Today I made gryn. It’s something my dad ate growing up in a Swedish-American farming community in Iowa. Later on, my mom would make it for him — and only him. I don’t think she ever partook, and neither did my sisters or myself.
It’s a hard word to pronounce. Here’s the closest approximation I can come up with. Say the word “grin” and notice how the corners of your mouth spread apart and you show your teeth, just like when you — literally — grin or smile. Then, say “grin” again, but instead form your lips into an “O” shape.
In an account of his life, my dad had this to say about gryn:
“Another Swedish dish that I really like very much is gryn — literally barley. The ingredients are pearl barley and ground-up pork liver and pork steak. It jells after the initial cooking and then it is sliced and fried. Jean had made it quite successfully using various livers such as lamb or beef liver, but the real flavor comes when pork liver is used. . . . Most people turn up their noses at the smell and taste of it.”
I’m not sure why he says it “jells.” To me, that connotes congealing or a gelatinous nature. The result of my culinary effort, after combining the ground-up pork liver and pork steak with the barley and pressing the mixture into two medium-size loaf pans, looks kind of like a meat loaf.
(A side note: After boiling the meat, I had opportunity to use my mother’s vintage meat grinder. Generally, I get it out once a year to make deviled ham from the ham I often bake at Christmas or New Year’s. It’s heavy iron, and looks a lot like this picture from eBay.)
The two loaf pans are chilling in the refrigerator. Not tomorrow, but maybe Thursday, I will fry up a slice and see how it is.