Retro Meatballs

By now you are aware that I tend to gravitate toward spicy foods. In highlighting this “Sweet and Tangy Retro Meatballs” appetizer, it’s like taking a trip in the way-back machine because I vaguely remember this being popular back in, dare I say, the 70’s! We recently came across it while on our iPad researching an appetizer to bring to a New Year’s Eve party. It was listed in the Seattle Times online newspaper from a fellow named Robert Levine of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (my home state!) Although it was titled “Grape Jelly/Chili Sauce Meatballs,” I prefer my title…

I tweaked the recipe a touch to reduce the amount of grape jelly resulting in a spicier sauce. So if you prefer them a little sweeter, adjust the jelly and chili sauce accordingly. Whisk the ingredients well on a low simmer while you prepare and cook the meatballs. If you will be transporting them to a party, throw it all into a crockpot… just make sure there is an outlet available when you get there. This appetizer holds up fabulously well for hours in the crockpot on low heat.

You have to heat the chili sauce and grape jelly until well-combined. In this photo, the ingredients have not yet melded together.
You have to heat the chili sauce and grape jelly until well-combined. In this photo, the ingredients have not yet melded together.
Recipe (makes 20-25 meatballs)

I usually double the amounts, depending on the size of party.

Sauce:
12 oz. (1 bottle) Heinz Chili Sauce
16 oz. grape jelly

Meatballs:
1 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef (we use meatloaf mix)
1/2 dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup tomato ketchup
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

  1. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine chili sauce and grape jelly in a pot over medium-low heat until melted and well combined, about 15-20 minutes. Stir often with whisk.
  3. Combine meat, breadcrumbs, ketchup, beaten egg, onion, salt and pepper in large bowl.
  4. Form into meatballs, 1 inch in diameter. Place on rimmed baking sheet.
  5. Cook in oven for 20 minutes. Let cool slightly. Add to crockpot or other serving vessel, pour sauce over meatballs and serve.

And if there are leftovers that you won’t be using for a while, just freeze them in an airtight ziploc.

I came across another version by Emeril Lagasse in which he uses Worcestershire sauce, grated parmesan and minced garlic in the meatball mix, with ketchup (instead of chili sauce) and a squirt of sriracha in the grape jelly. He cooks them in a heavy skillet, turning until brown on all sides. He then pours the sauce over the meat and cooks for an additional 20 minutes in a 350 oven. I find it much easier to cook in the oven from the start, with no need to turn the meatballs (unless you feel you should because your oven cooks unevenly.)

Let me know how you tweaked your meatballs 🙂
Start planning that retro party now!
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