepare for the celebration. |
Doris (she's the proud grandma in the center), Erika (left) and Livvy (right) invited me over to watch the preparations. It was such a fun afternoon, watching the tradition being passed from one generation to another.
|Here's how the homemade sausage looks when still uncooked. It's made from potatoes, onions and ground meat, spiced with allspice. It can be made ahead of time and then gently cooked and fried.|
Get ready, it's going to be a fun afternoon making homemade Swedish potato sausage!
|Cut 2 or 3 large onions into large chunks, then peel 5 pounds of uncooked red potatoes and cut them into large chunks too. Then grind the onions and potatoes. So long as the potatoes and onions aren't cut too fine, a food processor would work.|
|But Doris uses her grandmother’s much-beloved hand-cranked grinder, she wouldn’t consider anything else.|
Who can blame her? The spirit of her grandmother, it lives on in those young hands that wo-manned the grinder that afternoon.
|It’s hard work, grinding the potatoes and onions by hand.|
|A little boost is a big help.|
(I'm just sure Carl Larsson would have loved Livvy's stool and unmatched pink socks as much as I did!)
|To the onions and potatoes, stir in 3 pounds of ground meat, half ground beef and half ground pork.|
|Stir in salt and pepper to taste. Add a tablespoon of allspice too, one of the signature spices of Scandinavian specialties. (Don't skip the allspice, it's critical to the sausage's flavor.)|
|Now.comes.the.fun.part. Ask your butcher for sausage casings - if you're Livvy, you call them 'pig gut' because, well, that's what they are, the lining of a pig's intestines. I'm told you have to ask nicely, really nicely, because mostly grocery stores no longer have sausage casings. Max told me that when he got these at the Schnucks in Kirkwood, the meat person remembered, fondly, that the store once made its own potato sausage. |
The casings are shimmied onto a slip of plastic (that's the red thing). A half pound of casings was two, maybe three times as much as needed for this recipe.
|Who knew that a Bundt pan would be a home sausage-maker's favorite device?! |
Slip the casing over the center tube, getting it as high as you can. Because the casing is quite slippery, wrap a paper towel around the center tube too, so that you're hanging onto the paper towel, not the casing itself.
|Now.comes.the.squishy.part. But it's fun! |
With your hands, gently press the meat mixture into the center tube. Long fingers like Erika's make it easier, Livvy's are shorter and so it was harder. I tried the end of a wooden spoon to press it in, that helped.
|Make sure to hang onto the casing!|
As the tube fills, the sausage will make its way into the casing. Use your hands to move it further into the casing.
|Eventually, you'll end up with a looooooooooooog sausage, at least if you're as practiced as Erika. She made making sausage look so easy!|
|In the end, you'll have a half dozen or more of these sausages. Doris drops the sausages into a big pot of salted water with about 10 peppercorns. She starts with cold water so the delicate casings don't split, brings the water to a boil. Once the water boils, she turns off the heat and lets the sausages continue to cook gently in the hot water. She freezes the sausages in freezer bags right in the cooking water, so they stay moist. |
On Christmas Eve, she'll thaw the sausages and then fry them and sprinkle with a little parsley.
|On Christmas Eve, the family will sit down to a feast. Along with the Potato Sausage, there will be Smoked Salmon to start, then Swedish Meatballs (you might use my recipe for Finnish Meatballs, minus the cream sauce), Cabbage Rolls and Swedish Brown Beans. The meal will finish with bowls of creamy Rice Pudding for dessert. Some feast!|
|But there's more! There are costumes! |
One granddaughter plays the role of St. Lucia and wears a crown of candles. Then there are Star Boys and Tomtons.
True story: I was staying with a Swedish family on St. Lucia Day in 1976. Early that morning, their blond-haired, blue-eyed daughter, Annikka, delivered sweet buns to all of us wearing a crown of candles, real candles, real flames, really beautiful!
|Here's Brian (Erika and Livvy's little brother) with a Star Boy costume and Livvy who's donned a St. Lucia crown. |
These kids love their family tradition! And I loved sharing it. Thank you, Doris and Max, thank you Erika and Livvy and Brian!
~ Swedish Red Cabbage ~
~ Swedish Beets ~
~ more Scandinavian recipes ~
collected on Kitchen Parade, my food column