The Meatball Dynasty: Before IKEA, There Was GRANDMA

MY GREAT-Grandparents emigrated from Sweden and Finland in the early 1900’s, and settled in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It was a tough, spare existence in a copper mining town, and both my Grandma and Grandpa moved to the big city of Detroit in the 1920’s where they met, fell in love and married.

I grew up hearing stories about the Roaring Twenties (bathtub gin!), the Great Depression (sharing a house with friends) and World War II (waiting for news around the radio)— but Grandma Gullberg talked very little about her childhood in Calumet.

Grandma’s father, Antti, was a copper miner who died suddenly, leaving a young wife with nine young children to support. Her mother, Anna, and the older children took on sundry jobs in town and at the mining camp instead of taking charity; the family survived, but Grandma knew her only hope for a future was working downstate as a stenographer in Henry Ford’s bustling metropolis.

Grandma Gullberg 1925

At nineteen she packed a slim bag and said good-by to the Upper Peninsula, her siblings and her brave, fierce mother.

Stoically, Grandma never looked back, refusing to ever discuss what she’d left behind in Calumet and what she must have dearly missed…

Instead, she cooked us the food that connected her to home: kåldolmar, pickled herring, glögg and MEATBALLS!

Meatballs mean family to me; they conjure memories of Grandma’s kitchen on Christmas Eve, and still centerpiece our extended family get-togethers.

Scandinavians aren’t known for communicating emotion, so I cherish this old recipe that spells out an unspoken link to the past and to the people I love ♥

Köttbullar: Gullberg’s Swedish Meatballs

1 lb. ground roundsteak

½ lb. ground lean pork

½ cup chopped onions

½ cup bread crumbs or raw grated potatoes

2 cups milk or water

2 egg-yolks, 1 egg-white

Salt and pepper to taste

“Sauté onions and mix with meat and other ingredients. Work mixture 15 minutes. Put in icebox for at least 2 hours. Roll into balls and fry in hot fat or butter, browning balls all around. Deep fat frying makes them brown outside, and tasty and moist inside.”

Note: in the spirit of our Yooper Swede ancestors, we do not add cardamom, allspice, cream sauce or gravy! We DO add family, gratitude and big dashes of dry Scandi-humor to this tasty, traditional recipe.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.