Cooking Swedish-style hamburger patties

By Terry Fredrickson

cooking5I am a Swedish-American. Both sets of my grandparents came to the US from Sweden and my mother spoke Swedish while growing up. Naturally, I grew up with Swedish cooking and one thing I really liked was a Swedish version of hamburger patties called Pannbiffar. We ate them, not with humburger buns, but with boiled potatoes and a vegetable like beans.

While I was home in Minnesota recently, I watched my mother – now 91-years-old – make pannbiffar and I video-taped our conversation so you can watch as well. Since we were talking about how to cook pannbiffar, we naturally used mostly present forms of the verbs.

Player will show here

Terry: Slicing the onion

Mother: Yep, slicing the onion.

Terry: Do you leave the onion like that or do you cut it more?

Mother: No, like this.

Terry: Just like that.

Mother: Just like that.

And then I take ... I've already sprayed the pan with this stuff, so it won't stick, but then you also have to put some butter in.

Terry: Is that real butter or is it margarine?

Mother: It's margarine. I don't use butter. And that's about all...

Terry: That's all you need?

Mother: So, that's going to sit there and this (the onions) waits for a little bit... and we're going to get the meat ready.

Terry: OK. Ground beef.

Mother: Ground beef. And you make sure your hands are really clean.

cooking 2 Now (after cutting the meat) ... you take a piece and you just roll it in a ball ...

Terry: O.K.

Mother: And then you squish it. See, like that.

Terry: Squish it.

Mother: Squish it.... Maybe I'm making them too small. You can have all you want. And then you squish it.... The giant size ones are for you.... Now for me, this is what I would eat (indicating the two smaller patties).

Terry: O.K.

Mother: And then if we have one left over for lunch, that's fine too.

Terry: No way.

Mother: O.K. Now, I'll wipe off my hands again.... and then we'll take some salt...

Terry: Take very much?

Mother: I'll show you.... Sprinkle a little

Terry: Sprinkle the salt on top of the ground beef.

Mother: Not much.

Terry: What's that? What's that?

Mother: Pepper.

Terry: What kind of pepper?

cooking3M. Little black peppers or any old kind of peppers. This one just happens to have a bunch of different kinds. And then you take the knife and you go across like that (hitting the patties first one direction and then another) and then across like that......Then you turn them over.

Terry: And do the same thing?

Mother: And do the same thing on the other side. Then they're ready to fry.

Terry: That's it? That's all there is to it.

Mother: That's all there is to it.

Terry: More salt.

Mother: A little bit on each side.

(Watching margarine melt in the pan) When its melted, I'll put these in (pieces of onion).

Terry: When the butter's melted you're going to put the onions in.

Mother: Yeah. You fry the onions first. (Puts onions in the frying pan.)

Terry: Put the onions in. How long do you fry them?

Mother: Well, watch and see.

Terry: And the potatoes are boiling over here.

Mother: The potatoes are cooking here.... in an old pan that was Momo's (my grandmothers).

Terry: How old do you think that pan is?

Mother: Probably as old as I am.

Terry: You mean it's 90 years old?

Mother: And it's got no handle and I just take it .... handle it with these (pot holders).

As they (the onions) get done, they fall apart. See? Oh, I know what I forgot to do. I forgot to take the plate out.

Terry: (Are) they finished yet?

Mother: No, no, no... turn them over, flop them over. See how they kind of fall apart?

Terry: Um huh.

Mother: (Point to another pot) And over here I'm cooking the beans, but they haven't started yet either.

Terry: (Of the onions) Just about done now, huh?

Mother: What?

Terry: Just about done, or not?

cooking4M. Ah, no, they don't feel tender enough. You want them to be kind of tender.

Terry: Ah, huh.

Mother: Do you want to feel it yourself?

Terry: Nah.

Mother: (About a minute minute later) So, now I think I can pretty soon take them out.

Terry: OK. So all together, it takes about five minutes, huh?

Mother: I suppose. I don't know. You just have to watch them. I going to take them out and I may put them back in again before I take the ponbiffar out to heat them a little bit.

(After the onions are all out of the pan, she puts more margarine in and starts putting the beef patties in.)

Terry: Can you get them all in?

Mother: (After all five patties are in the pan) A little more butter maybe.


Terry: Time to turn them, huh? ... That looks good. Are you going to turn them again later? Or are you just going to turn them once?

Mother: You squish them down a little bit. Oh yeah, we have to turn them again two or three times....

Terry: Oh, OK.

Mother: because you want them cooked inside.

Terry: Right.


They're almost ready now, I'll bet.

Mother: We'll they're getting there, but they're not done yet.

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