potetball2

Potetball – a beloved, strange delicacy

Potetball is a dish I naturally grew up with, being from the region of Sunnmøre.  This dish was perfected by my mother, who made the lightest, most delicate potetball. My mother hails from a village called Hjørungavåg (close to Hareid), an area where this dish is a staple in everybody’s home and maybe even more popular than in the town I grew up in.  Potetball has many names, it can go by raspeball, komler, klubb or komper, depending  where in the country you are.  Essentially this 300 year old dish is a potato dumpling made from shredded raw  (and adding a couple of cooked) potatoes mixed with rye flour, stuffed with a bite of dried sausage, salted lamb or bacon.  The cooked potatoes are added to help make the dumplings lighter, and not so dense. In my house, we used “Strandamør” inside the potetball, which is a cured sausage from Stranda, a neighboring town. It’s now famous all over Norway and is the most delicious cured sausage I know (pictured below):

potetball2

The strandamør is dark red, almost black in color, mostly made from mutton or sheep, but sometimes pork and beef as well. The word “Mør” or “morr” comes from the norse name “morr” which means chopped innards (like hearts, lungs and kidneys), and sausages made from these ingredients.

Strandamør as it’s sold in stores in Norway:

Strandamor

Potetball is cooked in a broth of salted mutton which gives it an amazingly unique, rich flavor.  Traditionally served with sausages, boiled rutabagas and melted butter or bacon fat, some people even add boiled potatoes. In my house potatoes were never added, as my mother thought that was identical to putting “butter on bacon”🙂 The condiments vary greatly regionally, as with most dishes in Norway.  Some people insist dipping the dumplings in sugar or syrup, while others must have them with sour cream or lingonberry jam. Admittedly not a very pretty dish to look at, luckily beauty is only skin deep, as the dumplings taste delicious and definitely cover any carb cravings you might have!

Raspeball

Image:  dinmat.no

This is really a dish that fits into the “you don’t understand it unless you’ve grown up with it” category. Most Norwegians even in eastern Norway/around the Oslo area, finds the dish strange or not very appealing, but as the people of Sunnmøre (my region) say: More for us!🙂 I remember making the dish for my husband, who by the way is an omnivore and appreciates pretty much any food that’s put in front of him. It was probably the first time he only took two bites and seemed disinterested in finishing. When I asked him, he said he just didn’t get it – it didn’t seem like a complete dish, and it was quite heavy.  I took the comments well, thinking inside “oh well, he just doesn’t know any better.”  A popular comment about the potetball is “You either like it, or you don’t.” Simple as that. I guess I will be making potetball when I find myself at home on my own, and otherwise I am definitely going to enjoy it in my mom’s or sister’s house this spring when I go visit!

potetball3

Traditionally, potetball was served every Thursday. Why Thursday was chosen  as the holy “potetball day” remains a bit of a mystery, and when asking why, many people just shrug their shoulders and reply “That’s just the way it was”.  One theory is that people ate mostly fish all week- Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.  On Thursday, potetball was served to give everyone a “break” from fish, and also marked a bit of a ‘celebration’ as the week was nearing the end and the weekend was almost here.  Potatoes that were going a bit soggy were used to make the potetball, and meat leftovers were added into the pot to flavor the broth and dumplings.  Sundays were reserved for a nicer meal if the budget would allow.  Potetball was named the “poor man’s food” because it was so cheap to make, and typically a big pot was made on Thursday so you could eat leftovers all the way until Sunday. My mom would slice the dumplings and fry them the following day and serve the sides with it, I would put ketchup (gasp!) on the potetball and it was just as delicious as, if not better than, the meal the day before.  In a previous post, I wrote about the importance of potatoes in the Norwegian household, and how the priests across the country helped spread their knowledge about cultivating and cooking the potato to the people.  Potetball seems to have originated during this time.

poteter2

Another unique tradition is the drink that goes with the potetball.  We have something called ‘surmelk’,  which is the same as kefir, although perhaps a bit runnier/smoother than the kefir you get here in this country (somewhere in the middle of kefir and buttermilk). Surmelk is milk that has become acidified by lactic acid bacteria.  It has a longer shelf life and is safer to drink than unpasteurized milk and therefore had an important place in the Norwegian diet in the old days.  The reason why surmelk is such a perfect companion to this dish is that the lactic acid bacteria in the milk is said to aid in the digestion of potetball,  known as a very heavy meal. It’s not uncommon to hear of people not being able to move for hours after they’ve had potetball for dinner…

Surmelk being made the old fashioned way:

surmelk

The finished product as sold in stores (you can get this in whole milk or skim milk versions):

surmelk2

A quick side note:  Potetball (or raspeball), should not be confused with blandaball – the latter being a dumpling that consists of a mixture of seafood, onions and potatoes and looks exactly like the potetball. I recall one time I was served this thinking it was potetball – and boy was I disappointed!! (no offense to the blandaball)

Upon researching this dish, I found that potetball is related to the Lithuanian cepelinai, as well as the Kloesse dumplings in Austria and Germany. All countries have their versions of dumplings, some more closely related than others.  Sweden has their “kroppkaka” and of course we all know of Italy’s gnocchi.

Lithuanian cepelinai:

cepelinai

German klosse:

klosse

While this is not a quick dish to make, the labor you put into it is worth it, as you can make a second dinner out of it the following day by slicing and frying the dumplings, as mentioned earlier in the post.  And your house will smell really good, I promise!

RECIPE FOR POTETBALL

Serves about 4 (12 pieces)

2 lbs raw russet potatoes, peeled and grated

1-2 potatoes, peeled and boiled

2 tsp salt

250 g (1 cup) rye flour

100 g (1/2 cup) all purpose flour

Dried sausage or pieces of bacon

*Leg of salted mutton

*Realizing  mutton can be tough to locate for most if not in Norway, you can substitute salted pork here

Peel the potatoes and grate them in a food processor or by hand.   Mix all the ingredients together in a big bowl and shape into a medium sized ball, and push a piece of bacon or thin slice of dried sausage into the center.

Start with cooking the meat first in water for about an hour, then place all the dumplings one by one into a big pot together with the salted mutton meat and water to cover. Bring to just below simmer (the pot should not boil!) and cook for another hour. The meat should be falling off the bone at this point.

You can add whatever vegetables you’d like to serve with the dish into the pot the last half hour, such as potatoes,  rutabaga and carrots, as well as sausages.  Melted butter and bacon is delicious with it too!

potetball
Image : Dinmat.no

11 thoughts on “Potetball – a beloved, strange delicacy

  1. whilehewasout says:

    Interesting, I have never heard about these balls, reminds me a bit of the “knédli” that is a kind of potato and bread ball – made in central European countries and served as a side dish. Thanks for sharing!

    • Sunny says:

      Thanks for stopping by my blog, bloggerina! I am sure potetball is closely related to those you’ve seen in central Europe, of course each country will insist theirs is the best!🙂 Hope you will keep checking back for more Norwegian recipes and thanks again for your comments!🙂

  2. Mamaviv says:

    Yum! You’re so right about “either you like it or you don’t”. It’s amazing that each region has their own variation but I guess it makes sense since people used what was available to them in their area. Being from Stavanger and coming here when I was just a child, I tried unsuccessfully to make the kumla I remembered so well. It wasn’t until I discovered byggmel (barley flour) that I was able to recreate this wonderful dish that I loved so much. I’m still searching for the perfect recipe for fiskekaker!

    • Sunny says:

      You are so right about the barley flour! That sure is the trick to kumler… Did you check out my post about fiskekaker? Just search for it in the search field and there should be a decent recipe there… then again there are many versions, as with every Norwegian dish!🙂

  3. Nadja says:

    Love these! We eat them with cranberryjam and melted butter. We in the south of Norway don’t serve Kompe (our local name) whit meat by the side. We have the meat inside the balls. And a local twist is to have thyme in the dough.

    • Sunny says:

      Hi Nadja! Interesting to hear how you enjoy these – we also put some meat inside the balls, but I’ve never heard of adding thyme in the dough, I must try that sometime!! Thanks for stopping by!🙂

  4. Thor says:

    Heisan🙂 må si meg mektig imponert over bloggen din , artig å se “Norsk/sunnmørsk” mat forklart på Amerikansk. Potetball e jo en stor favoritt her oppe på Sunnmøre. Har selv vært mye i USA og det morsomme er at ej laga faktisk potetball for en familie i Louisville Kentucky , for et par årsiden.De skulle ha en større sommerfest med famile venner og naboer. Og da slo det mej at ej skulle lage noke av det mest tradisjonsrike og Norske som finst i hvertfall her på våre kante av landet. Så potetball skulle lages,. Det ble store øyne når rasp og potete og mel ble blanda samme og forma til balla lagt i gryta. Og ikke mindre store øyne ble det når alt av kjøtt, pølser, mør(fant både svinemør og tørrmør)på den lokale Mejier butikken,måtte forklare en del til de som stod i kjøttvare disken med de fant fram det som trengtes). grønnsaker og poteter. og alt forsvant opp i gryta,.Og mens det sto og godgjorde seg i panna så dufta det både sunnmøre og litt jul i heile huset,. Og når det hadde fått kokt seg ferdig, og skulle serveres. Så var det først litt mysing på de rare poteballene som lå i gryta, men skepsis gikk over til begeistring. og Panna ble tømt på et lite øyeblikk,. så Potetball I kentucky i Juli var en kjempe suksess,. hehe kem skulle trodd det🙂 tusen takk for en flott blogg,og keep up the good work🙂 hilsen Thor-Ålesund.

    • Sunny says:

      Hei Thor og tusen takk for kjempekoselig tilbakemelding! Alltid artig å få vite når noen “oppdager” bloggen min og finner den interessant🙂 og potetball i Kentucky hørtes veldig morsomt ut! Jeg blir ofte overrasket over hvor mye norsk “gardamat” amerikanere elsker – de suger til seg alt av tradisjon og historie siden det finnes lite av det her…Håper du vil fortsette å lese bloggen min, jeg prøver å poste så ofte jeg kan men med fulltidsjobb og studier blir det dårlig tid, men i alle fall en gang per uke bør det bli nye innlegg! Tusen takk igjen, setter veldig pris på at du tok tid å skrive!! Hilsen Synnøve🙂

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