Friday, December 05, 2008

Butterball Soup

Christmas means tradition for a lot of us. And in my family, it means butterball soup on Christmas Eve at Grandma Lucy's house. No, we don't take a butterball turkey, throw it into a pot, and stew it until done. Butterballs are a traditional Germans-from-Russia dish that I have been eating since, well, birth!

Here's what a butterball is made of (and sorry, I don't have any pictures and there is none to be found on the web, but I will get you a pic when I go home for Christmas):

Bread crumbs
Sweet cream

Fattening? Yes. Delicious? Absolutely.

You mix all this together and then form it into walnut-shaped balls. There's a trick to making them, and it's not hard at all to mess them up. I myself haven't tried my hand at them (yet), having left that task to my wonderful grandmother. Her parents came to this country from Russia - their ancestors were Germans that had immigrated to Russia during the reign of Catherine the Great.

So in essence, the butterball is probably a highly-regional dish. Western Nebraska, where I'm from originally, has a dense population of Germans from Russia and you can find butterballs in the store. But not where I live now - which means if I want these delectable little guys, I have to go home to get them.

I've told a lot of people about butterball soup over the years and I don't think I've found one person outside of where I grew up that has heard about them. I even asked one of my grad school professors, who was born and raised in Germany, and she'd never heard of them, either.

But every Christmas Eve, that's what we have - butterball soup, which is basically just chicken soup and noodles with some butterballs thrown in. To me, it's not Christmas without it, or without being at my grandmother's house, surrounded by family, and opening presents. That's just what we do on Christmas Eve.

Does your family have a traditional food you eat every Christmas?


  1. my family on my mom's side always make oyster soup and they gobble it all up. I've tried some but it's not my thing so much.

  2. I've never heard of butterball soup! Wow! It sounds good. Once my hubby and I moved overseas 8 years ago, we decided to do a new tradition. Since neither of us could really care if we had turkey and the trimmings again (just after thanksgiving) and we both LOVED mexican food, We now do a mexican fiesta every Christmas! LOL! I even go all out and make yummy tamales and enchiladas and tacos and well the works! it's great and most of it can be prepared days earlier and then reheated so it's perfect for a busy mom! LOL! T

  3. Each Christmas Eve, we share the Oplatek before the meal. It's a wafer similar to the communion wafer, which is broken at the table and passed along with good wishes, a very traditional Polish ritual.

  4. The butterballs sound delish!

  5. Growing up we always had spaghetti on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day was pretty much a repeat of Thanksgiving. My husband and I always have mimosas Christmas morning.

  6. Like Joanne, we share the Oplatek, then move on to the rest of the traditional Wigilia meal, including borscht, mushroom pastries, pickled herring etc.

    On Christmas Day we have mince tartlets and now, my m-i-l's killer trifle (it's huge and oh so delicious), though I do miss my mum's light fruitcake.

  7. Butterball soup... Do you have the actual recipe? (I.e. a cup of this, a tsp of that.)

    I'm collecting Russian-German recipes. I'm the production coordinator for an independent feature film company and we're currently preparing to shoot a movie about the Germans from Russia. (The story is set in Ukraine during WWII -- entitled Under Jakob's Ladder.)

    Anyway, I'm trying to get recipes to give to our caterers... So that we can serve some "authentic" meals to the cast and crew. At least that's the idea!

  8. Maria - What a neat idea! Is there an email address I can send the recipe to? You can contact me at melissaamateis at earthlink dot net and then I can email you the recipe.

  9. Yowser, that sounds delish!

  10. Brian - My mom's side of the family used to make oyster soup, too. I don't think I like it. :-)

    Giddymom - I love Mexican food, too. And you're right - perfect food for a busy mom!

    Joanne - What an interesting custom! My mother's side of the family is Polish, but I don't think they have ever done anything traditional like that.

    Janna,Travis, and Angie - They're DEFINITELY delicious, but also definitely not good for you. But once a year is ok.

    Rene - Would you believe I've never had a mimosa?

    Tess - That food sounds delicious! I wish my Polish relatives had done traditional foods like that so I could have grown up with them like I did my butterball soup. :-)

  11. That sounds so tasty.

  12. dunekacklee@hotmail.com2:11 PM

    I'm from Kansas and my family is also part of the Germans from Russia clan. We have butterball soup every xmas eve as well. I actually just got back from my vacation enjoying that very meal, and was searching for recipes when I fell upon your blog.
    No one outside my family has ever heard of it either, but my goodness it's good to know we're not the only ones in the world that enjoy it!
    ** You're not alone! :)

  13. Yay! Someone who knows how deliciously yummy butterball soup is! Thanks for dropping by. :-)

  14. Anonymous3:01 PM

    My paternal grandparents came from Russia and finally settled in Russell, KS. The town's population was probably 75% of the German/Russian immigrants. They called themselves "Roosians". My Grandmother made three memorable dishes. Buttterball Soup, Bierocks and Butterglace. All were inexpensive to make and fattening.

  15. My Great Grandmother always made these for us when I was a kid (in Western Nebraska also) and I'm going to give it a try this Christmas Eve. Thanks for the great post.

  16. I too am a descendent of Volga Russians (Marion County, KS). I made butterballs today. We do not put cream in ours. Bread crumbs, eggs & butter...but the key is allspice. We also shake a little allspice on the soup right before we eat it.

  17. Anonymous8:14 PM

    My Grandma used to make this and it was pure heaven...along with her coffee cakes and fleisch runzas.I've asked people about butterball soup,and I get the same ones heard of it.I make it now and my family loves it.

    I loved your story.

  18. Anonymous8:48 AM

    My mother-in-laws parents were Germans sent to the Volga River area of Russia. My sweet moth-in-law made butterball soup every Christmas Eve. Her granddaughter has taken over the job since Katie's passing 2 years ago. I'm going to give it a try myself this year! Wish me luck!

  19. I am Russian -German too. My great great grandma settled in Chicago, Il and then later moved to Fresno, Ca both are full of Volga Germans. She also made butterball soup, bierocks, and grebbel (kinda like rich donuts). Lots of kuchen too. Im the only one who still makes and carries on the recipes but my family loves to eat them and it always brings back childhood memories for my grandma.

  20. Virginia8:11 PM

    Butter Ball soup was a tradition on Christmas eve at my mother-in-laws to. I have made butter balls for my sons and daughter in laws and both have learned to make them. So the tradition goes on.

  21. Anonymous4:30 PM

    I was born & raised in western Nebraska,both sets of grandparentsnwere German/russian. Butterballs were a staple in my home, I still make them and I am 65 they are dearly loved by my daughters. Eileen Jones

  22. Anonymous12:35 PM

    Butterball soup was also a staple in our home, we were born and raised by German Russian people in Saskatchewan , Canada. Love, love butterball soup!!!

  23. Anonymous11:01 PM

    We grew up eating my mom's version of butterball soup. It's wonderful. My maternal grandparents were Germans from Russia and moved from Colorado to settle in Wyoming. My brother recently found some butterballs in the freezer section of his local market. They were wonderful!

  24. Blaine Krentz10:06 AM

    I am of German (from Russa) decent living in Northern Saskatchewan, CANADA and i reme,ber my Grandmas what we called buterglaze soup.

    I have searched long and far and found the recipe and love making it

  25. Butterglace was a Christmas Eve tradition in my maternal grandmother's home, as well. Her father's family came from the Samara-Volga region of Russia in the late 1800s. My sister and I are the only ones left in the family who still make butterglace; I make kraut brot (aka bierocks) and kartoffel und glace (potatoes and dumplings covered in clarified butter). YUM!

  26. Anonymous8:52 PM

    I'm from Kansas originally. My grandparents were Germans from Russia and we grew up eating butterball soup on Christmas Eve. Now I make the butterballs for my family. My mother also made kartoffel(potatoes) and nepf sp? (eggs)and the bierocks and case noodle. She learned it all from my paternal grandmother.

  27. Anonymous2:04 PM

    I was just snooping around the internet looking for the recipe for this fabulous - yet rare - treat that my great aunts make at all of our family reunions. My whole mother's side is comprised of Volga Germans who emigrated to Michigan, and we love our butter glace, wurst, and kuchen! Thanks for posting :)


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