Is there a dish that reminds of you of a specific person? When it comes to my grandmother’s, there are many dishes that remind me of them. But that shouldn’t be too surprising, since Jewish grandmother’s (well, all grandmother’s) have a way with food.
Today’s memory is Sweet and Sour Meat Balls and it’s coming directly from my grandmother’s recipe book. She refers to “meatballs” as “meat balls”, so I too will refer to them as meat balls. Hannah as we called her (she thought grandma aged her) could very well be described as the original Paula Dean, minus the accent, but with the same love of butter.
There’s just something about these meat balls, they are soft, moist and full of flavor and yet the sweet sauce that it’s cooked in is possibly even better than the meat balls itself. It’s been about 15 years since I’ve had them, but when I tried one from the batch I made the taste was unmistakable. It was glorious and I was immediately brought back to a unfortuntely period of my childhood that involved a bowl cut, tapered jeans and one of those shocking hypercolor t-shirts. For a simpler review of the meat balls, I had my dad taste them, he just nodded, smiled and said “that’s exactly what it’s supposed to taste like”.
The recipe has stood the test of time, whether it’s 1960, 1985 or 2010, the only difference is that I had to interpret a few things since Hannah used a typewriter (yes typed!) her recipes and some specifics are missing since she could probably do this with her eyes closed. My interpretations are in italics.
- 1 lb hamburger steak
- 2 eggs
- 1 large onion
- 1 large carrot
- 1/4 cup rice
- 1 tbsp. chicken fat (I looked around but couldn’t find any and didn’t have any in the fridge. I used oil, if anything, the chicken fat it makes the meat balls more amazing)
- 4 tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 can tomato juice (What size can? I had no idea. I used a cup of tomato juice)
- 1 can tomato sauce (Again, what size can? I went with a 540 ml can)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- Add eggs to meat and mix.
- Add rice, salt, and pepper and mix.
- Dice onion and brown lightly in chicken fat. (I used vegetable oil)
- Make meat balls and fry lightly till brown both sides. (I laughed, “both sides of a ball”, well, I did the top and bottom sides of the ball)
- Place grated onion and carrot in bottom of pot. (So the onion isn’t diced, it was sliced and it didn’t say what to do with the carrot, so I just sliced it very thinly)
- Place meat balls on top and add hot water to cover.
- Let boil 30 minutes or put in over at 350 F. (I went the stove option. I covered the pot and boiled for 30 minutes)
- Warm tomato juice, tomato sauce and brown sugar and bring to a boil
- Add juices and sugar to meat balls, bring to a boil and then simmer 2 hours or bake in over 3 hours. (I simmered the 1st hour with the lid on and took off the lid for the 2nd hour. If the sauce is still thin, leave the lid off and let it simmer away on low-medium heat. Stir occasionally, but let it tighten up until the sauce is nice and thick, like the picture above.)