By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Table Grape Commission and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Grape balls of fire. That's what the husband wanted me to name this recipe. But let's face it. No one wants to eat something called grape balls. Firey or not. Then again, after tasting this sauce, I don't think you'll care what I call them, as long as I bring more. This bite sized appetizer is out of control delicious and the secret is grapes.

It may sound odd to add grapes or any fruit to a meat glaze, but other cultures do it all the time! Think about Korean BBQ... kiwi, plums, you name it. Their sauces are tangy and sweet, and they use the fruit as a natural tenderizer. Sometimes something that sounds weird becomes a gateway to a whole bagful of culinary tricks. 

Long story short, this recipe is perfect for football season. And with the Packers playing the Redskins on Sunday, the husband and I are reliving our first date. In which, I might add, the Packers also beat the they will this weekend. Go Pack go. 


I'm not going to sugar coat it. This recipe is long. I started with home made grape jam made from red grapes. Then I cooked down garden summer tomatoes and melded the flavors together. If you're looking for a short cut, instead of making your own tomato base, you could add a pre-made chili sauce. But I really think this recipe is worth it as long as you're wearing an apron (I always stain myself if it's tomatoes or wine. Always). Taking this sauce and coating it over a crisp coated meatball,  skewered with fresh elements of the ingredients, you get just the right mount of crisp, sweet, fresh and baked. It's worth it a zillion times over. I practically want to roll myself in this sauce. 


Grape Jam Cocktail Meatballs

Football ready, bite size with sauce you want to bathe in. 

///Ingredients///  Makes approx. 25-30 meatballs

Grape Sauce

  • 3 C California Red Grapes
  • 1/2 C water
  • 1 C brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fruit pectin
  • 6 Medium Sized Tomatoes
  •  1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp celery seed
  • 2 tsp whole grain mustard
  • 2 tsp sriracha (add more if you like spicy)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp white vinegar (apple cider is acceptable)
  • 2 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp paprika

///Grape sauce Directions/// Combine grapes and water. Boil and reduce heat, cooking at low heat for 10 minutes. It should simmer. Using a mesh sieve, strain the juice from the grapes. Throw away the skins. Add brown sugar and pectin to the grape juice. Reheat and thicken, whisking constantly. Remove from heat. In a separate pot, add chopped tomatoes, onion, mustard, sriracha, salt, pepper, vinegar, worcestershire, and paprika. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Reduce to low and cook for 20 minutes covered. Using an immersion blender, puree the tomato mixture. Pass the tomato mix through a mesh sieve and throw away skins and seeds. Add the tomato base to the grape sauce from earlier and cook down until it reaches the desired consistency. It should be very thick, like a glaze for a ham. It took about 15 minutes on medium low heat. 


  • 1 lb. ground beef (organic preferred) 
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 C Italian bread crumbs
  • 1/2 C minced onion
  • 1/4 C skim milk
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce

///Meatball Directions/// Combine ingredients in a bowl. Once combined, make into small spheres...if you want to get exact, 1.1 inch diameter...or the size of a small ping pong ball. Place on a foiled baking sheet that has been lightly coated with oil. Bake at 350 F until cooked all the way through. Watch closely depending on how tightly you pack the meatballs and how your oven functions. 

 ///Putting it all together/// Roll the meatballs in the sauce. Skewer with 1/2 a grape and 1/2 a cherry tomato. Serve hot or cold.

Okay guys, that's it for the grapes for this week! If you missed the earlier posts check out the goat cheese and roasted grape rounds or the frozen grape truffles with almond and coconut.  Bet you'll never look at grapes the same way again!


Dietitian Nutritionist and cookbook author sharing flavor-forward recipes and simplified science-driven wellness.