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That Crockpot Meatball Recipe that Has Grape Jelly In It

Is it decent?

Here's why I ask. I am going to a potluck in a couple of weekends, and I plan to bring a crockpot full of meatballs. My default is in a nice red sauce, a not-too-arrabiata arrabiata.

Anyway, one of my sisters in law was reminiscing about a recipe from their childhood, which involved meatballs simmered in chili sauce (not siracha, the ketchup-y kind that's kinda like cocktail sauce) and grape jelly mixed in a 50-50 ratio.

Is this genius or gross? Has anyone tried it? Should I??

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  1. Gross. I've had meatballs in a sauce with much less grape jelly than 50% and it really stood out and tasted odd.

    1 Reply
    1. re: akq

      That's my hunch, though I wanted to ask. I am guessing that it aims to be sweet and spicy but I can't get over the grape hurdle.

    2. I know a lot of people that really love this- I've never had it, though.

      1. I grew up w/ the grape jelly and chili sauce recipe -50/50 jelly and kraft chili sauce(next to ketchup in the condiment aisle) slow cooked in the crock pot a least 6 hours. Perhaps "low brow", but never any leftovers.

        9 Replies
        1. re: sherriberry

          That's my experience, too. It's one of those easy potluck dishes that everyone raves about, and disappears quickly. I don't think it's gross, it's much better than I'd think, but not something I'd make for myself.

          1. re: sherriberry

            Is it a regional thing? Like scrapple to a Philadelphian like me? If you grew up with it, you love it and if you didn't, it's gross?

            1. re: sherriberry

              The only references to Kraft Chili Sauce I can find seem to be in Germany, and they all indicate that this is discontinued. Do you mean Heinz?

              Interestingly, while the Kraft website has a recipe for these, they don't specify a brand of Chili Sauce, which I'm guessing they would if they made one. More interesting: as the meatball filler/binder, rather than bread crumbs, they specify Stove Top Stuffing Mix. Will have to try this.

              1. re: acgold7

                I see Heinz Chili Sauce in supermarkets all the time, right by the ketchup. I used to adore that stuff!

                1. re: StrandedYankee

                  Right, that's the only brand I generally see as well. But then again I'm not usually looking for it. I suppose there could be others.

                  1. re: StrandedYankee

                    I remember Del Monte Chili Sauce was the main brand. Maybe it's a West coast v. East coast regional brand. I haven't looked in ages for that stuff.

                  2. re: acgold7

                    Yes, I meant Heinz-sorry about that. I use panko crumbs as binder and let the meatball mixture sit in the fridge for an hour before forming them to allow the crumbs to absorb some of the meat juices and keep the meatballs from being dry, then form them and cook on a broiler pan, llining them up along the open slits on the pan, thus, allowing the grease to drip out and keeping them from getting greasy in the crock pot. The slow cooking leaves the jelly/chili sauce a nice sweet and tangy sauce. Not gross at all in my opinion. You could always change up the ratios to suit your tastes.

                    1. re: acgold7

                      I use Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix as a binder in my meatloaf and it's great. Don't see why that sort of thing wouldn't work in meatballs, too.

                    2. re: sherriberry

                      Used to have it all the time! And taking them to a pot luck meant never bringing home any leftovers. Same thing with little smokies! They just disappear.

                    3. I've had it and enjoyed it. I stopped eating them eventually, though, because my mother/sister/aunts were using ready-made frozen meatballs in it. I couldn't eat them for the same reasons that I don't eat hot dogs, sausage, pre-made burgers, etc.

                      1. I gotta say, I always thought it sounded gross and I always made sweet & sour meatballs from scratch. In December, I had some people over and figured I'd give them try. I kid you not, people ate them like it was their last meal. And my friends are pretty harsh critics when it comes to food.

                        They are far from gourmet, but they really were tasty. I used Trader Joe's frozen cocktail meatballs and they were pretty good. I like homemade meatballs, but the frozen ones were a little firmer than my homemade ones and it was easy to eat the meatballs on a toothpick.


                        1. http://www.ourbestbites.com/2010/02/s...
                          pinehurst, my gal pals and I make this for our husbands several times a year. They love the stuff with mini meatballs and mini smokies. We follow their tradition because their memories of eating these as young, party-hearty college guys is still hilarious to them and us.

                          1. I've done it 50/50 grape jelly and yellow mustard.
                            yep. People love these.

                            1. It's extremely "gross", but certain people really love it. You've got to know your audience. For my part, I'd rather go hungry.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: RosePearl

                                I gotta agree with you, RosePearl. This sounds revolting, but then I generally despise sweetened protein concoctions. Why does everything have to taste like dessert?

                                1. re: roxlet

                                  our DD would agree with you.
                                  she dislikes sweets or say fruity flavors or sweet flavors in her proteins/meats.
                                  I love a apple component in our pork, she wants garlic, no apple.
                                  I love orange jam or apricot or peach jam slathered on chicken then baked, she wants salt pepper and garlic.
                                  lemon curd, just a small amount, ever so lightly drizzled over a pan fried piece of sole, so good, she wants lemon salt pepper and garlic, no curd.

                              2. I agree with you 100% -- it sound horrible.

                                But somehow it works -- they're not in my regular rotation, but I've made them at various times for many, many years -- and couldn't possibly count how many parties I've been to where they were served.

                                and there are never any leftovers, and I always field phone calls from people who want the recipe.

                                They're actually ridiculously, addictively good.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  Innit strange? The first time I ate them, I had absolutely no idea what they were, but it was hard to keep me charging the buffet like a bull, w/ my head down, so I could have more. The second time I ate them I asked what they were and the answer dropped my jaw.
                                  Now, I am far from a food snob, but this one stopped me cold. And the only answer is, if you hate it you hate it, but if they taste nice to you? It's totally a dish that is WAY more than the sum of its parts..

                                2. Gross is a harsh description. It's not revolting. It's simply a very sweet, slightly tangy tomato sauce.

                                  I used to love the dish as a child when it was common at large neighborhood parties. I last had it about a year ago and found it simply too sweet for my tastebuds these days but the meatballs were the first dish to be finished.

                                  If I were to ever make it I would reduce the amount of grape jelly substantially and end up with 75% chili sauce and 25% grape jelly.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Roland Parker

                                    That's what I would do, reduce the grape jelly, probably add some dijon mustard, maybe garlic... who knows what I would end up with really, but I suspect it would be edible :)
                                    There are variations that use canned cranberry sauce, if that sounds more palatable. Same idea, "updated" ingredient.

                                  2. I am embarassed to say that my 12 year old daughter loves these. They are not terrible. you just have to take them for what they are. I substitute a can of jellied cranberry sauce for the grape jelly and I find that makes them less sicky sweet.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: ctfoodie

                                      yup, I've had the cranberry sauce version. Still a little too sweet for me, but if you use fresh cranberries, you control the sugar.

                                      1. re: ctfoodie

                                        I had the cranberry style this year for the first time, and they were the first things gone at the party.

                                      2. I haven't had this in years. It was very popular in the '70's/early '80's. One of those dishes which disapears quickly and everyone asks how it was prepared.

                                        You should make it! It will be easy enough to tweak if you think it is too sweet, too bland, etc.

                                        1. Made these about two weeks ago to serve over egg noodles for dinner.

                                          Universally panned in our household.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: RedTop

                                            I am not sure I would want to sit down to a whole plate either. It would be more a matter of sneaking a few at a buffet then looking around for something savoury (olives? cheese?) to cut the sweet.. then back to the overly sweet meatballs a few more times over the course of a long evening ;)

                                            1. re: RedTop

                                              yeah, they're not supposed to be a main dish.

                                            2. I say it's legit and old school.
                                              There's a similar recipe for those little smokies sausages.

                                              My preference is just to use a good bbq sauce.

                                              1. This was brought in to a potluck at my office and is now a staple. Most of us make it now. My coworker uses a regular jar of Welch's grape jelly and a bottle of Heinz 57 sauce. When i make it, I rinse the bottles out with a little white wine. Our CEO made about 8 batches one year when he was hosting his extended family for the holidays, making variations with different seasonings, with hot sauce, with tequila, etc. I like it.

                                                1. make it 50/50 w/Heinz or Homestyle chili sauce and Welch's grape jelly
                                                  Use homestyle frozen meatballs (not Italian style, not Turkey). The frozen meatballs will hold up better than homemade.
                                                  Make it the day before you are serving and refrigerate overnight in sauce.
                                                  Add fresh lemon juice and/or brown sugar to sauce if desired.

                                                  I first encountered these more than 30 years ago when an aunt made them for my daughter's baptism party. They were a sensation and I have made them countless times since, especially in my capacity as hospitality chairperson for my parish.

                                                  People love them and there are never any leftovers and there are always recipe requests, still, after all this time. I made them last summer for my family reunion. One cousin hoarded them and took them to work for the next three days.

                                                  Not genius; but not gross. As someone said earlier, you have to know your audience.

                                                  1. Magic Meatballs? I call them that because they disappear. I don't try to understand why but these things are always a hit and I'm asked to make them at least once a year. This past New Years Eve, I made a batch using homemade meatballs and was actually asked if, "Moving forward" (my daughter actually used those words) I could go back to the frozen kind. It was a texture thing, I guess.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: southernitalian

                                                      Frozen does seem to work better as noted above, particularly from a structural integrity standpoint.

                                                      We call the "Magic Meatballs" at my office as well.

                                                      1. re: jmckee

                                                        I've never tried this recipe so this may be a silly question but what would happen if you froze the homemade meatballs and used those? Too much work?

                                                        1. re: dregypt

                                                          Not if you think it isn't. But the point of the recipe is wham, bam, it's in the crockpot ma'am. Dump it all in, and you're ready to go. And there are pretty good brands of frozen meatball available, at least in my area.

                                                    2. All right, then damn the torpedoes. I'll try it, and cut it with some dijon and a bit of lemon. I'll let you know after the weekend of April 7/8. My inlaws love it, so I will make it.

                                                      PS the nearest store carries Heinz chili sauce and a taste-alike store brand, which I'll probably use.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: pinehurst

                                                        If you're going to try it, why not follow the original recipe for the first time. You just might like it. If you don't, then doctor it up they way you think it should be for your taste. Who knows? You may not like your concoction.

                                                        1. re: mucho gordo

                                                          Completely agree with you, mucho gordo.

                                                      2. It seems like one of those things, like a coke roast, that would be good if it cooked so long that the sugar caramelized, giving it a burnt taste and a more subtle sweetness. Whenever I've had it, it's like candy meatballs. I find it deeply odd.

                                                        1. I've had them and they're not my favorite. I'd rather have my cocktail meatballs simmered in Teriyaki sauce. Sweet, salty and just as easy.

                                                          1. This actually answers a question for me. Went to a party a couple of years ago thrown by close friends. She barely eats meat or much else, just doesn't care about food. He doesn't cook. We got there a little early to help out and she thrusts meatballs, grape jelly and steak sauce at me. She says, "[Other Friend] said to do half and half steak sauce and grape jelly and put the meatballs in the crockpot, she says people love it." Other Friend is a great cook who had to work that night, so away I went, skeptical but game.

                                                            The jelly melted into the sauce as it heated. I tasted. Even worse than I ever expected. Sooooooo sweet. I added mustard, I added worcestershire, lemon juice, hot sauce, anything to make it taste less like a candied tomato. I dumped the meatballs in and hoped for the best. They all went, but I'd tasted so much of the sauce as I doctored that I never really tasted the final product. I never spoke of it again, either.

                                                            Now I think the problem was that Friend Who Cooks meant Heinz 57 or Heinz Chili or even A1, but the friend who purchased the sauce bought Peter Luger, which has always struck me as much sweeter.

                                                            1. Okay - here's my recipe - probably 50 years old. The chili sauce I originally used is no longer available, so I substitute Homemade Brand Chili Sauce. It comes in a small round jar, and is generally found near the ketchup. The recipe is as follows:
                                                              1 jar Homemade Brand Chili Sauce
                                                              1/2 jar of water
                                                              2 heaping tablespoons grape jelly
                                                              1 Tablespoon lemon juice
                                                              Mix wet ingredients and place in pan. Stir to combine. I've never made these in a crock pot - only in a stove top pan.

                                                              Mix together 1 1/2 pound ground beef with 2 very wet slices (warm water) white bread (do not squeeze dry)
                                                              1 small grated onion
                                                              1 egg
                                                              salt and pepper to taste
                                                              Roll meatballs into small cocktail size (you'll get about 34 of them from 1 1/2 pounds of meat)
                                                              Drop them gently into simmering sauce ingredients.
                                                              Cover, and simmer on low for 2 hours

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: critter101

                                                                Hey critter,

                                                                You're yet another poster who mentioned the lemon juice. Let me ask...have you ever tried this with storebought frozen meatballs, under the hypothesis that they hold together better?

                                                                Thanks for the proportions! Significantly less jelly, eh?

                                                                1. re: pinehurst

                                                                  Nope, I've never tried store bought frozen meatballs in this recipe. However, in my experience, they are a denser product than homemade, and therefore will probably hold up well. That said, I like the homemade variety specifically because they are tender and light, and I like the kind of simple flavor that adding only onion, bread, and s& p give. The sauce has enough going on. If you have a frozen variety that you like that doesn't have Italian spices, give it a try. Also, when cooking these, stir them gently during the cooking time...you're less likely to have breakage.

                                                                2. re: critter101

                                                                  I have a recipe that makes good sweet & sour meatballs and these are the ingredients for the sauce....

                                                                  One Can Whole Cranberry
                                                                  Brown Sugar
                                                                  Lemon Juice
                                                                  1 Small Can Pineapple Chunks without Liquid

                                                                  I would be happy to share the recipe but the whole thing about the chili sauce/grape jelly combination is that you are using 2 ingredients (plus meatballs) and it tastes good. I was not a believer until I tried it myself.

                                                                3. my memory of the experience hearing about it was eeeeuuw.
                                                                  in the shop when we all brought our crockpots full of meatballs, all kinds of meats used all kinds of sauces, I brought a 5 ingredient sweet&sour sauce but one of the girls brought the grape jelly one that was trendy then. after eating one or two of hers, the feeling it left on my teeth and tongue I can still feel. not good

                                                                  1. Divo, I hear ya.
                                                                    You know what, Valerie is right...if I'm going to do it, which I will, I should do it in the ratio my sister in law would like/prescribed, since I'm bringing it for a crowd that will love them like that. We'll be up to our shoulders in food, anyway, so if I think they're weird, I won't starve. I'll let you know. Heck, i may even love them.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: pinehurst

                                                                      pine hurst I hope you do love them.
                                                                      but you could always do the other half of the meatballs and bring in separate container mixed with sauce made of:

                                                                      vinegar-pineapple juice-sugar-catsup-soy sauce put in saucepan heat to warm then take some chicken or beef broth and mix it with a little corn starch and put into warmed sauce to thicken

                                                                    2. I don't know if I have had this version. But the version my work mom gave me to make was bbq sauce, grape jelly, honey and mustard. I like to use honey bbq sauce to eliminate the honey. Still really good. But I want to make it with a spicy bbq one day because the grape jelly is too sweet for my liking.

                                                                      1. Meatball verdict is in: family liked them (only six left), but they were indeed odd tasting to me. The grape jelly added not only a sweetness but a really odd lingering back note...I like Il Divo's idea of pineapple and honey instead, for ex. My 6 yr old nephew wouldn't touch them either, but I don't know if it's because of the taste, or because he's a chicken-fingers-only kid.

                                                                        Mind you, these weren't the worst things I've ever eaten, and the thing is, I think the sweet/sour idea is fabulous applied to meatballs....just not in the jelly/chili sauce mixture in the classic proportions (I went by the recipe). But, nothing ventured, nothing learned.

                                                                        Anyway, that's the crockpot report. I appreciate each comment you made leading up to the experiment!

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: pinehurst

                                                                          Well, glad it wasn't a total disaster!

                                                                          1. re: valerie


                                                                            I personally love them. I first tried them at a work function then made them for appetizers for 2011's Christmas dinner.

                                                                            1. re: UTgal

                                                                              I had them around 1956 at a family gathering on Long Island...I LOVED them (I still remember them!) but then again I was only 9...I only remember the grape jelly part and not the chili sauce...this thread REALLY took me back...thanks for that!

                                                                        2. Absolutely you should try them. If you truely want something, that takes absolutely NO effort and you're not one of those elitist cooks that HAS to have everything done from scratch, like grinding your own wheat into flour, then you can't ask for anything easier or tastier or faster and I can assure you there won't be a single one left in the pot when all is said and done.
                                                                          Go to Wal-mart (or your grocer) and buy the pre-made frozen Rosina Italian Meatballs (The meatballs are already pre-cooked and in a plastic bag) , an 8 oz jar of (ANY) Grape Jelly and (ANY) bottle of chili sauce (I have even used cocktail sauce by accident) and they still tasted wonderful. If you buy a large bag of meatballs(150), double the jelly and sauce and pour over meatballs in the crock pot and all you have to do is heat and simmer, provide plenty of toothpicks and take all the credit.

                                                                          1. If you don't like so much sweet, use a jar of red currant jelly and a small jar of mustard (the yellow kind works, but it's better with better mustard)... This works well for meatballs or little sausages. I often take these to work potlucks and never bring any leftovers home.

                                                                            1. I went to a party while in college and refused to eat the meatballs that I heard were made with jelly. A few years later, at another party, I tried them unknowingly and was floored by how addictive they were. I've now made the dish a few times, preferring the Trader Joe's frozen mini meatballs with one part chili sauce and one part jelly. I prefer Polonar All Fruit or something low sugar. I once made chicken meatballs with half chili sauce and half cherry preserves for a shower and they were out of this world!