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Sweet and Sour Meatballs: A Favorite Appetizer for the Jewish Holidays

Today’s post comes from my dear friend Gena writes about her favorite Rosh Hashanah treats. This post is the complete opposite of her last contribution on making pulled pork.   She can be found Tweeting about Chopped, America’s Next Great Restaurant, and all things U2 here: @Gena_not_Gina .

Take it away Gena!

For as far back as I can remember September has always been a month of change. Not only does the weather go from unbearably hot to breezy and crisp, but school starts, and with that, so do a series of holidays that surround the Jewish New Year.

One of the traditions that my family still practices is Rosh Hashanah, which literally means “first of the year.” During the past few years, I have made at least one dish this for this occasion. This year, I decided to tackle my mom’s famous sweet and sour meatballs. They are a favorite starter
around our holiday dinner table and something everyone looks forward to.

Like everything I have been putting together in my kitchen these days, I started wondering about the history of this food. Why sweet and sour?!? The philosophy behind “sweet and sour” in Ashkenazi Jewish style cooking developed from the combination of two different eastern European ethnic groups. While the Polish were said to favor sweets, the Russians enjoyed spicy and sour foods. As these groups merged together in one of the many Jewish Diasporas, their cuisines did as well.

There are other theories as well. Most of my relatives seem to believe it was somehow derived from the idea behind stuffed cabbage, which is another Jewish entrée featuring the sweet and sour component. Also, sweet meals that include items like apples and honey are served during
Rosh Hashanah as a representation of a “sweet year” to come. Cute, isn’t it?

As C+C Music Factory asks, “Ya’ll want to start this [New Years] party, right?”

Here it goes…one of the simplest recipes you will ever have to follow:


2 lb ground beef (I used sirloin)
1 large onion, grated
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup breadcrumbs
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper


12 oz. grape jelly
12 oz. chili sauce

(only two ingredients!!)

Put beef in large bowl and add in everything listed above with your hands. Mush it all around as though you are a real chef, to the point that you know your hands will stink for at least 3 days after. You should have one large pile of tasty raw meat ready to prepare at this point.

Next, roll them into balls. They should be on the small (ping pong ball) size, as they are meant to be appetizers.

Rolled, raw and ready to go

Bake meatballs on a lightly greased baking sheet at 350 degrees for about 35 – 40 minutes. Once they start getting brown and crispy-looking, cut one in half to make sure it is cooked all the way through.

Browned and geared up for sweet and sour absorption

For the sauce, empty all of the jelly into a saucepan on extremely low heat. Stir until jelly is melted and has turned to liquid. Add in chili sauce and stir until they two sauces melt together.

Now you are ready to marry the meatballs with the sauce. Once each one is coated, you are pretty much set as far as preparation goes. It is definitely a good idea to make the meatballs a few days before you serve, which will give them some time to really absorb all of the flavors of the

Saucy goodness

Mine have been frozen for about a week now, and I am ready to defrost and savor them very soon. I went a little overboard on the size of my meatballs. They ended up being about double the usual size. But, like Moses said, “go big or go home.”

L’shana tova ya’ll!

Thanks Gena! These look good enough for a non MOT like me to eat! Of course, they’d be even better if they had pork in them, but I understand.



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One thought on “Sweet and Sour Meatballs: A Favorite Appetizer for the Jewish Holidays

  • Diane

    Do you freeze them in the sauce? When defrosted how do you reheat? Do you need additional sauce?


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