This is easy and foolproof, and offers memories for me of two great ladies, my mother and grandmother! It is a favorite of our family for the holidays and for any other day they are served. My mother Annette Harris Felson and grandma Ida Bank Harris made them during the holidays as a first course instead of soup. My great-great grandmother Chase Bank made them as well as my namesake, Martha Bank, who came to Baltimore in 1887.
The secret is to make them very small and to balance the sweet and sour. Grandma Harris used to call me to walk the two blocks to her house in Ocilla, Ga., to be the “taster” and she trusted my judgment, even as a child, to tell her if it was too sweet or too sour. I have added carrots to the sauce since they pick up the flavor, add color and our family loves them.
For dinner during the holidays, they can be served as the first course and for lunch, the main course paired with a salad of sliced cucumbers, avocados, tomatoes, and hearts of palm with olive oil and lemon juice, salt and pepper mixed in. And, of course, a big slice of challah to accompany them at lunch or dinner.
I always have the memory of the smell in mama and grandma’s kitchens when I make them. A recipe legacy I am proud to inherit, pass down, share and am always happy to serve.
Two pounds of ground lean beef (chuck, round or sirloin)
Three slices bread, edges trimmed and soaked in warm water
One small onion, grated fine
Salt and pepper, to taste
Garlic salt (optional)
Mix meat with water-soaked bread, onion, and seasonings and set aside
2 large (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes with added puree
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
2 carrots, sliced in rounds
In large Dutch oven, put the tomatoes, sugar, kosher salt and carrots and bring to a simmer:
Roll meat in tiny balls (quarter size) and drop into simmering sauce.
Reduce heat, cover and simmer and cook for 1 hour and a half, stirring occasionally.
1 tablespoon lemon juice or 1/8 teaspoon citric acid salt
Add lemon juice or citric acid salt and then taste. Add more sugar if too sour or more citric acid or lemon if too sweet.
Martha Jo Katz is a contributor to the AJT.