Magic Meatballs

Throughout my childhood, my mom had a subscription to Good Housekeeping magazine. My love of magazines and reading probably developed in part from me thumbing through her copy each month. We would look at the recipes together to see if there was anything we wanted to try. When I was really small, she would give me the old copies and I’d cut out pictures of things and make little collages and scrapbooks.

Some of the best recipes-in my opinion-were the ones that were part of product advertisements. (Remember my Chinese Chicken Pasta Salad?) This recipe for cocktail meatballs came from a Heinz Chili Sauce ad. The original recipe called for you to make your meatballs from scratch but when I moved to a town with an actual supermarket and realized you could buy meatballs already made, well, there was no more making of a homemade meatball for me.

The recipe is super simple, and there are several variations of it floating around. A few years ago, I read a not very good novel called Single Wife. One of the subplots to the story was a woman’s “secret” meatball recipe which turned out to be this one. I found that really funny.

The toughest food critics-my husband, my niece, and my dad-all love these meatballs and I’m sort of the designated meatball maker for Christmas Eve gatherings. I’ve also made these for a lot of office potlucks. They keep warm well in a slow cooker.

Magic Meatballs
2lbs frozen meatballs
1 cup Heinz Chili Sauce
1 cup Grape Jelly

In a small saucepan, combine chili sauce and jelly. I like to put the sauce on for about a minute or two before the jelly so that it warms the jelly faster. Keep the heat on medium and stir occasionally until melted. Turn the heat down if the sauce should start to boil. The high sugar content of the jelly can cause a scorch in the bat of an eye.

While your sauce is coming together, thaw your meatballs in the microwave according to package directions.

Put thawed meatballs into a large two handle saucepan if you plan to use the stovetop or into a slow cooker sprayed with cooking spray if you choose that route. When sauce is smooth and the jelly is melted, pour it over the meatballs and stir gently to cover all of the meatballs. For stovetop: let simmer on low until the meatballs are warmed through. For slow cooker: I cook on low for about 2 hours then switch to warm. Again, you have to be mindful that the high sugar content can cause the sauce to burn.

I’ve had people tell me that they toss the frozen meatballs, jelly, and sauce into a slow cooker with no prior heating and it works just as well. I haven’t tried that but I’m sure it would be fine, it would just take longer cooking. I’ve also seen variations of the recipe that use cranberry sauce rather than chili sauce.


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