Friday, August 31, 2007

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Everyone has to have a few go-to recipes to bring to a party, or feed a large crowd. Mine is the old sweet-n-sour meatballs. Or, if you prefer, "sweet 'n sour."

Sweet and Sour Meatballs on Noodles

I first fell in love with these at an opening night at a Kankakee Valley Theater show... Someone's mom brought them, and she couldn't believe I'd never had them. They're the sort of thing everyone who grows up in an organized small-town church has at everyone's house at any function. I think I must have had six pounds of the tasty suckers the first time I had them. I'd had Italian meatballs, and Swedish meatballs, but dang. Those protestant ones sure hit the spot.

Any time you need something to bring to a baby shower or a tailgate party, this here's your huckleberry. You can make most of it the night before (raw meat right in the sauce) and put the Crockpot in the fridge, then the next day cook them at your event. Or, you could cook them overnight, then bring them cooked and warm to your destination early in the morning, and even reheat them later in the slow cooker. I've done both. Just be prepared to skim some grease off the top (if you use beef, not really so much with the turkey) before serving.

I think I originally got this recipe on but I've changed it a bit (and this version reflects that). Despite the Asian-sounding name to the dish, they're nothing of the kind... Just the delightful "meat candy" I'm always on about.

1 cup soft bread crumbs
1 cup milk
a couple shots of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup finely chopped onion (REALLY fine)
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef, or ground turkey
1/ pound lean ground pork, optional (I generally do just 2 lbs. turkey, or sometimes beef if I'm going cheap. Hey, sometimes you got a whole other party budget to plan out.)
1 egg
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
about 1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 cup finely diced parsley (if you have it)
2 (12-ounce) bottles of chili sauce -- generic is fine
1/2 cup water (beef stock or beer is also nice, and yes, alcohol evaporates when heated)
1 jar (10 oz.) grape jelly (again, go generic)
hot cooked rice or noodles (when feeding a crowd, I just bring toothpicks, a large serving spoon, and skip the noodles)

Combine the bread crumbs, milk, diced onion, ground meat, egg, salt, pepper, garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce, and parsley. Mix (don't overmix) the mixture and shape into 1-inch balls. What I do is put the rest of the ingredients (the sauce) into the cool slow cooker and whisk the liquid. Then I just add the meatballs as I form them, right into the sauce. I don't worry about them touching or anything. Now, you can refrigerate them like this, or cook them right away.

I cook them for about 6 hours on low. Don't reach in and stir them for about 3 hours (until the meat has begun to cook). Then you can re-distribute them, and they won't mush up or break apart.

I have never, ever brought these anywhere and not had every single one eaten. And I've been making these for years now... So I always take some out for Chris and I before I go to the party. You can freeze them raw in sauce and cook them later, or just freeze the cooked meatballs and warm them later. Always a hit (except with the vegetarian crowd I guess... But if they say they aren't tempted, they're lying.)


  1. KVT parties always had good food...but I don't remember these there? CTW put out quite a spread for opening night too. Then I went to college and there was no food allowed in the dressing rooms or backstage.
    I also think we missed out on stuff like this because we weren't Baptist. Several of my favorite dishes now were apparently what most folks are raised on at church potlucks...I just discovered them when we moved down here and started going to the two churches...I had the meatballs for the first time at a church NYE party. I was like "seriously, there's jelly in these?" Thanks for the recipe!

  2. Seriously, that's what I'm saying! Not to dog out the Catholics, but that protestant food... Yum. :P

    I had these backstage during Gypsy, so that would explain why you don't remember... I had the same reaction, "Really? Jelly? Huh!"

  3. Ok, this has nothing to do with meatballs, although I've had a recipe similar to this one and they are de-lish. Anyway, I just thought I'd tell you that your cooking fame is spreading through Central Illinois. I went to my cooking club tonight and brought your cornbread. They all went crazy over it. They also went crazy over the "corn casserole" that someone else brought....using the exact same recipe, except she puts in the entire can of corn & creamed corn. Anyway, I quickly informed her that she calls her recipe by the wrong name, duct taped her mouth, hog tied her, and hid her and her corn "casserole" in the closet for the entire evening. I mean, it was like wearing the same prom dress...and I didn't want anyone stealing your recipe's thunder!