Prussian Meatballs Echo from a Vanished World


Prussian Meatballs Echo from a Vanished World

The historic and cultured East Prussian capital, Königsberg, is gone.

KFounded in the 13th century by Teutonic Knights as a Germanic outpost on the Baltic Sea, Königsberg ("king’s mountain") grew rich in the Middle Ages as a Hanseatic League port, and was the ancestral home and continued coronation place of the Prusssian kings. The city boasted a major university, cathedral, and opera house.


Severely bombed by the Allies in World War II, Königsberg was overrun by the Soviet Army. The German population was forceably expelled, the historic buildings were  destroyed, and the city was annexed and repopulated as Kaliningrad, part of Russia.


But one specialty of the imperial Prussian city lingers. “Königsberger Klopse” [KERH-nigs-ber-ger KLOP-zeh], the city’s celebrated namesake meatballs, still survive in North German cuisine.


I first had this luscious treat, as a teenager, at the home of a European couple my mother knew. Edy, the wife, who grew up in pre-war Germany, added exotic touches of curry to her otherwise very German caper sauce. This recipe, which took me considerable trial and error to develop, reproduces what I experienced at their home.


The recipe serves six plentifully -- in the German manner. Accompany the meatballs and their sauce with buttered boiled potatoes or noodles .

6 tablespoons finely minced onion
2 tablespoons sunflower or canola oil
6 tablespoons quick-cooking oatmeal
1 (2-ounce) can anchovy fillets, including their oil
6 tablespoons unseasoned breadcrumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3/8 teaspoon allspice
2 eggs

2 tablespoons water
2 pounds ground beef chuck or 1 pound each ground chuck and ground pork

4 cups low-salt chicken broth or water
3 (1/4 inch) slices of onion
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon curry powder
2 teaspoons flour mixed with 1 teaspoon sunflower or canola oil
2 tablespoons capers, drained
Minced parsley for garnish

Gently fry onion in oil until softened. Transfer to mixing bowl.

With chef's knife on a cutting board, coarsely chop oatmeal. Add to the bowl. Pour oil from anchovies into the bowl. Mince anchovies finely, and add to the bowl. Add crumbs, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, the nutmeg, pepper, allspice, eggs and water. Beat everything together lightly. Add meat and mix thoroughly, kneading with your hands.

Shape into 6 large evenly sized meatballs, packing them firmly. Wet your hands with water for the final shaping. Set meatballs on waxed paper.

In a wide pot, simmer chicken broth or water, onion slices, bay leaves, and salt. Gently place meatballs in the water. Cover pan and steam meatballs 10 minutes over medium-low heat. Carefully turn them with a large spoon. Steam them 10 more minutes. Turn once more, and steam a final 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let them rest, covered, another 5 minutes.

With slotted spoon, transfer meatballs to shallow serving bowl. Cover loosely with waxed paper or a lid, and keep them warm.

Remove bay leaf and onion from broth. Add curry powder. Boil broth down to about 2 cups. Reduce heat. Whisk in flour-oil mixture. Simmer 2 minutes, whisking often. Remove from heat. Stir in capers. Taste sauce, and add salt if needed.

Spoon sauce (do not pour from pan) over meat balls. Dust with minced parsley. Serve with boiled, buttered potatoes or buttered and dilled egg noodles.

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