Hickory Meatballs for the Holidays


The folks over at Hickoryworks asked me to formulate a recipe for the holidays utilizing their Shagbark Hickory Syrup and their Hickory Smoked Sea Salt, and I was glad to oblige.

Shagbark Hickory Syrup has a distinctively different taste than Maple Syrup. It’s not as cloyingly sweet, has a nice smoky flavor, and compliments well with savory dishes.

For the holidays I wanted to come up with something seasonal and we brainstormed and the result were these Turkey Meatballs, which are in a Hickory/Apple Cider/Mustard BBQ sauce.

The Red and Green chiles with the apple in the turkey mixture give the dish a nice holiday feel, and the hickory/apple BBQ sauce over the kielbasa rounds completes the dish nicely.

If you don’t make these for the holidays, don’t worry. I also had the Superbowl in mind when I came up with these too.

The meatballs in this recipe are cooked on a sheet tray for easier party prep, but you could just as easily pan fry them or even smoke or grill them using a meatball grill basket (you can find these at Williams-Sonoma and at other high-end kitchen catalogs)

Shagbark Hickory and Apple Party Meatballs

For Meatballs:
1 lb Kielbasa, sliced into rounds
1/2 cup finely diced Onion
4 cloves Garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup finely diced Red Pepper (Bell, Cubanelle or Jalapeno)
1/4 cup finely diced Green Pepper (Bell, Cubanelle or Jalapeno)
2 lbs ground Turkey (or a combination of Turkey and Pork)
1/3 cup shredded Apple (peeled first)
1/4 tsp Hot Pepper Flakes
1 Tbs dried Oregano
1 Tbs dried Parsley
Ground Black Pepper, to taste
2 Eggs
1/2 tsp Hickoryworks Smoked Sea Salt

For Sauce:
1 Tbs Cornstarch
2 Tbs Cider Vinegar
1 Tbs Dijon Mustard
1/2 tsp Hickoryworks Smoked Sea Salt
1/2 cup Apple Cider, natural unpasteurized is preferable
1 cup Hickoryworks Shagbark Hickory Syrup
Hot Sauce to taste

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a rimmed half-sheet pan with parchment or foil. If using foil, spray with non-stick spray or olive oil.

Cook the Kielbasa slices in a skillet to brown them and render some fat. Set them aside on a paper towel lined plate, leaving a tablespoon or two of fat in the skillet. Lower the heat and saute the onion and garlic for about 5 minutes.

Add the red and green peppers (use the type you like and spiciness desired) and continue cooking for 2 more minutes. Scrape out the skillet and allow the vegetables to cool.

Combine ground meat, apple, and seasonings (except salt). When the vegetables are cool, mix them into the meat, adding the eggs and smoked salt at the same time.

Form into 1 inch balls. Place the balls on the prepared sheet pan, leaving space around each one. Spray the top with olive oil. Place into the hot oven and cook for 10-15 minutes. Do not overcook as the white meat turkey can easily dry out.

While the meatballs are cooking, prepare the sauce. Mix the cornstarch with the vinegar to remove any lumps, then combine with the rest of the sauce ingredients.

Add to the skillet and whisk while bringing to a boil over high heat. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and taste for seasoning. It might need more Hickory salt or cider vinegar.

When the meatballs are done, add them and the kielbasa slices to the glaze and carefully stir to coat and keep warm. Reserve the liquid that the meatballs exude. Strain and use to thin the sauce if it gets too thick.

To serve, first spear a meatball with a toothpick, then a kielbasa slice for it to sit on. Place on a warmed serving tray. The Kielbasa slices keep the meatballs upright, and they’re delicious!

2 Responses to Hickory Meatballs for the Holidays

  1. david wilson says:

    Thanks for the recipe. Your posts to this blog are dropping in frequency. We all depend on you to find all the good places to eat and then to tell us about them.

  2. David, the work stuff has to go first and I have been really busy. But I have other reasons why things are slowing down as far as my NJ restaurant posts go. Hopefully in a few months I can shed some light on that.

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