Ask For Scraps From The Butcher To Make Exceptional Meatballs

If you think of meatballs as purely the domain of Italian cuisine, then your culinary worldview needs to be opened wider. Meatballs, AKA albondigas, bò viên, bitterballen, kofta, etc., permeate cuisines around the world. They represent a fabulous marriage of various proteins, starchy components, vegetables, and aromatics that are ingrained in the culinary cultures they represent. Beyond that, though, meatballs have always provided people with an economical way to make the most of the nutrient-rich meat from an animal. It's a practice that can and should still be practiced as it is not just delicious but touches on sustainable stewardship of the larger food supply. 

Your go-to meatball recipe probably calls for ground beef and possibly ground pork or sausage, which is all well and good. Those cuts are often made from larger commercially available cuts of beef and pork, such as chuck roast or shoulder. Butchers, though, have access to many more morsels of meat that come courtesy of the deli counter. These ends of salami, ham, and other cold cuts are rife with flavor and fat, all of which make for the best meatballs.

Scraps of flavor

Asking your butcher questions is always a good idea. They are happy to share their tips and tricks with customers and can be a font of knowledge when it comes to economical or overlooked cuts and how to properly prepare them. When it comes to those scraps, they're more than happy to sell them. It's as easy as letting them know what you're making. If you are rolling up robust Italian meatballs, consider adding some ground salami or cured prosciutto. Even a milder cut, like roast beef (if not too pronounced in its seasoning) can be added to a range of meatballs, such as Turkish cig köfte, which can call for either beef, lamb, or both.

It's worth noting whether you're at a deli or a butcher shop. A deli can absolutely provide you with a plethora of tasty scraps of meats, cold cuts, and sausages, usually for a discounted rate. But, a true butcher shop may be able to do you one better by grinding the scraps for you. This is, of course, if they have the time and a meat grinder clean and available for the purpose. If not — or if you've gotten your scraps from the deli — then just grind them at home, give them a spin in the food processor, or finely chop them before adding them to your meatballs. The results will be well worth the added effort.