Monday, November 9, 2009


A Meatball Time Line:
  • Newly-married... spaghetti is a big part of our diet. Attempted the meatballs from Betty Crocker Good 'n Easy Cookbook. Unremarkable. I don't bother making them again.
  • Trader Joe's opened nearby and we opted to buy their frozen turkey meatballs.
  • My job got outsourced... shifted over to the fresh meatballs at CostCo. More meatballs for less money (and they were tasty too).
  • CostCo stops carrying the tasty meatballs... we start buying the frozen CostCo meatballs.
  • Had to tighten our belts even more*. We return to the arena of the homemade meatball and attempt to identify the secret ingredient in the CostCo meatballs that we loved**. We think caraway seed is it. Made a big batch of meatballs (>4 doz.) to freeze. We were wrong about the caraway seed. Meatballs were not horrible, but not great either.
  • Research herbs, spices and meatballs online... now believe secret ingredient to be: fennel seed. Still had a couple dozen "meatblahs" to wade through before we could try it out.
  • Time passes...
...And here we are today: We have bought the fennel seed, hit up CostCo for what seemed like a truckload of ground meats, and are ready for our next attempt. So, while my man is out front chopping wood, I am making thousands of meatballs. By evening we will be all set for the coming winter. My soundtrack? The smooth, cool, mellow and haunting double discs of Billie Holiday - Lady In Autumn: Best Of The Verve Years. I am in no hurry. I am a meatball making machine. I am in the zone.

The Meatballs:
Used these two recipes for inspiration/cook times/etc...
Totally Tender Meatballs in Tomato Sauce from TheKitchn
Caraway Pork Meatballs with Tzatziki
at EatingOutLoud

3 lbs ground beef
3 lbs ground sausage (I used Jimmy Dean)
4 eggs
8 slices sandwich bread, torn into small pieces
1.5 yellow onions (CostCo sized), minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp dried Rosemary
1 Tbsp Fennel Seed
1 tsp Caraway Seed
1 Tbsp sea salt
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
1 Tbsp dried parsley
2 tsp ground black pepper

Mushed it all together with my hands. Used small cookie scoop to plop semi-uniform amounts of mixture onto foil lined baking sheets (24 per sheet). Rolled each mound into balls. Baked two sheets at a time for 20 minutes at 375°, swapping tray positions after 10 minutes. Let cool in pan. Roll meatballs off of their little fat puddles. Freeze on pan for 20 minutes, then drop into a large freezer bag and store in freezer. Made 4 pans of 24 meatballs (96 total), plus there was enough meat mixture left for....

The Meatloaf:
Referred to the following recipe for reassurance, time, and temp:
Basic Meatloaf, Page 495, How To Cook Everything, 1998

Added a can of corn (drained) to the excess meat and mixed it in. Formed two smallish meatloaves in loaf pans. Made a trough down the length of each and filled with ketchup, like Mom used to. Baked at 350° for 45 minutes (or to 160° on instant-read thermometer), rotating pans halfway through. They shrunk considerably. Poured off fat and juices from both, sliced and served one, froze the other.

Notes: A little too much onion; mince smaller and only use one CostCo-sized onion. Could stand more garlic, fennel, and pepper. Try fresh rosemary next time (hopefully I'll have some growing in the yard when the time comes to make more. [hint hint]). Surgical gloves would have made this go much easier. Not because of any squeamishness over touching raw meat either (I'm pretty much over that). But, once both hands are in it, you're kind of stuck if there's nobody around to help you answer the phone, turn on the tap, or touch... anything. In lieu of gloves, maybe I could put plastic baggies over the faucet handles. That would at least make it easier to wash my hands when I need to.

*This is only an expression having to do with watching our spending. We did not lose weight.
**The tasty meatballs came in a clear plastic two-bag pack surrounded by a cardboard sleeve. We separated the packs and stored them in the freezer, so the outer packaging was long since recycled. It probably just listed it as "Spices" anyway. That always bugs me. Which spices? Why don't they want you to know?
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