I have updated this Depression Era recipe for porcupine meatballs by serving them on trendy slider buns and melting some sharp cheddar over the top.
This post is part of a burger grill giveaway hosted by GirlCarnivore, but the inspiration for the recipe comes from my Grandma Florence’s recipe box.
Rice was Cheap and Meat Was Not
Although porcupines were eaten, most often at the subsistence-level of cookery, this recipe doesn’t employ the meat of the quilled rodent.
This recipe is a meat stretching recipe that most likely saw its first appearance during WWI and was popular during the Depression when meat was scarce and rice was cheap.
In Conservation Recipes, compiled the Mobilized Women’s Organization of Berkeley, 1918, a recipe for Rice Meat Balls appears and is probably the forerunner to the porcupine meatball recipe tucked into the my grandma’s recipe box. The recipe probably got its name because of the rice poking out from the sides of the meatball.
It’s interesting to see the evolution of this recipe. The ratios of rice to meat changed as meat became more available and affordable. With the introduction in the ‘30s of its workhorse condensed soup, Campbell’s suggested using tomato soup rather than canned tomatoes for this recipe. By the ‘70s, herbs, spices and more aromatics found their way into the once humble rice and meat ball.
So, in that spirit with so many amazing artisan foods and ingredients available, I have made some changes to grandma’s recipe. To the tomato sauce, I added a lovely smokey ketchup, a little smoked paprika, and some European style bacon from a local butcher. The meatballs remained relatively the same with the exception of melting a lovely sharp cheddar cheese over the top after placing the meatball and a generous spoonful of sauce in a potato slider roll.
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- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/4 pound bacon finely chopped, divided
- 1/2 cup rice
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped green pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
- 1 14 ounce jar smoky ketchup, I used Red Duck Smoky Ketchup
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Slider rolls for serving
- Sliced cheese for serving I use Cabot sharp Cheddar
- In a large mixing bowl, combine beef, 1/2 of the bacon, rice, onion, green pepper, salt, thyme, and pepper. Mix until just combined.
- Shape into 12 - 15 balls about 1-inch in diameter.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil and brown the meatballs in batches. Transfer to a clean plate.
- Add the remaining bacon to the skillet and fry for 2 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, ketchup, and paprika, stirring to combine.
- Add the browned meatballs to the sauce, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 1 hour until the rice is tender.
- Cut the slider rolls in half, place a spoonful of sauce on the bottom top with a meatball and a thin slice of cheese, place the top of the roll over the meatball and serve.
For more inspired burger recipes check out these fabulous websites.
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Recipe Box Roulette
The rules are simple. Let your fingers wander over the recipes cards in the box, draw one at random, share it with us on FB Page or on your Instagram Feed. Remember to tag @theheritagcookbookproject and use the hashtag #recipeboxroulette.
Extra credit – make the recipe and share a photograph.
Recipe card from Grandma Florence’s recipe box.