Classic: Königsberger Klopse - German Meatballs in a Creamy Caper Sauce

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I’ve sung the song of my love for meatballs often and earlier this year took you on a world tour of meatballs. Here I am again with more meatballs for you. This time with a classic German recipe that has a long tradition and history.

Before moving to Germany I was never the one to indulge in boiled meat. I liked my meat seared and then simmered in liquid but the idea of raw meat boiling in stock or water just made a cold shower run up my spine. The only time I would ever eat cooked meat was chicken in a chicken soup.

This changed drastically when I began discovering the German culinary highlights like Tafelspitz and of course Königsberger Klopse. Although the concept of cooking meatballs might seem unusual, it keeps the veal meat tender and succulent. What interested me about this dish however was its origins as I was intrigued to know how some of the ingredients in the dish like the capers, lemon zest and anchovies made their way in a German recipe.

It turns out that the Königsbeger Klopse are a Prussian specialty named after the city of Königsberg, which was completely destroyed in World War II. When the Russians took East Prussia, they renamed the city Kaliningrad. To avoid any reference to its namesake city the German Democratic Republic renamed the dish to Kochklopse, which literally means boiled meatballs. But digging a little deeper I discovered that the dish was also served in the Province of Posen and the Baltic countries. However, the “klopse” were not meatballs made of ground meat but moreover a piece of meat that was beaten (Klopsen = to beat) thin.

Ground meat has actually only been a part of the German diet for the past 200 years. The recipe for Königsberger Klopse as we know it today has developed over the years. Originally it was a thin piece of meat much like the Wiener Schnitzel, which was cooked in a tangy, creamy sauce. According to the history of this dish, a young and creative cook of a merchant family in Königsberg was responsible for the creation of this dish with the extraordinary flavors. It will not come as a surprise that this is one of Germany’s all time favorite traditional dish. 

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The ground veal is flavored with salty anchovies, tangy lemon zest, cracked pepper, onions and nutmeg. They are then simmered in the broth, which serves as a basis for the roux thickened sauce studded with capers and a spritz of white wine. It is the sauce that takes this dish to the next level. Both capers and lemon are indispensable for the perfect Königberger Klopse and do not let anyone else talk you out of it. If you are not a capers fan, you can skip it, but then you will not be indulging in the sublime flavors combinations of this dish. This is a super comforting, mellow dish that has just enough zing in it from the capers, anchovies, lemon zest and cream to create some very interesting flavors.

As a tip I got from my mother-in-law: Do not let the meatballs simmer at all. Just bring the broth to a simmer, carefully drop in the meatballs, cover the pot and turn the heat down to its lowest setting. The meatballs will cook gently, will not fall apart and will remain tender.

Boiled potatoes sautéed lightly in parsley butter are the best accompaniment with the Königsberger Klopse. Add to it a beetroot or tomato salad and a sensational, traditional meal is ready to be served. Perfect for family Sunday lunches or dinner with friends.

 

Recipe: Königsberger Klopse - German Meatballs in A Creamy Caper Sauce

Printable version of recipe here

Königsberger Klöpse_0012 by Meeta K. Wolff

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 day old bread roll
  • ⅛ l lukewarm milk
  • 500g ground veal
  • 1 large egg
  • 2-4 Anchovies, finely chopped
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, ¾ of the bunch finely chopped
  • Zest of 1 small organic lemon
  • 400 ml beef or veal stock
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
For the Sauce
  • 30g butter
  • 25g flour
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 125 ml cream
  • ⅛l dry white wine
  • A pinch of sugar
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 egg yolks

Method:

  1. To make the meatballs, tear the bread roll into pieces and soak in the milk until soft. Press excess milk and mix together with the ground veal and egg. Add the chopped parsley and zest.
  2. Melt the butter in a large pan and sweat the onions until fragrant and transparent. Add to the ground veal together with the finely chopped anchovies. Season well and form approximately 16 meatballs.
  3. Bring the stock to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Add the meatballs and cook them for about 10 minutes. Remove and set the meatballs aside, then strain the stock and reserve for the sauce.
  4. To make the sauce melt 30g butter in a large pot. Sprinkle with the flour and cook until golden. Pour the stock in batches until the mixture is smooth. Add the capers including the liquid, the lemon juice, cream and the wine. Season with salt, sugar and the pepper.
  5. Lightly beat the egg yolks and whisk into the sauce, making sure it does not boil.
  6. Slowly add the meatballs to the sauce and allow them to heat through.
  7. Serve with the rest of the parsley and lemon wedges and steamed or boiled butter potatoes.

Tips and Notes:
If you do not find ground veal at the butcher’s then substitute with lean ground beef.
To reheat the meatballs make sure the sauce does not bubble otherwise it will curdle. On a low to medium allow the sauce and meatballs to heat through.


Verdict

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This would not be the typical kind of meal we serve at home, but there are those snowed in or rainy Sundays when you know nothing is going to make the day better than a good, hearty, classic dish. Although I do not cook German meals very often at home when I do I always turn to traditional recipes and dishes, often from Tom’s mum or grandmother. With the recipe in hand I tend to make a stop at the books to study the origins and history, often getting lost in stories.

It has been a week with lots of highlights. While my knee is still slowing me down and things at this pace gets to be frustrating I am getting a lot done and seem to be very focused and constructive. Sandy and I have been busy organizing the Weimar workshop, finally happening on Friday and Saturday. Excited about this as we are doing a lot of the the food preparation, crafting and designing ourselves and it has been amazing to work with Sandy who seems to have the same rocket fuel as I do. For every down we have faced, we have managed to turn it to a very top notch high and I am really looking forward to be having the workshop in such an exclusive location.

This week on my usual surfing session through the web I came across a few faves:

More German classics from WFLH:

SpätzleLeekBacon_0005-2-WM_thumb Flammkuchen 01a framed[2] AppleGojiBerryHazlnutStrudel_0012-WM_thumb[3]
Gruyere Bacon Leek and Sun Dried Tomato Spätzle Tarte d'Alsace - Elsässer Flammkuchen Cinnamon Kissed Apple Goji Berry Strudel


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2012 Meeta Khurana Wolff unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

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36 comments:

  1. Mmmmhhh, I've been dreaming of making that speciality since a while... Your Königsberger Klopse look so good! A wonderful cold weather dish.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. It's perfect Rosa. You really should, it takes away the blues ... making and eating it!

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  2. Absolutely intriguing! And they look so delicious! It is almost reminiscent of a blanquette de veau but with so much more added flavors. Now I want to try this; I think we would all love it! Love the pics! Have a great time at the workshop!!

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    1. True Jamie they are somehow reminiscent of a blanquette de veau. I need to make that again some day! I think the complex flavors would be something that JP would really enjoy!

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  3. I've heard so much about Königsbrger Klopse, but have never actually gotten around to eating them. Yours look divine, so much that I'll make it my mission to finally eat some when I'm in Berlin in May (if you do decide to come too, we can go together) :)

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    1. I think I might have to forget the Berlin plans in may as I most probably will be having my surgery and rehab time after the Ireland workshop.
      If you ever get the chance you really should try these they are gorgeous ... provided they are made well. Best you make them yourself!

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  4. This is your idea of being slowed down -- honestly Meeta! Rocket fuel indeed ;-) I thoroughly enjoyed this post, learned something new, delighted in gorgeous photos and got another peek inside your world. Thank you! Have a wonderful workshop, those will be some very lucky participants this weekend!

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    1. This is my idea of comforting my knee ;o) Good food and family! I love dishes that have a nice history so it was nice to research and read about the origins and then having a go at making them myself. Hugs Robin!

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  5. I love making and eating meatballs, they are kind of an obsession. What I love about this recipe? The veal - adore! Salty capers - cannot get enough of! Intrigued and will be making these!! Have a great workshop, someday, I am going to be one of those lucky participants!

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    1. This is the perfect dish for you then Denise. I hope to we meet soon it would be so awesome!

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  6. Never had the German version of meatballs but by the look of it, they look fantastic. Stunning pics as always.

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    1. You should try them. They have an extraordinary flavor combination.

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  7. I think there is a typo: Kochckopse is not a word. I think you mean "Kochklöpse" (it sounds like you spelled it ;) )
    Also, I think "klops" may come from "kloppen" (not klopsen), which means "to beat" (colloquial)
    I used to love Königsberger Klöpse as a child but I always picked the capers out. Nowadays I'd eat the capers but would pick the meat out. haha. I shall try this with vegetarian meat balls.

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    1. Thanks for the pointing out the typo! However I cannot reconfirm the other points you mentioned as I got the information from some research I did in the library and the internet.

      I would very much be interested in the vegetarian version too. let me know how it goes.

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  8. Hi Meeta,
    I love meatballs , though my hubby isnt quite a fan. Always thought meatballs paired well with tomatao based or spicy gravies...never thought of a creamy version. Should give this a try sometime!

    Hope your knee is getting better, or was it your ankle?...forgetful brain of mine, can't get anything straight! ;-)

    Regards,
    Manju

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    1. It is the knee and it is getting better for now. After the surgery I'll have the whole rehab thing again. Hope you do give it a try and let me know what you think.

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  9. This looks totally delicious although I have never actually cooked meatballs. Meatballs are a big thing here in the Netherlands as well, but they tend to be baked mostly. I wish I could be in Weimar right now too...Have fun over the weekend!

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    1. I wish you were here too. But soon we shall be together!And you have never cooked meatballs?? However I have to say I have never baked meatballs!

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  10. Here too we love all kind of meat balls, never had this though will sure give it a try.

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  11. Oh my! I'm always on the look out for new recipes with mince..I find it so versatile. How delicious does this sound! Loving the anchovies, lemon and capers!

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    1. Oh Peter I am sure you will enjoy this - I think it is right up your alley! Let me know how it goes would love your thoughts!

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  12. I recently just started my own food blog and always love checking out other food blogs for inspiration. I came accross yours and loved it! This recipe looks so good! Love making different kinds of meatballs and have never tried making meatballs with veal. I Will definitely have to try making this sometime!

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    1. Veal has a lovely light texture and works well with bold flavored sauces like this. Hope you enjoy them!

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  13. I can only imagine how good it would taste! Making this soon ;)

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    1. Enjoy! You must tell me what you think of these!

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  14. love this recipe. If anything because of how it looks. I've never eaten a meatball dish this colour Then come the ingredients. I have to make it. Adding ingredients to my shopping list. I'm really into food history so reading about the origin of the dish was a real high to me. Success this weekend. JEALOUS of the ones who can attend!!; o ) Go easy on the knee. Knee injuries take so long to heal. I hurt my knee back in Brasil over xmas when I had the sillies fall and it only completely disappeared two weeks ago. Crazy really. Hugs to you.x

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    1. I am sure my knee will heal in it's own time. I am learning to live with the brace. I wish you could have joined us in Weimar Valentina. But we will meet again. I think you would love these meatballs.

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  15. My K. was in Berlin last month and brought me some German food magazines - one of them had a lovely Königsberger Klopse recipe inside that I decided to try soon. Even more now that I've seen your recipe as well!!!

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  16. Well this meat ball isn't come from meat at last just mix of eggs, milk and bread. Nice idea for people who don't like to eat meat. This is creative in the food produce.

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  17. This is one German dish I've never made. I really need to make this (and soon). It sounds so good. And I just love a good lemon/caper combo. I think the reason I've never made it before is the idea of a light-colored meatball (HA!) is funny. I'm used to eating beef meatballs, and so this looks undercooked or something. However, I do love veal, and the sauce sounds fantastic, so I will definitely give it a go!

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  18. Dear Meeta,
    Last week I made these meatballs in my Aga: great for slowly preparing the Klopse because the stock is not boiling and the fragile meatballs keep their shape in the cooking oven. I will post about it on my blog. They taste delicious!
    Please adjust your recipe: you forgot to mention adding the anchoves to the meatballs and adding the cream to the sauce..

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    1. Thanks Rob! Making it in the Aga sounds just perfect! Glad you enjoyed it and thank you for highlighting my errors. I have corrected it now! Please let me know when your recipe is up on the blog!

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    2. The Königsberger Klopse are on my blog (whatsinmyaga.blogspot.nl): we had them for lunch today with some friends. They loved it! Thanks for this great recipe!

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Thank you for visiting What's For Lunch, Honey? and taking time to browse through my recipes, listen to my ramblings and enjoy my photographs. I appreciate all your comments, feedback and input. I will answer your questions to my best knowledge and respond to your comments as soon as possible.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy your stay here and that I was able to make this an experience for your senses.

Hugs
Meeta