Comfort Food

Comfort Food

Old Fashioned Meatballs!

After I had a home of my own, I learned a lot about my father’s food preferences.  Remember how popular “Porcupine” meatballs were in the 1970s?  Mother and Daddy would visit us in our lakeside home.  He and Joe would fish all afternoon, but his request for supper frequently was a big platter of little Porcupines!  I was happy to oblige!  They were easy and everybody loved them, but just like Mama’s meatball meals, I would fry potatoes to go with them!  

Before I mention today’s topic … meatballs … I want to look at the history of preparing Porcupines.  The first mention of preparing one is in The Experienced English Housekeeper, written by Elizabeth Raffald in 1769.   Here recipe in no way resembles what we make today.  She used a thin piece of beef and rolled a variety of things inside it.  She used pieces of cooked tongue, onions, breadcrumbs and pickles.  She rolled it up and wrapped it strips of bacon.  It then turned on a spit until it was done!

The 1884 issue of the Boston Cooking School cookbook includes a recipe for Porcupine Meatballs.  In 1897, Campbell's started canning tomato soup. The 1918 Conservation Recipes compiled by the Mobilized Women's Organization of Berkeley, California features Rice Meatballs.  Finally, in 1936, Irma Rombauer’s
The Joy of Cooking, includes the recipe that most of us still use today.  Rombauer’s recipe calls for uncooked rice.  Today, most recipes call for precooked rice (Minute Rice).  I’ll share my Porcupine recipe at the end of this post!

Food historians readily admit that nobody knows when meatballs were first created, and they have no idea where they were created.  The American Swedish Institute (Minneapolis, Minnesota) notes that ‘k’ttbulle’, the word for meatball, first appeared in print in 1754.  They believe that Swedish Meatballs were not originally consumed by common people because of the expense of the meat.  Swedish Meatballs are served with a cream gravy and lingonberry preserves.  Sometimes the gravy is brown and the ingredients for the meatball varies from family to family!  In the 1920s, Swedish Meatballs were served at buffets and smorgasbords in Scandinavia.  In America, Swedish Meatballs became popular at the same time … and then became increasingly popular in my favorite vintage food period of the 1950s and 60s.  Cocktail party fare often included a chafing dish of Swedish Meatballs.  My party fare continues to include them!

In his 1892  Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, Pellegrino Artusi, included a recipe for Italian Meatballs.  American food author Fannie Farmer included a similar recipe at the same time.  In the 1920s, American restaurants started serving meatballs with spaghetti … Italians didn’t do that.  Restauranteurs did it to accommodate the desire of Americans for red meat!

For years, I have made big batches of meatballs so I could add to my freezer inventory.  I make all varieties and last week I made my traditional Italian Meatballs and also made a batch of Asian flavored meatballs.  My Tai Basil is great this year and my Mexican Tarragon is a perfect match for it.  How do you use an Asian flavored meatball?  I stir fry vegetables and add them alongside with a spicy sauce.  I add them to a batch of stir-fried rice.  They are also fantastic standing alone on a dinner buffet that includes egg rolls and other delicious Asian foods.

Moore Family Meatballs

Foundation Ingredients:

1 pound of ground beef
1 pound of ground pork
1 cup dried breadcrumbs (no flavor)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon of dried chopped onion
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt

To make Italian Meatballs add to the foundation ingredients:

2 teaspoons of dried Italian herbs or a handful of chopped fresh herbs including basil, thyme, oregano and Rosemary.
½ cup finely chopped red or green bell pepper
1 teaspoon fennel seed
2 Tablespoons of tomato paste
1 Tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
2 Tablespoons of milk

Mix all these ingredients together and form into meatballs.  Bake them in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes until they are nicely browned.  The larger you make the meatballs, the longer it takes for them to get done, so check them.  Let them cool and freeze them or serve them right out of the oven!  This should make 24 to 36 meatballs, depending upon the size you choose.

To make Asian Meatballs add to the foundation ingredients:
2 teaspoons of Five Spice Powder or a handful of chopped fresh herbs including Rosemary, Tai basil, lemon balm or lemon sage, and thyme.
2 Tablespoons of sesame oil
1 Tablespoon of soy sauce
1 Tablespoon of oyster sauce
2 teaspoons of Sriracha

Mix all the ingredients and form into meatballs.  Follow the instructions above.  You can also prepare meatballs in a casserole crock pot.  Cook on high for about 2 hours until they are done.

As promised, I’m including the recipe for Porcupines that I have used since 1975!  I’d hate to try to count the times I’ve made this.  It has always been a family favorite.

Porcupine Meatballs from the Campbell’s Soup Kitchen

1 can (10 3/4 ounces) condensed tomato soup
1 pound ground beef
1 cup packaged Minute Rice
1 egg
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons shortening
1/2 soup can water
1 teaspoon prepared mustard

Mix 1/4 cup soup with beef, rice, egg, onion, and salt. Shape firmly into 16 meatballs. Brown meatballs and garlic in shortening; pour off fat. Blend in remaining soup, water, and mustard. Cover; simmer for 20 minutes or until done. Stir now and then. 4 servings."

---Cooking with Soup, Home Economics Department, [Campbell Soup Company:Camden NJ] revised edition, 1970 (p. 9)

This post is a part of my 2020 Vintage Vegetable project!  Meatballs are some of the “other old stuff”!   I’ll also be sharing with a couple blog parties, so make sure you look at my list in the sidebar and click through!

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