The smell of them cooking always takes me back to my grandma's kitchen. She always had the roaster oven full of meatballs when the clan would gather in the fall for duck hunting seaon...meatballs, fresh homemade bread, and the smell of the peat bogs burning as we approached town are all smells that take me to my grandma's house still today.
Back to the meatballs. One of my Swedish cookbooks has NINE variations for Swedish meatballs. Some people put a hint of ground cardamon in, others use allspice, ginger, nutmeg, some just use allspice, some swear by nutmeg. Some use equal parts ground pork and beef, others use more beef than pork. Some toss the meatballs in seasoned flour before browning, others not. Some brown the onions first, others don't. My grandma used what she had on hand--cream and day-old homemade white bread. Sometimes she had pork, which she ground using the trusty hand meat grinder attached to her kitchen table, other times she used beef and ground venison. She lived in a remote, rural community in Northern MN. Great cooks there, but not a lot of variety at the grocery store back then.
My grandmother's family was from Northern Sweden, my grandfather's family was from Gothenburg, which is in the south. So my grandmother's meatballs probably were a blend of the two family's, or, maybe they were her MIL's.
What my grandma called lingonberry sauce was probably made with wild red currants or high-bush cranberry or high-bush cranberry and wild red currants and was ALWAYS stirred into the gravy. Sometimes she would add grated gjetost, which boasts the gravy up a notch (and that is probably how I use most of my annual allotment of gjetost--grated in sour cream beef gravy with lingonberry sauce--excellent on roast beef or venison--not just Swedish meatballs [Grandma's meatballs--we dropped the Swedish--seemed redundant since Grandma only made one kind of meatball and was 100% Swedish]).
Lingonberries are not indigenous to MN, although there is no reason why the bushes could not grow there (I'm going to have to find some lingonberry bushes to plant at the farm...have high-bush cranberry...should be able to grow lingonberries). High-bush cranberry and red currants, however, are. She probably was told by her mother that the red currants were like lignonberries and that's why she added the red currant jelly or sauce to the gravy. I remember picking both with her.
Bottomline, my grandma's Swedish Meatball recipe is adapted so her mother could make them in MN after they immigrated, and so my grandma could make them for her family, and so on, and so on.
Besides the milk/cream, the sauce is what makes them different. And, truthfully, I could eat that gravy on plain bread and call it a meal. And it is to die for on poutine...