Thursday, February 3, 2011

Crock Pot Party Meatballs


What is it about meatballs that we love? Go to any potluck or party and if there is a Crock Pot of meatballs sitting out, you will usually find a group of folks standing around eating them as they talk.  They draw us into their meaty goodness. I won't name any names, but I've known a couple of vegetarians who have snuck in a meatball when no one was looking...

This recipe is a blast from the past. This particular appetizer was popularized back in the 50's. Back when a formal room was highly coveted, soldiers were home from the war and starting families, housewives were competing to be the best hostess on the block while their men were learning how to grill the best cuts of meat money could buy.   Okay, I may be overly fantasizing a bit but the 1950's were a turning point in food and entertaining in this country.

 Not all party foods made the cut, Green Jell-o molds anyone?
This recipe has stood the test of time.  The original recipe calls for using Heinz Chili sauce, which is tasty in it's own right.  However, a few years ago, I went to a party and the host made it with BBQ sauce and I was hooked! The BBQ sauce give these meatballs just a little more oomph.  And speaking of BBQ sauce, I did a small informal poll on Facebook a couple of weeks ago.   I asked everyone what their favorite bottled BBQ sauce was.   The overwhelming winner? Sweet Baby Rays!  And don't be thrown off by the grape jelly if you've never tried these before.  I promise, you don't taste the grape at all. It just adds a nice, lightly sweet background flavor and gives a nice consistency to the sauce.   Also, I've tried making this before using meatballs I made from scratch.  Do yourself a favor, just go with the prepackaged ones.  They really hold up better and don't fall apart as easy as the homemade ones do.
Ingredients:
1 (32 oz.) bag frozen meatballs
1 (18 oz.) jar grape jelly
1 (18 oz.) bottle of your favorite BBQ Sauce


Directions:
Combine the frozen meatballs, grape jelly and BBQ sauce into your slow cooker and stir well until combined.  Cook the mixture on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 2 – 2 ½ hours until completely cooked through (stirring occasionally.)  When they are ready, just set your crock pot to the "keep warm" setting and let guests serve themselves. Just place small bowls and toothpicks next to the meatballs.  Everyone is going to love these!

Cook’s Note: This also works really nicely with a package or two of lil’ smokies. Also, you can use many types of jelly flavors. I’ve used cranberry, apricot and pineapple before and all were very good!

129 comments :

  1. I am with you on the already prepared meatballs! I've had this recipe with the chili sauce before but never with bbq. Sounds yummy! I love anything with BBQ sauce.

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  2. I make mine with BBQ sauce and grape jelly. And, yes, it is always Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce in this house. Love it! I'll be making these on Saunday for our family's SuperBowl munchies. My kids are excited about our "snack food dinner" that night :)
    Jenn

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    1. Yes these are the bomb especially with sweet baby rays

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  3. These look yummy! I have a half box of meatballs in the freezer waiting to be used, i think i might give this a try!

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    1. Your going to be sorry you only have half a box. lol

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  4. Brandie, Since I've started reading your blog, my slow cooker has gone into overdrive! I always leave here with some great ideas and a smile... Thanks for keeping it simple and real.

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  5. thanks for sharing this recipe. I always wanted to find out how to make these!

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  6. Oh, yum...I think this is the classic Super Bowl dish...my boys would be thrilled with a plate of these...and I know how wonderful the house would be with these warming in the crock pot! Thanks, Brandie :)

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  7. Wow, your meatballs look so yummy! I like the fact that there is a shortcut involved. Sometimes it gets so busy and this little shortcuts are life savers!!!! Grape Jelly, love it! Thank for sharing Brandie :)

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  8. Sweet Baby Ray's here too! But no grape jelly. Maybe I need to try it that way....

    Lately I've had to back off on making these so much because certain men in the house overindulge and we have BIG heartburn issues from the seasoned meatballs.

    I love this recipe though because it's so "fire and forget!" And you only need 4 hours, not 8-10 hours like many other Crock Pot specialties!

    Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Instead of the jelly, I used The Jug BBQ sauce along with the sweet baby rays, mixed them together, and they flew out of the dish! I made dozens of smaller meat balls and just added sauce whenever it seemed to need more. The jug has a polynesian flavor and offsets the other BBQ sauce just right. Try it, we love them!

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  9. You are right ! Go to a potluck or party, and someone always brings these wonderful meatballs. Sometimes it's BBQ sauce or chili sauce, but always the grape jelly.
    We still have a big jar of grape jelly in the fridge. My husband made these meatballs to take to work during Christmas week.

    Happy Super Bowl!

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  10. Oh I love these little guys... so tasty!

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  11. Looks fantastic Brandy, and I love your photo!!It is mouthwatering!!!

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  12. Idk, this is really weird. Grape jelly in the sauce? I guess I will just have to trust you. This is the kind of thing that I would make and not dare tell my husband what was in it until after he scarfed it all down and raved about it. I am always up for trying something different!

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    1. I'm still old school on this one
      I still use grape jelly with the Heinz Chili Sauce
      It's always been a big hit!

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  13. Meatballs are one of my favorite comfort foods. So delicious. Such a creative take on it.

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  14. These sound great Bran! And Yay for Great Value! I get most of my stuff at Walmart!!

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  15. Yay for lifesaving shortcuts when it comes down to a party :)
    Thank you for warm welcome on Chef's Dennis blog :)

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  16. Annie - you gotta trust me girl! I wouldn't steer you wrong! :)

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  17. These look so simple and delicious! I love coming across easy-to-make recipes like this one. And thanks for the heads up on the grape jelly--it is indeed an unusual ingredient. But I totally belive it works!

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  18. Store bought meatballs have come a long way. Using a slow cooker makes them really yummy. You are right, it's tried and true.

    Plan B

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  19. Looks delicious! I have seen grape jelly+bbq sauce meatballs before but have never tried them. I'll take your word that the jelly taste doesn't shine through! :-)

    Visiting from It's a Keeper

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  20. Mmm they look good! I thought about making meatballs for tomorrow, but I just haven't decided yet. And you're right about the grape jelly - it's good! I was very surprised when my mother-in-law told me that was the "secret" to her really good party meatballs!

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  21. These look great and I'll be giving them a try...thanks for sharing!

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  22. I also made this for the super bowl party and I made 60 of them none were left,Great Recipe.

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  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  24. Ah, these are like the little smokies we make only we use ketchup and grape jelly. Never thought about doing meatballs. Would sure make them last longer!

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  25. Yes, I admit that I'm a meatball hound too. I also admit that I've never made them myself. I need to though. We'd just sit and eat them (which is not a bad thing). :)

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  26. These look so comforting. Meatballs are my favorite.

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  27. I was just thinking that I needed to get rid of the frozen meatballs in my fridge, and this sounds so easy. Thanks for the inspiration. You should link up with *Fun for Kids Friday* http://www.localfunforkids.com/

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  28. No Party is complete without Meatballs and your recipe looks very good. I am so happy that you brought them to share with us at Full Plate Thursday and we look forward to seeing you next week!

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  29. OK, I had to take a look at this recipe too before signing off tonite. I know what you mean about this being a fav at pot lucks. I too am a Sweet Baby Rae's fan and never heard of trying these with BBQ sauce. Adding this to my list for sure! And how do you get your pics to look so absolutely YUMMY?

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  30. Love these:) You should come link them up to Crock Pot Wednesday. Hope to see you there.

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  31. i will try this ,during holidays i use jellied cranberry sauce an one bottle of chili sauce.

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  32. Grape jelly? That is brilliant, Brandie! I'd love if you'd consider sharing this recipe in the online Get Grillin' & summer bbq event I'm sponsoring (it's appetizer week right now).

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  33. I love a good meatball. I make cocktail weenies w/ ketchup and cranberry sauce, so this makes perfect sense to me! Thanks for sharing @ Church Supper!

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  34. I had these during the holidays and was amazed at how yummy they are. I'm glad I came cross the recipe so I can enjoy them more often. Great call in rue jelly. Really gives it a twist.

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  35. Thank you for taking the time to come back & let me know how it turned out for you! So glad you liked them!!

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  36. Just made these with turkey meatballs and sugar free grape jelly to make it slightly more healthy - still delicious! Give it a try!

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  37. I used to make it this way all the time! Now I switch back and forth from this to

    Chili Sauce and a can of cranberries!

    Both are a delicious snack for football days!

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  38. Anyone ever tried apple jelly or red pepper jelly? Just trying to use up what I've got on hand, to avoid going to the store today

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  39. When I make these, I also go with the pre-made store brand. I add the grape jelly and BBQ sauce but I also add brown sugar and honey to taste.

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  40. Made this for dinner today... a huge hit with the kids the absolutely love it!!

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  41. We get these meatballs from Wal-Mart! They really are delicious! Thanks for the recipe. Sounds yummy!

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  42. We get these meatballs from Wal-Mart. They are delicious! Thank
    you for the recipe!

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  43. I just love these...There are never any left..They are ready in about 40 mins but the longer you cook them the more tender and tastier they get..love love love them..add some hot sauce to give them some zing...great turn over meals next night(if any left) put them over egg noodles or make a sandwich with them!

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  44. I've used this recipe for years! I make it a lot when we have a function at work because it's so easy and portable. I have in recent years though changed from meatballs to little weenies. I can fit a lot more into the crockpot and feed a lot more people.

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  45. I have used Grape jelly in a similar recipe using Cocktail Smokies and the addition of crushed pineapple and diced jalapenos. Will have to try this Meatball version, sounds delish!

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  46. Thia is my first attempt at this....Got the boys over--football, ribs, wings & now meatballs!!!!

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  47. I love these but changed it up for some senior citizens who had blood sugar issues. I used premade meatballs also, a no brainer, and added fruit only cherry jam,1/2 cup no sugar added catsup, 1/4 cup Country Bob's Sauce, and small can of crushed pineapple in juice. Everyone loved it, not just diabetics, and those said it did not bother their blood sugar.There are no bad crockpot meatballs!

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  48. I have been looking for this recipe. I did not know how much grape jelly to use..I have it in the pantry..going out to buy meatballs and Diana BBQ sauce now!
    Thanks!

    June

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  49. Well here it is Thanksgiving Day and I have a taste for meatballs. I came on here to see if there were any recipes and I found this one with the grape jelly and Rays BBQ sauce. I am going to use homemade grape jelly with this and see how it turns out. I always keep some Rays Sweet BBQ sauce and I had a 32oz. bag of store brand meatballs. They are in the crockpot now and I'll be sure to let you know how everyone liked them. Thanks for the help. Happy Thanksgiving to all the readers.

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  50. I am going to try this with BBQ sauce. I made this tonight with the Heinz Chili Sauce, but the BBQ sounds more yummy. You do not taste the grape jelly -it cooks down. Also going to try the frozen meatballs. I did mine from scratch and they stayed together but were a bit dry.

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  51. Which Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce does everyone use? There are several different flavors of Sweet Baby Ray.

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  52. This is EXACTLY what I use- Sweet Baby Rays and even WalMart's meatballs. Yum!

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  53. Smoked or polish sausages cut into one inch pieces works well with this sauce too. I buy the three pound packages. I love this with chili sauce, but the bar-b-que version is yummy too.

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  54. Rudy's BBQ sause cannot be beat. Rudy's is a Texas BBQ chain that can be found online. Best BBQ I have ever tasted.

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  55. I'm making these tonight but they were out of sweet baby rays!! So I went with bullseye. Hopefully they turn out good they look delicious!!!

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  56. I have always blended chili sauce and cranberry sauce in a pan on the stove and poured it over the meatballs. Now I will have a new one to try! Sounds great!

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  57. My cousin from Australia has just rented a slushy machine for her party next week, then I saw this blog, so I thought, these meatballs would taste great with slushy! Looks like I'll be drinking too much frozen cocktails in Perth next week... Thanks for the recipe!

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  58. I have always been leary of packaged frozen meatballs. Sounds like the Walmart brand are good? Would sure be easier than having to make meatballs from scratch.

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  59. Anonymous - yes I've had good luck with the Wal-Mart brand and other store brands as well. Obviously homemade meatballs are awesome. The only reason why I don't recommend the homemade for these is because they always fall apart at some point during the heating up in the crock pot. I've tried it several times - even tried freezing them. They would still fall apart or would get so soft, folks couldn't easily scoop them up with a toothpick. The frozen, packaged just hold up better and taste great with this combo. of flavors. :)

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  60. Have you ever tried the meatballs with chili sauce and cranberry sauce. YUMMY

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  61. I like the grape jelly/SBR BBQ also! Im gopint to try it with Apricot Jelly this time, Ill let ya know how it is.

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  62. Used this recipe for a munchie during the superbowl game for our guests. It was beyond easy to prepare, very tasty and a huge hit with our guests. Will be making them again in the future!

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  63. Hopefully I didn't miss this in the comments, but what size crockpot do you use? I only have a 4qt so I didn't know if it would all fit. Thanks!

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  64. Yay! So happy this was a good one for y'all! Leah - a 4 quart will work fine for this! I just wouldn't go any smaller than a 4 quart. :) ~Brandie

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  65. I use Sweet Baby Rays Honey BBQ Sauce for the meatballs; making 2 large crocks full for my daughters wedding shower as I type this!!! :)

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  66. Great recipe! I added some finely chopped onion; and after few hours added some flour for thickening.

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  67. I love these, always a hit! I use a spicy salsa but basically get the same, yummy result! Guests are always shocked when I divulge the "recipe".

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  68. Making these for supper tonight :)

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  69. I make this sometimes when we head for the weekend home on the block of the motor inside the hood/bonnet. I start the recipe at my home in Houston by putting everything in a big plastic covered bowl, microwaving, stirring in any other flavors I want to try (onion powder, various rubs, even cream of mushroom soup), and then wrap it all 3x into foil recipe. You don't know the meatballs are there if you are moving in her car (the motor is in the back of her sports car). Still my wife kept asking when we got into traffic if I could smell BBQ but I just would say, well its Friday night - people must be BBQ'ing. When we got to the lake, we emptied the car of the few things we carry back and forth including a cheese plate and wine. Wanting to capture the sunset on the water, I carried the snacks out back and poured my bride a glass of wine. Whilst she asked about our dinner plans, I crept away, retrieved a nice serving dish and two bowls and chopsticks, opened the hood, retrieved the meatballs (she was already suspicious)and served my favorite food critic. It is nice to use the rolling kitchen in your car motor and you never heat up the house. Thanks.

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    Replies
    1. Glenn, you're a man after my own heart. I have cooked many a meal on the V8 Express....

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    2. Late joining and posting to site, but Glenn that was an act of genius......way to go Man!

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  70. if I need to dbl this would it be best to make it twice or just dbl ingredients? Sometimes it's no good to dbl. thanks

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  71. Oh I just made these and doubled the recipe I used 32oz. grape jelly and 2 jars of chili sauce with homemade turkey meatballs.
    These are delicious I put them in an oval 6qt. crockpot on low for 7 hrs. Love them!

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  72. I use this recipe with cocktail weiners also. Soo good!

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  73. We have always used the grape jelly and yellow mustard, but never in the crock pot. I'm going to have to give it a try and see if it works. Sounds much easier!

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  74. Very simple and basic, I'm glad others use the grape jelly too, although I use half as much. Also, I always add a good bit of hot sauce, maybe 1-2 tsp. As far as everyone being in love with Sweet Baby Ray's - and don't get me wrong, I have it in the pantry now, it's good - but has anyone ever heard of Bulls-eye? Vastly superior IMHO. Thanks for posting the recipe.

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    1. I have been using Bulls-Eye for about 25 years. I just recently bought a bottle of Sweet Baby Ray's......I just wanted to see for myself. Haven't tried it yet though. Actually, our favorite is Tony Roma's bought directly from the restaurant.

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  75. BBQ sauce and a can of whole cranberries is another variation on this recipe....it is fabulous!

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  76. I have to feed about 35 for a baby shower we are doing a book theme do
    You think one bag of meatballs will be enough?

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    1. I think it should be. I'm sure there will be lots of other food there. I know it's always hard to figure out because you don't want to make too much or have too little, right? :)

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  77. I've always used the grape jelly with the chili sauce and it is fantabulous ... now I have another variation to try with the barbeque sauce ... Sweet Baby Ray's s our favorite. Talking about strange combinations ... has anyone tried Little Smokies then adding equal parts of yellow mustard and apricot preserves. For my family, I add extra preserves. They like a little more sweetness to them .

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    1. Sounds delish with the yellow mustard and preserves!!

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  78. I get the frozen meatballs Costco sells and they are fantastic with the Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce & grape jelly. I'm thinking of trying it with the whole cranberries instead of the grape jelly for a Thanksgiving appetizer.

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  79. Back in the 70's we used to make these with Grape Jelly and Chili Sauce....They are wonderful!!!!

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  80. Sweet baby ray's honey chipoltle flavor is really good...bold & slightly spicy.

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  81. My crock pot is a 5qt size. Is that large enough for this recipe?

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  82. What frozen meatballs are best for this recipe? Plain, Homestyle or Italian?

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    1. I use just plain ole store brand. Works out well, and you will love them!!!

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  83. I have been making these for a while. I use the Heniz Chili Sauce, never tried the BBQ sauce. Think I will try it. Everytime I make these, they are a hit. So when the holidays come around, I am asked to make these, They are delish. I usually make enough for my husband and I too.

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  84. An alternative to these that I luv on Christmas or New Years, is to use Sweet & Sour sauce instead of BBQ sauce. Awesome! Note: I always use plain or homestyle meatballs, not seasoned (can't control flavor) as some brands are over powering in taste.

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  85. I made over 200 of these meatballs for a Super Bowl party and they were all eaten. I use grape jam instead of jelly and Sweet Baby Rays jalapeño BBQ sauce ( No these are not hot or too spicy, ) it's just a hint of n something else in the sauce. People begged for the recipe. The Jam adds more flavor and isn't as sweet as the jelly.

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  86. Trying this for the first time. When I used the suggested quantities (32 oz, 18 oz and 18 oz) it didn't seem to be enough to cover the meatballs.....do you add water to cover, or do I need to increase the bbq sauce and the jelly? This is my first time with this recipe. Smells great cooking.

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  87. Also, has anyone tried putting in some worstershire sauce for a little twang?

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  88. Every year for New Years Eve, I make some "party food" for my grandchildren and we celebrate together. Think I will make these this year, though I'm sure the adults will be in them, too. Using frozen meatballs will sure streamline this recipe!

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  89. These are exactly what I am doing with my Christmas meatballs this year!! It's as though you looked into my kitchen and gave out my 'recipe'. Wal-mart meatballs, Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce (hand's down the best), and grape jelly. Everyone loves them and no-one has any idea that my secret ingredient is grape jelly. :)

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  90. I have made the chili sauce and jelly version for years but just found Rays new cola bbq sauce so will be trying that for my Christmas apps this year. Merry Christmas all!

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  91. Hi ...I have just received my specially ordered Sweet baby Rays and grape jelly .. I've got raw fresh meatballs so do I need to fry them off first .... Can't wait to try so a big thank you all the way from the UK ......

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  92. i bought italian meatballs on accident ande threw em in the crockpot before i even realized, how is that going to change the flavor, just a little more zangy-tangy??

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  93. I make meatballs all the time -- office parties, church functions, etc. I have always used the frozen meatballs (Rosina or store/discount brand doesn't make a difference, but I ALWAYS use the Italian meatballs). I use Kraft Orignal BBQ sauce (or the store equivalent -- Great Value Original tastes EXACTLY the same), and I add a can of pineapple chunks w/the juice. It's FANTABULOUS!!! I've never done the grape jelly, so I'll have to try that. I'll also have to try the chili sauce & jelly combo as well. As much as I LOVE Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce, for some reason I have never thought to use it for the meatballs. Brandie, you just keep on throwing my skinny girl dreams out the window!!!

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  94. I've done this with several different kinds of jelly, the important thing is to add the sweetness. I've used apricot, orange marmalade, grape, strawberry, boysenberry and whatever else happened to be in the house or fridge when the mood hits. I've made these every new year's eve for at least 30 years. I've always used Chili Sauce though ... I tried the barbecue sauce once and it wasn't as good IMO ... I think the pepper jelly would be especially good, give them a nice kick! I may use that on super bowl Sunday .. IF I can get DH to go along with "snacking Sunday" ;)

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  95. I will be making these for Church this sunday (superbowl sunday). I bought Sweet Baby Ray's bbq sauce and now I'll just add the grape jelly (already had that in my cupboard). I'll use frozen meatballs from Gordon Food Service. GFS is awesome if you have one in your area. Everything is "party" sized.

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  96. I have used the original recipe for probably 25 years and it is still a family favorite. I originally had them at a funeral so try not to think about that part. It is equally good to use cocktail sausages in place of meatballs. For those of you that fear the grape jelly-get brave, it does not have a grape jelly taste. only a mild sweet next layer of flavor.

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  97. Have them in my crock pot now,our very favorite meatball recipe !

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  98. I have made these many times and love them! They are so easy!

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  99. I definitely want to remain on your email list! I love your recipes, ideas & tips!

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  100. I use a large jug of pace picante and raspberry jelly instead. Simply fabulous!

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  101. Your food blog is my absolute favorite! Keep me on your list, please! I will make my meatballs with the SBRay's...love that stuff! You're the greatest!!

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  102. Love your meatball recipe! And, I definitely want to remain on your e-mail list!! It is one of the first ones I read and get so much out of it!

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  103. I made these for my Super Bowl family meal, that and several other recipes that you had posted last week. Let's just say that everyone was going back for second's and even thirds of everything. The Asian Slaw, BBQ cups and your recipe for the choc.chip cookie bars were a major hit! Thank you for helping make this day so very special. I've always been a big fan but these recipes blew this party out of the park! (Even though our team lost)

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  104. Hi Brandie, I sure do want to stay on your email list! Love these meatballs - I made them a couple years ago, but with the chili sauce. They were a bit spicy for me, so I believe the BBQ sauce will be perfect! Thanks for sharing!

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  105. Try apple jelly and Kraft Honey BBQ sauce for a different flavor too. It has become one of my favorites.

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  106. Can I make this a day ahead, keep it overnight in the refrigerator and then re-heat it in the crock pot the next day when I get to the party?

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  107. Anonymous....That would work making the day ahead but make sure you allow enough time to re-heat before serving at the party.

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  108. I made these they are amazing. I used Weber BBW Blazin honey mmm mmmm good

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  109. I make it with the BBQ sauce but I use grape jam instead. I like the sauce to be a bit thicker. It thins out a bit too much with the jelly. (The crock produces extra moisture so with jam it works great!)

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  110. I make theses kind of meat balls as well but I also use 1 can of Holmes Chilli with no beans..My family and friends love them

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  111. Sounds like another winner! I make meatball subs for my boys using half barbeque and half spaghetti sauce mixture (put meatballs on sub rolls, add a little sauce, top w/ slices of provolone, microwave for about 15 seconds to melt cheese).

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  112. I love the prepared meatballs from (don't know if I should say). They have the best flavor without tasting weird. Then I always use bottled bbq sauce and whatever jelly/jam/preserves I have on hand. Cranberry is really good as is orange marmalade, pineapple or peach or apricot preserves... Sometimes a splash of bourbon is good, too! ;)

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  113. Thank you for the recipe!!!! It is amazing. The cub scout loved it at our meeting tonight!

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  114. Came via Gooseberry Patch, love this recipe and with the big game coming up, it's a winner! We usually make it with the Heinz Chili Sauce as others have mentioned. I have tried it with the cranberry sauce and, although I usually love cranberries, did not care for that strong taste coming through in the cooked meatballs. I am interested in trying your barbecue sauce idea, using Sweet Baby Ray's, for sure. If I am using the frozen meatballs I get the Swedish ones and not the Italian style, the flavor in the meatballs is very mild so that the jelly/chili taste dominates. Loved your description of the fifties, guess we always long for a simpler time!

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  115. Michelle ValentineMarch 1, 2016 at 6:05 AM

    My kids (grown kids lol) made these once and I loved them! So happy to find the recipe, even if it seems like a simple one.
    Thank you hun

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  116. I have heard of mixing BBQ sauce (has to be Sweet Baby Ray's!) with grape jelly for the BBQ, but have not tried it yet. Will definitely have to try this!

    That said, this is very similar to the super simple sweet and sour meatballs that a co-worker brings to all of our workday 'crock pot lucks' (yes, crock pots are required for all hot dishes & the whole place smells like manna from heaven with crock pots bubbling away on desks, in the kitchen, the meeting room and even next to the copier). These meatballs disappear in minutes every time; the power of the crockpot meatball!

    As the only difference is the sauce ingredients (same meatballs, mixing and cook time, also just 3 ingredients), I thought I would share:

    Sweet & Sour Crockpot Meatballs
    - 2 large cans chunk pineapple in juice, do not drain
    - 2 large jars sweet and sour sauce
    - about 2 lbs frozen swedish or homestyle meatballs

    Just a variation on the theme. Happy crocking!

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