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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Sunday, December 08, 2013

Meatballs for the Masses

The holiday season is a time for gatherings, large and small.  Quite often they involve bringing a dish.  Immediately logistics come into play such as ease of traveling as some dished travel better than others.  At the same time the setting must be considered as well which will dictate the type of dish you can bring.   My husband was going to a holiday football game with 30 other football fans.  He wanted to bring something for the tailgate party before the game.  Since most of the offerings for the tailgate party would be snack type, we made a large batch of meatballs.  Meatballs are one of my larger gathering stand-by dishes.  Depending on the setting, I make and serve them in the slow cooker or in a large foil baking pan in the oven.  A larger batch can be made using the foil baking pan.  This method is great for those gatherings where using a slow cooking is not possible or for larger gatherings where the meatballs can be kept hot in the oven until ready to serve.

meatballs in the preparation stages
I make meatballs that are just that, meatballs meaning no fillers.  Calculating how much of a dish to bring can be a challenge.  Numbers tend to not be written in stone so even though a gathering may be for 30, there may be more or less.   In this case, there were 30 maximum so at best one or two would not attend.   I planned on 1/4 lb of beef per person, or 4 - 1 oz meatballs each which worked out to 120 oz or 7½ lb ground beef.  I started with 10 lb/160 oz of lean ground beef which would make 160 - 1 oz meatballs, enough extra. 

I started with 10 lb of lean ground beef in two batches for easier mixing.  I sprinkled a little garlic pepper over the meat then mixed well.  Actually, my husband did the mixing so this was a team effort!  I poured a bit of cold milk over the meat to serve as the binder for the meatballs.   Milk allows the meatballs to keep their shape during cooking resulting in firm yet tender meatballs.   My husband formed the meatballs by hand then we fried them using four non-stick skillets.  The cream interior skillets are ceramic non-stick while the darker interior ones are T-fal.  The browned meatballs were transferred to the foil baking pan to finish cooking in the oven as each pan was ready.  I poured  Sweet Baby Ray's barbeque sauce over each addition of meatballs.  I started the meatballs at 120°C/250°F to keep warm until all the meatballs were added to the pan then I made the final addition of barbeque sauce, about a cup of water and increased the temperature to 177°C/350°F.  Had I been cooking the meatballs in the slow cooker, I would have omitted adding the water.

cooked meatballs ready for the party
I cooked the meatballs uncovered at 177°C/350°F until the sauce was hot, bubbling and reduced.  In haste, I neglected to put a baking sheet under the foil baking pan so we carefully maneuvered one under before removing the meatballs from the oven.  Don't they look delicious?

I always make beef or venison meatballs using only meat, milk and either garlic pepper or Montreal steak seasoning.  I keep the seasoning light so the meatballs can be used with any desired sauce, homemade or otherwise.  These meatballs can be home canned in sauce if desired and they freeze nicely.  I like keeping a few pounds of cooked meatballs in the freezer for a quick entertainment dish or using a few for dinner.

meatballs packaged for traveling
I covered the piping hot meatballs with aluminum foil for traveling.  Then we carefully put a T-towel under the foil baking pan on top of the baking sheet (not pictured.  The meatballs would be warm in time to be enjoyed at the tail gate party.  This method works well for meatballs that will be enjoyed within a hour to forty-five minutes of removal from the oven.  If the meatballs will be served after that period they should be kept at 120°C/250°F in the oven.  As always when taking meatballs to an event, I included a package of round toothpicks. 

If you need a simple, easy dish that is sure to please make up a batch of meatballs.  Add a bottle of barbeque sauce of your choice and some toothpicks for a tasty appetizer perfect for holiday entertaining!  Don't forget to make extra for a quick meal start during the busy holiday season. 

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