Scandinavian Folk Festival Swedish Meatball Contest Winners Announced

The Swedish meatball contest has become a Friday night feature of the Scandinavian Folk Festival held at the Gerry Rodeo Grounds, every summer for the past 13 years. The meatball contest is open to anyone and requires the candidate to bring 20 homemade meatballs for judging by an objective panel of food specialists. The winners are announced immediately after the judging and the prizes awarded.

First-place winner this year was Dr. Julie Lindblom Boozer, who grew up in Jamestown, but now lives in Scandia Pa.A, who took home a prize of $100 for her culinary efforts. Second prize of $50 went to James Scouton of Corning and third prize of $25 was awarded to Kathie Staaf of Wattsburg, Pa.

Several different types of Swedish meatballs were entered in the contest. Some quite spicy, seasoned with garlic, a more contemporary style of Swedish recipe reflecting the cultural diversity in Sweden today. And there were the more traditional type, which are bland in flavor, rolled very tiny and lightly browned. Boozer explained that her winning meatballs were made from her Lindblom family’s recipe, who were insistent that the filler should be day-old Limpa Rye bread soaked in whole milk or even cream. The meat is a 3:1 mixture of beef and pork, ground together several times in the butcher shop. Eggs, finely chopped onion and allspice, white pepper and salt to taste, complete the simple recipe. White pepper, a favorite of Swedes, has a more delicate flavor than black pepper.

Karl Oscar Lindblom immigrated to Jamestown in 1888 and sang as a tenor in the choir of the old First Swedish Mission Covenant Church on Chandler Street. Soon Ida Christina Fornander, a soprano, arrived from Sweden and joined this same choir. Romance ensued and the resulting harmony became the beginnings of the Lindblom family in Jamestown. Karl Oscar eventually operated several neighborhood butcher shops in Jamestown; even one on the ground level of their home on Linden Avenue.

Boozer explained that the majority of 19th century Swedes that settled in Jamestown were from the peasant class and had been attached to manor farms in the old country. They were very poor and their food was simply limited to what they could raise on their tiny family farms at the edges of the manor fields. Therefore their meatballs were made from what they had on hand in their kitchens a century ago … not from the store-bought ingredients that we have today. Meat was a scarce commodity and making the meatballs small was a way to fairly mete out this luxury food to the many children in the family. An average 19th century peasant farm family may have included ten children or more, because they were the labor force that ran the family farm.

When they immigrated to America, whether in the 19th or 20th century, they brought with them the tiny meatball recipe, which had become a hallmark of their heritage. Today, any small meatball is often described as a “Swedish meatball.” This simple peasant food has become a standard and popular addition to smorgasbords in America today.