Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Grape Jelly Cocktail Meatballs and Smokies Sausages

Grape jelly meatballs, made with homemade or frozen meatballs, chili sauce and grape jelly, are classic south and always a crowd favorite for any gathering.

Grape Jelly Cocktail Meatballs

Cocktail meatballs with grape jelly sauce. As country as that may sound to some, these little meatballs - and sometimes little smokies (or Lit'l Smokies) sausages - drenched in a sauce of grape jelly with tomato based chili sauce is just outright loved down south. I think it will always be.

Except for the addition of hot pepper jelly, these are pretty much the original meatballs and Little Smokies sausages from that I personally have been making since the 70s, and the same ones my Mama made for every single catered affair she ever did.

They may be considered low brow by some folks, but they are Classic South, people expect to see them at a party and we are totally endeared to them down here! They are easy, simple, and always a crowd favorite for any gathering. Simply delicious - but better make plenty, because they disappear quick!

I used to love when my relatives would host open house parties over the holidays. We used to go from house to house to house and visit and catch up, eat and well, back in the day, there might have been a bit of "spirits" involved, and I don't mean the supernatural kind. It was a different time back then is all I can say! Nobody needed invitations, it was just sort of a given on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve and pretty much all day.

Of course, if you decide to host a New Year's Eve Open House - sans the alcohol to avoid any problems - easier than policing the designated drivers, you can do it a bit more formally and send out invitations with specific times to tell people to feel free to drop by.

Whether it's a party of many, just the family or just the two of you, these meatballs are a great addition to the party menu. You can keep them going in a slow cooker and they are so good! I do have to say one thing here about that though. You must allow plenty of time for those frozen meatballs to cook through if you're using a slow cooker. I've been to a few parties where the meatballs were ice cold. You can follow the package direction to heat them before putting them in a crockpot, or just simply make sure that you allow enough time for them to get hot.

Laugh these off if you want to, but when my Mama was doing some catering work, this was the go-to recipe she used for those tiny cocktail sausages and meatballs that most everybody wanted. It's hard to believe that the base is made with grape jelly mixed with bottled chili sauce, but it sure is! Now folks, in case you don't know, chili sauce has nothing to do with "chili" as in chili with or without beans! It's actually a ketchup based sauce that looks like this - sort of a seasoned ketchup if you will:

Heinz Chili Sauce is a tomato based product, containing tomato puree, onion, garlic and other seasonings

I'm not personally a big fan of the little sausages so I prefer the meatballs over the sausages. The Cajun loves the sausages. The meatballs just seem to soak up the sauce better. Course, if you don't want to make your own meatballs, you can certainly use the pre-made frozen ones with this sauce too. The sauce is the star really.

If you're looking for a nibble for any party, these are a definite winner. Multiply it by however many pounds of sausages or meatballs you'll want to make depending on your number of guests.

Recipe: Grape Jelly Cocktail Meatballs and Lit'l Smokies Sausages

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 20 min |Cook time: 30 min | Yield: About 24 meatballs

  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 1/2 cup of bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup of onion, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup of olive, vegetable or canola oil, or vegetable shortening
  • 1 (12 ounce) bottle of chili sauce
  • 1 (10 ounce) jar of grape jelly
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of hot pepper jelly, optional

Mix the ground beef, bread crumbs, onion, milk, egg, parsley, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire. Gently shape into 1-inch balls.

Heat the oil in a large skillet and brown the meatballs. Remove the meatballs, set aside and pour off the fat from the skillet. Pour the chili sauce and the grape jelly into the skillet and heat, stirring constantly until all of the jelly has melted. To kick it up a bit, stir in some hot pepper jelly. Return the meatballs to the skillet and simmer, uncovered for about 30 minutes. To keep warm place into a chafing or warming dish, or deposit the whole skillet into a crockpot and keep covered on low, checking occasionally to make sure that meatballs are not crumbling.

Cook's Notes: I prefer to use Hillshire Farms Little Smokies, Heinz brand chili sauce and Welch's grape jelly. This recipe works great with pre-cooked, frozen meatballs, and they sure are a time saver. Just eliminate all of the meatball ingredients in the recipe, warm the sauce as above, then stir in the frozen meatballs with the heated sauce. Simmer on low to warm the meatballs through well, about 20 minutes, gently stirring them several times, then transfer them to a crockpot to keep warm if you like.

Frozen Meatballs in the Crockpot: Heat the sauce on the stovetop. Place frozen meatballs into the crockpot and follow the suggestion on the bag of your brand of meatballs for heating. Generally speaking you will need to allow about 3 hours for the meatballs to be ready to serve; about 2 hours on high, then another hour on low. Fresh cooked meatballs will only need to be held in the crockpot on low.

Cocktail Sausages: Substitute a pound of cocktail sausages for the meatballs, eliminate all other ingredients except for the chili sauce and grape jelly.

Variation: Try substituting a can of jellied cranberry sauce or small bottle of barbecue sauce in place of the grape jelly.

Source: http://deepsouthdish.com

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©Deep South Dish
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Posted by on December 30, 2008

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  1. This looks SOOO good! I am going to have to make it and take them into work tomorrow!! Do you think you could cook little smokies AND premade meatballs in the same crock pot? Give people a little variety?? Thanks so much!

    1. Not good to mix them together at work. If someone ends up with one meatball and two smokies in the plate it's like an x rated movie. Happened at my work once..funny for some but no one has a sense of humor anymore.

    2. Gracious. I just don't even know what to say!

  2. These ARE really good - it's a totally different flavor and people can never quite figure out where the flavors come from! Now make sure that you use the correct ratios depending on the number of meatballs & smokies - it's nearly 1 to 1. I haven't ever done them together - the Little Smokies are more solid than the meatballs which are a bit more delicate and liable to fall apart. Premade meatballs might work better than homemade if you're combining them. If you kept them on low and just turned them very gently so as not to break up the meatballs, it might be okay. Hope you try them, they are awesome!

  3. Guess I should be more clear what I mean on ratios! I'm talkin' about the ratios of the grape jelly to the chili sauce. Sorry 'bout that!

  4. I have been making a similar version of this before. Mine has not included worcestershire sauce - I will have to try that!

    I usually make mine with the addition to the little cocktail franks. I have also scooped out a pumpernickel break and have made this for a super bowl party!

    The other difference is that I generally make this one or two days before I serve it. I find that sitting in the juices (or gravy), it becomes that much more tasty.

    Thank you for posting this recipe!

  5. Hi Anony - the Worcestershire sauce is for the meatballs but it's not much - just a couple dashes for the flavor. It's my old standby basic meatball recipe. I like the meatballs the best - not a big fan of the smokies (tho my husband is) so I'll have to try doing the marinade method and see if I like the sausages better. Thanks!

  6. We also make them with grape jelly and mustard...sounds like a strange combo, but MMM-mmmm-GOOD! :)

  7. Doesn't sound strange to me at all Sheryl - thanks!

  8. My variation of doing these is with grape jelly and bbq sauce. Same 1 to 1 ratio and very addictive!

    1. Don't think you could go wrong with any variation of this oldie really! Thanks for sharing your version.

  9. Fixing to cook some up for my superbowl party...we absolutely love these.

  10. I made these last night- I used barbecue sauce and grape jelly. I doubled the recipe because I knew it was going to be good. I made yellow rice with black beans and corn. It all disappeared. I have 1 girl and 3 boys. They devoured it. No complaints. Next time I make this, I will have to make two batches and hide a batch for leftovers.... Yum Yum Yum!!

    1. Yay! Always a good sign when the kids devour a dish. I just love these little meatballs! So glad to hear your family did too & thank you SO much for taking the time to come back and comment. I appreciate that!

  11. I made these last night- I used barbecue sauce AND grape jelly. I doubled the recipe because I have 1 girl and 3 boys. I served it with yellow rice and I added black beans and corn. They devoured this. No Leftovers. Next time when I make this, I will have to make 2 batches and hide a batch for leftovers. YUM YUM YUM!!!

  12. Made these for my nephews 8th grade graduation after party. They were a hit! I tripled the recipe. I didn't have a lot of time so instead of pan browning them I cooked them in the oven on two cookie sheets for about 40 min then transferred to crockpot with the sauce to keep warm. Thanks so much!

    1. You're so welcome & glad to hear they were a hit Kim! They are definitely an oldie but a goodie & everybody still seems to love them even still today!

  13. Let me tell you something that goes amazing with these meatballs. Hawaiin Rolls. Slap one or two in a roll and go to town. Amazing!

    1. After reading D.D.'s suggestion, I bought some Hawaiian sweet hamburger buns and put the grape jelly meatballs on these for dinner last night. And go to town we went! This was an awesome dinner!!! We finished it off for lunch, they were that good. I used frozen meatballs this time but will be trying your homemade version soon enough. I can't wait to see what they taste like with the worcestershire sauce. And I used your homemade chili sauce in this and it was great! Thank you!
      -And thanks to D.D too!!

  14. I always found it easier to place the meatballs on a baking sheet & bake them at 375F for 15 - 20 minutes as there is not need to turn & they don't crumble this way... just a suggestion ;)

    1. And it's a good one! I do that often when I make meatballs too - just a little bit easier to manage.

  15. For a little added zip try replacing the grape jelly with roasted raspberry chipolte sauce... Delicious! :)

    1. Thanks for the suggestion - that cannot be anything but GOOD!!

    2. Hi Mary! I remember this from my childhood (born in VA) and was wondering what you though of a sauce of Grape Jelly and General Tso's Sauce? I am not the biggest fan of Asian cuisine, but I LOVE General Tso's Sauce over plain white rice with baby peas.

      You can buy bottles of Gen. Tso's Sauce from Walmart.com so I imagine they are available just about anywhere. I am not the world's greatest cook but I think the 2 flavors together would rock and I just might try this in the future with pre-made beef meatballs!

    3. Ooooo I bet that would be amazing Rich!!

  16. I use frozen Italian meatballs, grape jelly, a can of crushed pineapple, and a little brown sugar.

  17. I use frozen Italian meatballs, grape jelly, a can of crushed pineapple, and a little brown sugar.

  18. These have always been a favorite of mine!! So addictive.....I find myself going back for more...and more!! Oh goodness! Pinning it!!

  19. I absolutely love u!!!! U are a bad a mamma jamma!!! Every recipe I've tried is full proof and fantastic! I tried ur Sriracha wings n I wanted ur opinion on substituting Sriracha sauce with the chili sauce used here.... just thoughts.....love those wings to Hun

    1. Hey Ashley! I know it'd be good but you'll want to dilute that sriracha sauce with some chili sauce or ketchup so the heat isn't too overpowering I think.


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