My parents used to make a version of these for their family gatherings back in the 1970’s, so now it’s a real retro party dish. I remember sitting around my Dad’s homemade sawbuck table with my sister and my Mom, rolling these petite meatballs. I pulled up Mom’s old recipe, wondering if I could successfully veganize it. Enter Gimme Lean “sausage” and “ground beef” vegan meats. This is the same product I used for the delicious vegan meatloaf I recently created. The Gimme Lean label says they do NOT use soybeans that were produced using biotechnology. Because this vegan meat does not have fat and cholesterol, I modified the original recipe, to give more taste and flavor and make the sausage mix a bit moister. And wow, they’re just great! The slight crunch of the toasted slivered almonds, and the blend of the sweet and the sour. On the one hand, it was so NICE not to have to disinfect the kitchen after making these. On the other hand, I had to get out my big KitchenAid mixer in order to get everything incorporated well. These vegan ground meats are stiffer and harder to mix than the bad meats. I think it would have been slightly difficult even with my hands. I used the flat beater attachment. An added thought is that these products are stamped “pareve” (par-uh-va) and so are very useful for those wanting to prepare Kosher dishes. So with a lot of holiday spirit, here is the recipe:
Vegan Swedish Sweet and Sour Meatballs
Makes approx. 70 to 75 meatballs
1 pkg. Gimme Lean sausage style
1 pkg. Gimme Lean ground beef style
½ C slivered almonds (or a bit more, if you like)
½ C dry bread crumbs (plain)
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced, or pressed
Ener-G egg replacer, to equal 2 eggs, frothed
3 Tablespoons Tamari sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos
¼ tsp of Tabasco
¼ tsp fine sea salt
1/16th tsp (a dash) of nutmeg
One inch of peanut oil (enough to fry meatballs in a medium sized saucepan)
A cup or so of cornstarch, for coating
Toothpicks for serving
In a medium saucepan, heat peanut oil, on medium heat.
In a small skillet, put almonds with one tablespoon of Earth Balance vegan butter, on medium heat and brown on medium low heat, stirring occasionally (don’t burn). Remove from heat and sprinkle with a tiny bit of sea salt.
Thoroughly combine all above ingredients, including browned almonds. (a strong mixer, such as a Kitchen Aid, does help in this process)
Scooping with a teaspoon, form into small balls about the diameter of a quarter coin (approx. 1 inch), no larger!
Roll balls in cornstarch, gently brush off excess corn starch, and fry in oil for approx. seven minutes, turning after 4 minutes.
Drain on paper towels. There will be a flaky white coating of cornstarch here and there. Do not worry about this. Once the meatballs are added to the sauce, these cornstarch flakes will melt and add to the thickening of the sauce.
IF making ahead, cool and drain and freeze meatballs here.
See below for sauce recipe.
1 large can (at least 20 ounces) pineapple chunks, drained
1 C pineapple juice
2 C apple-cider vinegar
½ C tamari sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos
1.5 C brown sugar
4 T cornstarch
-In a small to medium sized stock pot, mix pineapple juice, vinegar, soy sauce and sugar.
-Mix cornstarch into a bit of pineapple juice and stir into a smooth slurry, and then add to the stock pot.
-Cook, stirring constantly over medium heat for 15 minutes.
-Sauce is done when it visibly darkens and thickens (you will know).
-Add meatballs and pineapple chunks, and serve in chafing dish.
Tips: I bought the small Dole brand six-pack of pineapple juice, which is not from concentrate. This way, I didn’t have to open a big bottle for just one cup of juice.
Also, if you have leftovers and you go to reheat, the sauce will be a bit clumpy. Just pour in one of the six-ounce cans of pineapple juice when you re-heat, and whisk or stir, and it will smooth out the sauce again.
Lastly, if you’re buying good pineapple in its own juice, you can use that can juice instead of opening one of the smaller cans. Just drain it into a one-cup measure to make sure there’s enough of the can juice to equal the one cup called for.
p.s. Pineapple is high on the list of the “Clean Fifteen” so it’s more OK to buy the standard supermarket brands that are (sadly) not organic.
My mother made a note on her recipe that she sometimes substituted wine vinegar, but the flavor of these is what I remember; that fruity acidic pineapple with the almost-alcoholic aromatic tang of the apple cider vinegar in the original recipe.
So, this is what the meatballs will look like immediately after frying, with some fried cornstarch still clinging to them. You can freeze the meatballs at this point. Don’t worry about how they look, as the bits of cornstarch will help thicken the sauce in the final stage of preparation.