Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Let's Make Meatballs...

I know, I know. You're asking yourself what meatballs have to do with decor, organization, or leading a beautiful life. Simple! A life with meatballs is beautiful, and a freezer full of lovely meal options is a huge step toward being organized.  As for decor, I guess you could hang a meatball mobile - but I wouldn't recommend that.  However, the less time spent cooking leaves more time for working on your DIY projects or hanging out with the kids.

This recipe started with my Italian grandma, who was actually a pretty horrible cook. Just because you're a little old Italian lady doesn't make you a good cook. My Mom, who was a wonderful cook, revised and perfected the basic recipe. Thanks Mom!!

I buy all my meat from Costco because I am assured the quality is topnotch. DO NOT use bargain, bottom of the barrel ground beef or your meatballs will not be good.  Sometimes you have to weigh quality over quantity or price. It's not thrifty to buy nasty tasting meat.

I started by throwing a cheap (cheap is ok for the bread) loaf of wheat bread the day before into my HUGE metal bowl. Rip it up and let it dry out overnight. Mine sat in the bowl overnight and half the next day. 

Next, throw in the ground beef. My package weighed in at 6.38 lbs.  I don't use veal on principle. 
Grab a full bunch of parsley and chop it up. 
Parsley is one of the important ingredients so don't skimp. 

Plain ground pork has gotten so expensive and rather hard to find that now I use Jimmy Dean sausage from Costo. The 3 lb package is only about $5.00 and some odd change. Chop off about 2/3 of this and throw it in with the bread, ground beef, and parsley.   

Premix all of this with your hands. Fun!

Throw in some Parmesan cheese. I use Kraft (also from Costco - waaaaaaay cheaper than the local grocery store.)  I use home-grated imported cheese to dress my dishes, but that could be rather pricey for meatballs. Kraft is fine for meatballs.

Grab some garlic. For this batch I used four large cloves. Want to use more? Go ahead. This is meatball making, not chemistry 101 where a mistake could kill you.

Pull out your blender. This is my new Oster blender (from, guess where? You betcha! Costco) Isn't it pretty?

Throw the garlic in the blender and give it a few gentle twirls.  Add olive oil. I'm guessing I used about 1/2 cup. Pop in three eggs. Use fewer if you make a smaller batch.

Add more parsley - this time dry.  I used some Johnny's Season Salt, hot peppers (just a little), granular onion, some more garlic, and mixed it all up.  Add some milk and THIS IS AN IMPORTANT INGREDIENT - FENNEL SEEDS!! I added about 4 Tb.  The wonderful licorice taste of fennel seeds is what make Italian sausage Italian and adds zip to your balls.  Just a couple spins after adding the fennel. You just want to mix it in, not pulverize the poor stuff.  Pour this into the bowl and start mixing it all up with your hands. 

I have an old cast iron pan I use for the cooking part. You can use anything except a non-stick pan.  High heat cooking releases ugly stuff from Teflon and it's not good for the pan. I fry my balls in lard because that's what my Mom used.  It works well and is cheap. You want about an inch of fat for frying. Remember, the balls will take up room and you don't want hot oil running all over your kitchen.

While the lard is melting, put a piece of foil next to the stove. Start rolling those balls and lining them up on the foil.  This is where you want to get into a rhythm or what some folks call the "zone."  Roll, fry, roll some more, and so on.  We want to get through this part as quickly as possible so we can get to the reward part. If you look closely in the next picture you can see the cute balls lined up on the foil (upper right in the photo.)

Leave some room in the pan for turning and rolling those balls. There's really quite a bit of room around the balls in my pan, even though the picture makes it seem like they're jammed in.  You will want to turn them soon after dropping them in the fat or they will crack.  Don't heat the lard to the point where it will bubble or splatter, but not so low of a temp that they slog around soaking up fat.

You'll know when they're done by just pressing on them. When they feel firm, take them out.  Do not overcook. Remember they will continue to cook a bit after taking them out of the pan.

Reward time

Grab a couple "test" balls to see if you need to adjust the seasoning.  Rarely will that happen, but we need an excuse to chow down.  I find that I must test a ball after every batch that I've fried. Yesterday that amounted to about 8 balls. My bad!!

I'm being lady like here with a fork and all. My preferred method is fingers.  Notice the slight pink tinge?  If those balls had remained in the bowl instead of heading immediately for my tummy, the pink would be gone in about 5 minutes as they continued to cook in the bowl.

This is about half of the balls all piled up in their wonderfulness!! Now, isn't that beautiful??

When the last batch goes in, quick like a bunny, wash up your bowls and such.  I leave out a few balls for hubby, and the rest I put on cookie sheets, cover and freeze. When they are frozen, I seal them in batches using my vacuum sealer. I ended up with over a hundred balls for the freezer which will take care of us for the entire winter.  I usually only make meatballs twice, or at most, three times per year.

Let the lard cool in the pan, spoon it into the foil you used for the balls, and throw it away.  My Mom used to strain hers and keep it in a jar in the fridge, but with lard being so cheap and all, I'd rather just throw it away. Sorry Mom!

Total time investment?  Hmmmmmmmm, lets see - about two hours for a winter's worth of meat balls.


Lee Laurie said...

Wow! Now you got me wanting to go make a bunch of meatballs! I remember making tons of them for my daughter's wedding reception. That was a lot of meatballs! Your recipe sounds so much yummier! Thanks!

Adrienne said...

Wait for a rainy day! ;-)

nazareth priest said...

We have benefactors who give us both beef and pork.
I'll have to try this soon. Thanks!

Mrsupole said...

I just might have to try and make some of these when my shoulder heals, so it will be quite a few months from now, cause hubby will probably not be willing to do this. But now you got me wanting spaghetti and meatballs. Yummy. Thanks for sharing this with us.

God bless.

Agnes B Bullock said...

Will be making these this weekend- what a great recipe!!!!!

Lola said...

Mighty tasty Meatballs!

This is so much better than those pre-made things I've bought for an in a pinch meal.

I can get the darlings to help with this. A fun gooey time.
Thank you for the photos, it'll be easier to follow along for the five year old.

Terry Nelson said...

I would so eat anything you cooked - I am starved!

Honey! I got my plants - you are an angel - I'll plant them tomorrow morning! Thank you, thank you. Thank you.

I can't find your email address so please email me so I can put you on my contacts again - also your address again. Sorry - I'm scattered.

I won't send you any hosta until spring - in the meantime - anything you need? Like? Want?

Aussie Therese said...

okay. I am going to try these meat balls. I love them in tomato soup with spaghetti.