I’m not really sure when this dish became “Jewish,” but it was certainly a staple of my grandmother’s repertoire, and probably yours. Most of the iterations call for dumping either Welch’s grape jelly or Heinz chili sauce (or both) into the Crockpot. It’s sort of Chinese, sort of Swedish, sort of sweet-and-sour cabbage from the old country, and very American. Skip the slow cooker and sear the meatballs first. My safta added sliced pineapples or green bell peppers for garnish.
Reprinted from Eat Something by Evan Bloom with permission by Chronicle Books, 2020.
For the meatballs:
- 1 lb (455 g) 80/20 ground beef (80% lean beef and 20% fat)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- ½ cup (80 g) grated yellow onion, with liquid (about ½ a medium onion)
- 1½ tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup (70 g) fine dry bread crumbs
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
For the sauce:
- One 12 oz (360 ml) can pineapple juice
- 3 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ cup (50 g) golden brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- ¼ cup (60 ml) hot water
- To make the meatballs, in a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, egg, onion, salt, and pepper. Using clean hands, mix until well blended. Slowly add the bread crumbs, a little at a time, working them into the meat mixture until evenly combined. Form into small balls by rolling 1½ Tbsp of meat between your hands. Set aside the meatballs on a large plate or baking sheet.
- Heat the oil in large cast-iron skillet or other heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Working in batches, sear the meatballs, undisturbed, for 2 to 3 minutes until well browned, and turn with a wooden spoon and sear for 2 minutes more. Remove the meatballs from the pan using a slotted spoon and set aside.
- To make the sauce, in a medium Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat, combine the pineapple juice, soy sauce, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce. Whisk lightly to combine and heat until the liquid simmers lightly, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the brown sugar and the tomato paste, whisking well until smooth.
- Turn the heat to medium-low. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and hot water until smooth to create a slurry. Slowly add the slurry to the hot sauce mixture, whisking constantly to create a smooth sauce. Return the heat to medium and carefully add the seared meatballs to the pan, stirring to coat. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the sauce is glossy and coats the back of a spoon and the meatballs are cooked through.
- Serve immediately with toothpicks. These can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat the meatballs in the sauce over medium-low heat for 10 to 12 minutes.