My mother was just put on a low sodium diet. I want to start bringing her small portions of low sodium comfort food to keep in her freezer. She seems to gravitate toward meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I thought I would start with some small, tender meatballs (texture is also an issue for her, nothing too chewy or tough). How does this sound: ground sirloin and chuck, minced garlic, breadcrumbs (no salt added), an egg, chopped parsley, a little chopped spinach and a bit of lemon zest. Any other ideas? TIA!!
Sounds good. I’m always a fan of mixed meat (beef, pork, veal) in my meatballs but all beef certainly works.
I also find that having more herbs (Rosemary, oregano, sage are the first that come to mind) also help to round out flavor if you’re cutting salt. So I might add some of those (or experiment with them).
For that same reason, I wonder about the spinach (I don’t usually put that in my meatballs so this is more of an open thought than a strict recommendation). I wonder if that will mute some of the flavors and potentially add water - both of which might make me want to add salt to compensate …
I agree with adding a some herbs.
For the texture, you can always moisten the bread crumbs with milk.
The other smart tidbit I learned from chow, that I never thought of was doing a “test” meatball. Fry one up before you make the batch to make sure that you like the spicing. I always used to make the whole batch and cook them and then decide that they were a little bland.
Thimes, I’m thinking you may be right about the spinach. And Salsaila - thanks for the great tip about frying one first to test seasoning, and moistening bread crumbs first, which I did plan to do. Thanks guys, time to stop over thinking it and get cooking.
For the springiness and smoother texture you find in frozen food meatballs you can try this method. The Cooks Illustrated recipe for Swedish meatballs has you put the pork, onion and spices into a food processor for 2 minutes then add the soaked bread crumbs (1 minute) and beef (30 seconds).
Instead of fresh garlic, in this case I would probably use garlic powder, as well as onion powder. I find that they permeate meatballs and meatloaves more thoroughly than fresh, and in the absence of salt, you’re going to want to get all the flavor in there that you can. I would also leave out the fresh spinach and use fresh or dried herbs instead - more parsley, some basil and oregano, etc. Can she have any salt at all, or salt substitutes like Nu-Salt or No-Salt?
Does she normally enjoy meatballs? If so, just make her usual recipe and leave out the salt, perhaps upping the herbs to compensate. I’ve been a low salt diet for years now - I don’t cook with salt, nor do i add it to my food at the table. Took about two weeks to get used to it.
Sal is correct about soaking the breadcrumbs in some milk. It definitely makes a more tender meatball. Something in milk inhibits the protein bonding of the meat. I forget the whole deal but it really works. If you’re making Italian meatballs I recommend Basil & a bit of Oregano. I usually use basil 3 to one with Oregano. I don’t put much salt in my cooking at all anyway.
Include lots of onion and some minced bell pepper. Carrot, too, will add flavor. Saute the vegetables well, because browning adds flavor, before adding them to the mix. A generous amount of black pepper and allspice will help. Balsamic vinegar will add deeper flavor than lemon zest, though anything acidic is good when no salt is used. Rather than meatballs, form into 3/4" thick patties, saute over medium-low heat, 10 mi9 per side. Again, more browning that way.
I haven’t added salt to my food in decades, though of course some ingredients, like cheese, are salty. I adore Trader Joe’s 21-Seasoning Salute, which is salt-free but does wonders for seasoning just about everything I cook.
IMO/E, those products make whatever they’re used on metallically inedible.
TJ’s also has a no salt added jarred marinara that would be nice with those meatballs.
Thanks so much to everyone for your suggestions! My meatballs were lackluster to say the least although not bad in soup. I think I will try meatloaf next using some of your ideas. She seems to like meatloaf lot these days. Turns out that she really only has to lessen her intake and the situation is less extreme than I had imagined.
You’ll find also that if you cook from scratch, there’s not the salt that you get in processed foods.