In my pre-paleo days, my favorite family recipe for cocktail meatballs was one of those three ingredient wonders. Sounds nice and simple, until you realize that each one of those three ingredients (a can of cranberry sauce, a bottle of chili sauce, and frozen meatballs) contained an alphabet soup jumble of chemical and artificial ingredients. Yuck.
But at the same time… yum, those were delicious!
So I was determined to recreate that addictive taste, but without the artificial crap. I also gave myself the added challenge of making these paleo meatballs without nuts, eggs, or nightshades so they would be acceptable for people following a paleo autoimmune protocol. That means that I had two challenges: I could not use tomatoes in the sauce and could not use nut flours or eggs as binder in the meatballs.
For the sauce, I decided to go all natural with a combination of whole cranberries, dates for sweetness, apple cider vinegar for sourness, and a variety of spices for flavor interest. For the meatballs, I used a technique popularized by Melissa Joulwan in her awesome book Well Fed 2. The meat stands alone without any binders, but a combination of cream of tarter and baking soda tenderizes it and promotes a browned crust when you pan fry the meat balls.
These sweet and sour meatballs are perfect for a paleo diet, modifications included for people on AIP, SCD, and low-FODMAPs.
12 ounces cranberries, frozen or fresh
6 medjool dates, finely chopped
2 cups water
zest and juice from 1 orange
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 lb. beef, preferably grass fed
1/2 lb. ground pork
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dried sage
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons coconut oil
Combine in large saucepan, cranberries, dates, water, orange juice and zest, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and spices.
Cook over medium-low heat until all cranberries have burst and a thick sauce has formed (about 15-20 minutes), stirring occasionally. If sauce becomes too thick, add more water.
Meanwhile, prepare the meatballs. In a small bowl, mix the 2 tablespoons water with the cream of tarter and baking soda.
In a medium bowl, use your hands to combine the two meats, onion, 1 teaspoon vinegar, sage, garlic, salt, pepper, and the cream of tarter and baking soda mixture.
Form the meat into small balls.
Melt coconut oil in large skillet over medium heat and cook meatballs until browned on all sides and cooked all the way through (about 6-8 minutes). Leave room to turn the meatballs. You may need to cook in batches.
Transfer the meatballs into the sauce and allow to simmer gently for at least 10 minutes before serving.