Home-made Meatballs

We are always looking for meals that stretch. Not in a gooey, taffy kind of stretchiness, but in a freeze-leftovers-and-reheat-during-the-week kind of way.  We also like to incorporate as many nutrient-dense foods into our diet as possible, without sacrificing on flavor. Pre-GAPS we had a favorite shop in town that served amazing sandwiches including my favorite-Meatloaf. It turns out, they had a recipe they’d posted online for making meatballs that were easily made GAPS-compliant  (and since we liked their food, we assumed the recipe had to be good).

A couple of notes about the method here. This recipe is a great foil for getting kids to eat liver! But liver needs to be ground in order for it to integrated into the meatballs. I have not foudn any means of doing this other than combining all of the ingredients in a bowl and running the whole lot through a meat grinder (yes even when I start with ground beef/pork, I run them through the grinder again- there is no better wide to blend in liver). Also note that using a meat grinder involves metal to metal contact- to minimize any heating of the metal I like to freeze all of the grinder parts first. One thing I have learned is that if you do not chill meat and the grinder parts before grinding, the fats will start to soften at room temperature and the ground meat will come out like pate’- and meatballs will not stay in meatball shape if they are pate’.

My method also calls for par-baking the meatballs prior to finished cooking in the sauce. You can skip this step but I find they do not hold up as well in the sauce (plus the browning brings more flavor to the party). In lieu of baking you can also brown them in a fry pan, but I can never get consistent results from the frypan method.

Below is the DeGuzman’s take on homemade Meatballs:

Recommended Equipment: Kitchenaid mixer with Meat Grinder attachement, 1/8 Cup or 1/4 cup sized disher/scoop, All-Clad or Chef’s Choice jellyroll pans

Ingredients:

  • 3lbs ground grassfed beef (or chuck roast cut into 1/2″ cubes)
  • 2lbs ground pastured pork (or pork shoulder roast cut into 1/2″ cubes)
  • 1/2lb beef or pork liver cut into small pieces (small enough to fit in the grinder)
  • 1T whole fennel seed
  • 2T whole cumin seed
  • 2T whole coriander seed
  • 2T dried oregano
  • 2-4t cayenne pepper (vary depending on tolerance for spicy)
  • 2-4t paprika (vary depending on tolerance for spicy)
  • 1T black peppercorn
  • 1T sea salt
  • If you tolerate them, toss in a couple of eggs; or if you like you can substitute 2T of ground flax seed and 6T water to simulate eggs; or skip this altogether which is what I usually do

Method:

  • Make 1 batch of my Summer-Surplus Pasta Sauce in an oversized pan (in other words, a pan big enough to hold the sauce and all of the meatballs you are about to make)
  • In a small, dry saute pan over medium heat toast the fennel, cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant but not burnt.
  • Combine toasted seeds and peppercorns and pulverize them in a mortar/pestle or seed+spice grinder
  • Combine the pulverized seeds and remaining seasonings in a small bowl (or shake them up in a small mason jar)
  • In a large non-reactive bowl, combine the beef, pork and liver. In small handfulls, sprinkle on some of the seasoning and fold it in; repeat several times until the seasoning is well distributed. Let this rest in the refrigerator for 1/2 hour. This is a good time to put your grinder attachment in the freezer- it is best to keep things as cold as possible during the grinding phase.
  • Assemble the meat grinder and process the combined meat ingredients using a medium to course cutter (I find the finer blade can make the meatballs mushy). Work quickly and keep an eye out to evenly distribute the liver (chunks of liver taste funky to me and my family)
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  • Using the disher or 1/8C measuring cup, shape the meatballs and arrange in a single layer on a jellyroll or roasting pan (you need a pan with a good sized edge to catch the fat drippings. I have tried laying them out on a drying rak inside the jelly roll pan, but they tend to stick more than I like. You can measure them manually- try for slightly larger than a golf ball. If they are too small they will be drier; too big and they fall apart
  • Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes (turn after about 15 minutes; I like for them to brown, but not to cook them to where they are dry)
  • After baking, use a slotted spoon to add them carefully to the tomato sauce. I try to drip or shake off any accumulated fat.
  • Finish cooking in the sauce pan for 15 minutes or longer.
  • We like to server them over zucchini fettuccine or baked spaghetti squash; topped with fresh grated Parmesan Reggiano.

The recipe above makes about 70 or so meatballs (depending on what size you make them). We usually let them cool before storing leftovers in plastic ziplocs in the freezer.

This recipe has become a family favorite, but it is time consuming. All-in, with time for preparing the tomato sauce, meatballs, roasting the squash and cleanup, I plan for 3-hours in the kitchen flying solo. Obviously you can expedite the process by: 1)using a jarred sauce if you are OK with that, 2) skipping the liver and just working with the ground beef and pork without the grinder- but then you miss out on a huge boost of nutrition, and 3) instead of these spices use keep a big batch of my meat medley on-hand and use an equivalent quantity of that.

These beauties make a great lunch! From frozen, we lay them out on the baking pan that came with our toaster oven and reheat at 350 for about 20-30 minutes.

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