When the weather starts getting colder (omit 2015) and Christmas is in the air and on the shelves, one family tradition stands out above all for me; Gramp's Meatball Soup, a family variation of the traditional Danish Meatball and Dumpling Soup.
Over the years, Ive had many variation of meatball soup, from Italian wedding soup, Mexican meatball soup, etc... but my Gramp's Meatball Soup takes the top spot. Sure, nostalgia and tradition influence my opinion, just as everyone's 'Grandma's _______' dish, so I'll share some insight into why this recipe is unique.
Most people I know have fond memories of their grandmother's cooking. In my family, for as long as I can remember, my grandfather was the one 'dishing' out memories. To this day, in his 80's, he and my grandmother continue to host and prepare the many holiday meals for the large and extended family.
The recipe, passed down for many years, itself is pretty basic:
Meatballs: 80% Ground Beef, Bread, Milk, Salt, Pepper
Broth: Water, Beef bullion, Carrots, Celery, Bread
What makes this soup very different than anything else I've tasted is the 'optional' Farina Balls. To me, this soup would be better named 'Farina Ball Soup,' due to the ratio of Farina Balls to Meatballs you would see in my bowl.
The Farina Balls is another 'basic' recipe and addition to the soup, but is the clear differentiator. The soup is served hot and the Farina Balls, which are refrigerated, are added to the soup. When you bite into one, you immediately taste the cream and butter. The most commonly overlooked part of the experience is the cold center of the Farina Ball. The only thing that comes to mind is a chocolate truffle, where the start of the experience is different once you enter the center.
They aren't for everyone, but for those who do enjoy, you will see their first serving fairly balanced with meatballs and farina balls, but for each additional serving, its not uncommon to see only farina balls in the broth. You will also see many eating them cold by them selves.
A few years ago I attempted to make the recipe, but was a fail and I haven't tried since. I know the experience I have every Christmas likely cannot be replicated due to the process, shape/size of meatballs/farina balls, the decades of seasoning to the pot and of course the added flavor nostalgia adds to this and everyone's favorite grandparent dish.
While I still can, I'll be sure to work along side him like an apprentice, to commit the recipe and process to memory, so this experience carries on to future generations.