Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Feed the Freezer

Today's recipe is one that you can make up in large batches and then freeze for later. It is a great basic meatball recipe that can then be used in lots of different preparations for meals. The nice things about making your own freezer meatballs are that:

1) You know EXACTLY what is in them (so no MSG, strange preservatives, etc.)
2) You save quite a bit of money by making them yourself.
3) It really doesn't take much more time to make a BIG batch than it does to make a small one.
4) You always have SOMETHING on hand to make for dinner.
5) You always have something on hand should extra folks show up for dinner.
6) They're delicious!

So, this recipe comes from an old version of the cookbook Make-A-Mix Cookery by Karine Eliason, Nevada Harward, and Madeline Westover. It has been revised since this version and the meatball mix recipe in the newer cookbook isn't quite the same as this one, but looks to be a good one as well. I may have to give it a try in the future, after I purchase the revised edition of the book! Anyway, here's a link to the revised edition on Amazon if you're interested. You can also find copies of the older version (copyright 1983) if you search on Ebay and on Amazon.

Either version is a great addition to your library and full of great recipes for everything from a basic bisquick like mix to drink mixes to hot roll mix, etc. I love this book :) The recipe I'm using today is called Meatball Mix and is a great basic meatball that can be very versatile. We used one "portion" of it in Swedish meatballs for dinner and froze the rest for later use. I've used these meatballs in everything from basic spaghetti & meatballs to meatball sandwiches, to meatball soup (albondigas soup) to sweet & sour meatballs. They are very basic and not overly seasoned, so they transition well among many recipes. If you only plan to use them for italian dishes, you could choose to season them up with some italian seasoning or use italian breadcrumbs, but I prefer to leave them plain and then let the sauce or rest of the dish flavor them. I've also used part ground beef and part ground pork in the past with success, so there is a lot of room to play with this one.

The Recipe:

Meatball Mix Meatballs are always ready - for appetizers, casseroles and main dishes.
  • 4 lbs. lean ground beef
  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 cups dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Blend well. Shape mixture into 1-inch balls. Place meatballs on ungreased baking sheets and bake 10 to 15 minutes, until browned. Remove immediately and drain on paper towels. When cooled, put about 30 meatballs each into 5 1-quart freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch space at top. Seal and label containers. Freeze. Use within 3 months. Makes about 144 meatballs.

My results:

First off, I altered the recipe only slightly since I had a 5 lb chub of beef to use, so I increased the recipe by 1/4 (so, 5 eggs rather than 4, etc.). The second alteration is in the size of the meatballs. I made 2" meatballs instead of 1", so my yield was about half as many, but I also only packaged them in bags of a dozen which will feed 4 adults easily, so I got 5 bags of 2" meatballs, 4 of which are now safely in my freezer. Here is a shot of my ingredients:

I started by whisking the eggs together with the Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. I also combined the breadcrumbs and cornstarch. I then blended the meat and onions together, in a large bowl, and poured in the egg mixture and then the crumbs. I used latex gloves to mix this all together. I buy the gloves from Sams/Costco and love having them handy (haha!) for messy jobs like this. After mixing, this is what my large meatball looked like:

This is where it is very useful to have a "disher" or cookie scoop on hand... It makes super fast work of making meatballs and makes them all pretty uniform in size. Using the scoop, I made up two trays of meatballs for the oven. Here they are before baking:

You can see that I didn't chop my onion up super fine. If you don't like bits of onion in your meatballs, be sure to chop finer or even grate the onion, but I like mine a little more rustic... I baked these larger meatballs for a total of 18 minutes, rotating the trays once during baking. Here they are all finished:

Use caution when removing them from the oven because depending on the fattiness of your meat, there may be a bit of grease in the pan which you don't want to spill on yourself! Trust me on this one! I divided the meatballs up into separate bags and froze 4 bags worth. I have a wonderful Foodsaver gadget that I use for freezing things which prevents freezer burn and makes them last longer. I absolutely love mine! They're a little pricey initially, but when I think about all the food I've saved from freezer burn since I've had it... well, it's more than paid for itself. Here's a link to it on Amazon:

Anyway, I froze 4 bags worth of the meatballs and we ate one "portion" of them for dinner last night with "swedish meatball sauce" on them. My "swedish meatball sauce" is basically one packet of brown gravy mix, prepared as directed to which I add a small dash of nutmeg and about 1/2 cup of sour cream to which I've added about 1 tsp dried dill. I simmer the meatballs in this sauce while I prepare the rest of dinner and then serve. They're always a big hit and super easy to make. So that's it for this posting. I hope you'll give the recipe a shot and make sure to keep your freezer fed! Let me know if you try it and what you think of the results!

1 comment:

adrian said...

This sounds really good! I like how you include lots of details. And the tip about the ice cream scooper was helpful too.