I learned to make this recipe in my mother’s wonderful kitchen. As are most of the Amish recipes I’m sharing in this series, it’s an uncomplicated, straightforward dish, filled with simple and hearty flavors, for the entire family to enjoy. Although only the most sensitive of pallets would taste the rice in this recipe, it adds a texture which when baked resembles porcupine quills, making it an especially fun recipe for children. It’s delicious served with a salad and potatoes! I’ve always been fascinated with the name, so I did a little research. I found this interesting information on TheFoodTimeLine.org:
“Porcupine meatballs. The sort of easy, novelty recipe that appealed to cooks in the 30s, yet it appears to have been developed during World War I as a way to stretch meat. In Conservation Recipes (1918) compiled by the Mobilized Women’s Organizations of Berkeley and published by the Berkeley Unit, Council of Defence Women’s Committee, there is something called “Rice Meat Balls,” a clear forerunner of the recipes.”
—American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes fo the 20th Century, Jean Anderson [Clarkson Potter:New York] 1997 (p. 104)
I once that Native American Indians made a meatball with venison and wild rice. In addition, one of the processes of this recipe (soaking the breadcrumbs in milk), is clearly a Swedish thing. So it seems that not only the Amish culture, but many others in America can lay claim to this yummy meatball.
First, tear stale or toasted bread into small pieces. This is a great job to set little helping hands to! (I like to use Ezekiel Bread.) Pour the milk over the bread crumbs, stir, and allow to soften.
Place ground meat in bowl, (the recipe calls for ground beef, I like to use local, grass-fed beef, or turkey burger). Add salt and seasonings, egg, 1/2 cup uncooked rice, and onion. (The onion is optional, I add it to half the meatballs.) Mix together gently, taking care not to over-beat.
The Mennonite Community Cookbook calls only for salt as a seasoning. In addition, I add black pepper, just a hint of cayenne pepper, paprika, parsley and basil. I’ve seen other recipes that call for garlic and Worcestershire sauce, both would be great additions, if desired!
Not only do I add those seasonings to the porcupine meatball mixture, I add the same things to the waiting Tomato Juice which acts as a sauce. (If you don’t have tomato juice on hand, you can blend tomatoes, or use tomato sauce mixed with water, a 2 parts tomato sauce and 1 part water ratio.)
After forming the meatballs, place in a greased pan. Pour sauce over the meatballs.
- 1 pound hamburger (or turkey burger)
- 4 slices bread
- 1 cup milk
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 medium onion (chopped coarsely or fine, whichever your preference)
- 1/4 cup uncooked rice (brown or white)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups tomato juice
- *Optional seasonings: 1/4 teaspoon black pepper to meatballs and sauce, a dash of cayenne pepper to each, a dash of paprika to each, 1/2 teaspoon parsley to each, 1/2 teaspoon basil to each
- Preheat oven to 350. Grease baking dish.
- Crumble bread and soak in milk.
- Add beaten egg.
- Mix with other ingredients (except tomato juice).
- Add seasonings to meat mixture and to sauce. Mix/stir.
- Pour tomato juice over the meatballs.
- Bake covered for 45 minutes, and uncovered for 35-45 minutes, or until slightly browned.
Recipe source: Mabel Lehman; Mrs. Rueben Eberly; Mennonite Community Cookbook
American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes fo the 20th Century, Jean Anderson [Clarkson Potter:New York] 1997 (p. 104)