It's something my mom used to make! It's actually my mom's mom's recipe. Lots of sweet stuff in the sauce. I have now taken over the family tradition and I make it every year for Thanksgiving. We have a lot of people at Thanksgiving and we have tons of appetizers before the real dinner. My meatballs have become a part of our tradition. Now my daughters help me make it every year. Their favorite part is rolling the meatballs and counting how many we make.
- 8 oz grape jelly
- 1 bottle chili sauce (Bennetts is the best)
- ½ cup water
- 1 tbsp light brown sugar
- ¼ cup BBQ sauce (on the sweeter side is better, like Sweet Baby Ray’s)
- 2 tbsp lemon juice (fresh is best)
- 2 lbs 85% lean ground beef (You don’t really want to use sirloin because it will be too dry; a little fat is good for this dish.)
- 1 egg
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- Garlic powder
One recipe makes about 50 1-inch meatballs. You may want to adjust based on number of people in your party and if they are for appetizers or a meal.
Use a large pot. It must be deep and wide enough for the sauce to cover the meatballs during cooking.
- Mix jelly, chili sauce, water, brown sugar, BBQ sauce and lemon juice directly in the cooking pot. Stir.
- Simmer for 1 hour in a covered pot until it turns a bit thicker (it will not completely thicken).
- Stir periodically with a wooden slotted spoon to help the jelly dissolve. It will take a good portion of the cooking time for the jelly “chunks” to dissolve, so do not worry. The cooking and stirring will help that happen.
When the sauce has cooked about halfway (30 minutes), start the meatballs.
- Mix well the ground beef, egg, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and garlic powder.
- Roll 1-inch meatballs. (If the meat starts to stick to your hands, dab your palms with a drop of water, no more, and continue rolling.)
- After the sauce has simmered for an hour, begin to drop the meatballs into the sauce slowly and delicately.
- Use a slotted wooden spoon to gently make room for the new meatballs.
- Simmer 30 minutes.
Make-ahead tip: Meatballs are even better when made a day ahead of time and kept in the cooking pot with the sauce. They get sweeter and yummier. Place in the fridge overnight. The next morning you will see a hard orange covering over the meatballs. No need to worry, this is just fat that has risen to the top while cooling. Use a fork to get out as much of the fat as possible. Stir and heat, and the remaining tiny bits of fat will dissolve.
Serving ideas: They look great in a small, pretty chafing dish with a low fire underneath. Provide pretty toothpicks or small forks for guests. If making for a meal, make meatballs just a bit larger and serve over white rice.