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Classic Muscadine Cocktail Meatballs, made with homemade or frozen meatballs and Muscadine or Scuppernong grape jelly, are classic ‘South’ and always a crowd favorite for any gathering.
No, NOT unsophisticated. Expected! Yep, crockpot meatballs. Trust me, Southerners lend class to everything, even if it is only a four-ingredient tailgate meatball!
Classic Muscadine Cocktail Meatballs celebrate the muscadine grape! Upon moving to Charleston, South Carolina, I was introduced to these little grapes in one of my bounty boxes from a local farm.
I remember popping one in my mouth. The skin was tough. Beneath the membrane was a sweet layer, followed by a seeded flesh that was not tasty…at all. I prayed they’d only arrive in that one box. Unfortunately, they kept coming. AND COMING.
My sweet friends Nikki and Dave gifted me a Lowcountry cookbook to which I now owe my obsession with “getting Southern cuisine mastered” as though I were born here.
After several weeks of muscadine-heavy bounty boxes, I was experimenting with everything from Mason jar moonshine to muscadine pie! Yes, there is a recipe for pie made from the flesh of these grapes. Wine, too!
Muscadines are dark purple, whereas Scuppernongs are greenish or bronze in color. In other words, red variety grapes are Muscadines, and white variety grapes are Scuppernongs. Oh yeah, these are a thing in the American South. I wonder who was the first to put grape jelly in meatballs…?
I was not terribly successful, and frankly too afraid to even ‘test’ the supposed moonshine. That operation was relocated to my garage pretty quickly. HA! But, I did master jelly. Muscadines and their green counterparts, scuppernongs make the MOST AMAZING jelly!
Classic Muscadine Cocktail Meatballs was an experiment from a decade-old method my mom (and probably yours) used for grape jelly meatballs. Why? Because with only four ingredients, I could ‘test’ the muscadine jelly and the scuppernong jelly to see if it was as good as the original.
And, eleven years later, I am still making these silly grape jelly meatballs for parties and for nights when my family and I “do cocktails and snacks” in front of the television.
While Scuppernong is a variety of Muscadine it is not considered a hybrid or cultivar. It has been known to be in existence since at least the 1600’s and has been domesticated in its own right.
Looking for meatball ideas for party people? Frozen meatball appetizers have been popular since the 1950s. Today’s classic cocktail meatballs are easily doubled or even tripled.
Imagine showing up to the Christmas mixer with these four-ingredient sweet and sour meatballs slung over your shoulder, already hot in the crock pot you’ve got dangling with ease. ULTIMATE.
This frozen Italian meatball appetizer recipe is largely hands-off. Despite taking 4 hours in the slow cooker, they are well worth the wait, and adding these to your party snack table is always a welcome sight for partygoers.
Cooking up this easy recipe is all about time and quality ingredients. There is not much to these little pop ’ems. The sauce is pleasingly sweet, reminding me of the grape jelly and cocktail sauce meatballs my college roommate used to make. Hers were a bit involved because she always made her own ground beef and pork sweet meatballs in oven.
Food does not need to be complicated to taste great. Trust me, you can search hundreds of cocktail meatball recipes online. These are EASY, taste great, and are super popular. I like to think that the use of scuppernong or muscadine jelly and a good chili sauce make these. Oh, and the tiniest bit of cayenne pepper. It’s just a pinch unless you love things hot.
Looking for dinner recipes with meatballs? Make the meatballs a little larger in size from scratch. Use my method for Amazing Swedish Meatballs and skip the creamy gravy! Opt instead for this scuppernong jelly and sweet chili sauce method and serve over rice. This is kid approved to boot!
Planning to spend some time at home and want to accomplish your chore list while you’ve got something really, really great simmering? Consider Classic Muscadine Cocktail Meatballs. If you do not have a grocery local to you that sells small farm and independently crafted foods like Muscadine Jelly or Scuppernong Jelly, you can order from the few I have linked herein or substitute regular grape jelly. Where is the fun in that, though??
I will only use Heinz Chili Sauce. I trust it and it’s available pretty much everywhere. The bigger question is do you make your own meatballs or use frozen? Of course, you know I would almost always say make your own. BUT…it’s the holidays and we are doing a ton of cooking presently. Give yourself a break and use a better quality frozen meatball. For a big crockpot full of these pop ’ems, you will need around 4 pounds of meatballs.
I have purchased pre-made and frozen meatballs from my independent butcher, and I have also purchased grocery store frozen meatballs during their BOGO sales. Either are great options. Just make sure you are not purchasing a flavored meatball such as garlic or parmesan or barbecue. You want the muscadine jelly and the chili sauce to do the courting, NOT any other flavors.
Four pounds of mini meatballs may sound like a lot, but if you figure around eight to ten meatballs per person, you are right up there with a houseful of say 15 to 20 partygoers.
All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC
Classic Muscadine Cocktail Meatballs
- large slow cooker
- 2 12 ounce bottles chili sauce
- 32 ounces muscadine jelly
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 4 pounds meatballs homemade or frozen, cocktail-size
- Combine the jelly, the chili sauce, and the cayenne in a medium non-stick saucepan and heat until warm. I also whisk this very well for several minutes.
- Set up a large slow cooker and set to 'low.' Place cocktail meatballs into the cooker and pour the sauce over the meatballs. Give the entire pot a good stir with a rubber spatula and replace the lid. Cook on low for 4 hours.
- For tailgating, serve right from the crock pot with toothpicks to handle. You may want something nicer for a holiday party. I use a party chaffing dish.
The nutrition value can vary depending on what product(s) you use. The information below is an estimate. Always use a calorie counter you are familiar with.
Please note that table salt and iodized salt are NOT substitutions for Kosher salt. Do not deviate unless otherwise specified.