Sweet and Sour meatballs: a memoir 1984-2014

Whenever I’m asked to bring an appetizer or dessert to a grown-up, no kids party my immediate reaction is “Of course I’d love too! I can think of so many things to bring!”

25 minutes later and a quick glance at the daily schedules leading up to said events my reaction is, “Ugh. I have no idea what to make and when I’m going to make it and how its going to in any way look like I tried.”

The morning of said event my reaction is, “How many minutes do I have between work/and or soccer/gymnastics etc to go buy something to bring that needs little or no assembly?”

I know you’re all just like me. (Well there may be a percentage of overachievers amongst you but please don’t out yourselves. I’ll just feel more inadequate).  Well, this one time I was determined to make something for a change. Something that was not a dip or cookie. No matter what appointments, or needy little children got in my way.

Growing up when my parents would entertain or throw a party, I loved watching them prep the day of. My mom moving around the furniture to make space, my dad running out to the liquor store to get beer, mixers and ice (and apple cider donuts for me and my brother) and the sweet and savory smells of whatever was going to be on he menu. PS- I’m totally romanticizing this. I mean I’m sure the day was interrupted by my brother and I fighting over some lego/barbie situation and I’m sure my mom on more than one occasion said, “I can’t understand why your father waits till the last-minute to do what he needs to do.” Nevertheless, It’s how I remember it.

Later on when things were just about ready, my mom would still be setting up, starting to put the appetizers on the 6′ table with a fancy cloth in the family room while dressed in her silk blouse and fancy slacks and heels (this was the early 80’s think Meredith Baxter-Bernie in Family Ties x-mas episode style, or even Julia Sugarbaker from Designing Women…) it’s funny what we remember and how the images are ingrained in our heads isn’t it 😉

The night would then begin with the guests arriving. My brother and I would be allowed to stay downstairs to say hello for a few minutes and then we got to spend the evening in my parents room watching movies (mostly Star Wars and Goonies) and eating snacks. We would always sneak halfway down the stairs though to listen in on the grown up’s fun and laughter only to race back upstairs when we heard someone turning the corner so they didn’t see us.

They usually threw a big bash on St. Patty’s Day as I recall, and my mom always had sweet and sour meatballs on the menu. In fact I can’t remember a party or family get together without them.

Fast forward 30ish years later… I still haven’t attempted to make them even though she hand wrote the recipe on one of those index cards for me like 13 years ago when I got married; WAY before Pinterest. So this weekend after working all week, a multi-family bonfire/hayride friday night, a funeral and picking up the kids Saturday afternoon with just 2 hours left to make or buy something for a party that evening … I decided to go for it.

What follows is a pictorial ode to my version of the meatballs. I say my version because my husband bought the hot chile sauce instead of regular so in the end they became not sweet and sour but sweet and very spicy and sometimes sour.


My mom ALWAYS took her rings off while mixing the meat. So I oblige.


Mix 2lbs. ground meat (I used 85/15 because meatballs need some fat people come on…my nana taught me that) with 2 beaten eggs, a minced (or roughly chopped because I don’t own a mincer) onion, salt and pepper, and 1/2 cup crushed corn flakes in a bowl and set aside. 

DSC_0779In a pan, combine 12oz bottle of chile sauce (without those hot pepper flakes you see pictured…or with if you want my version), 6oz of grape jelly (but because of the hot sauce, I added a bit more), and the juice of a lemon. simmer for 5 mins or so. 

the culprit
the culprit

You know what? They were super spicy but I got a lot of compliments and no one knew they weren’t supposed to be until I said something. Plus it made for more consumption of the homemade Sangria that the hostess made. Win. Win.


While the sauce is simmering, roll those meatballs one by one and plop them on in. My mom’s recipe says it makes 65 BUT I only got 35ish. I think I made them a tad too large. Again, whatever.

So simmer the meatballs for about an hour. try not to let your husband or whoever eat too many before the party because then you’re SOL and will have to run out for a package of frozen dumplings. You can refrigerate these puppies for 2-3 days or freeze them. you can totally make 2 batches and freeze one for the next gathering. defrost and go. Genius.


Yes. Wine was involved in the making of this recipe. So was the Otis Redding Pandora station. It’s really all about the experience anyway right?

Thanks Mom. xo

Published by carin

2 kids, husband, dog, house, family, friends, styling, entertaining, decorating, beach, sun, fun.......working, cleaning, scheduling, Soccer and Lax mom, dropping off, picking up, working cleaning, scheduling.....Gorgeous Chaos.

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