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These gluten-free cranberry & chestnut stuffing balls look like regular meatballs, but in fact, they are a compact flavour bomb of quintessential festive flavours that will compliment your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.
What makes these stuffing balls stand out are the marinated cranberries, pan-fried onions, bacon, garlic and chestnuts and the fat-satisfying flavour of sausage meat or minced pork. Adding gluten-free breadcrumbs makes these stuffing balls a fantastic festive gluten-free side that can be served a few days later or frozen after preparing them.
Why roll stuffing into balls
Rolling Christmas stuffing into balls to surround a whole roast turkey is something I fondly remember at Christmas lunches or dinners in the UK and Australia. It makes a lot of sense to extend any leftover stuffing into balls and enjoy them as a “meatball” version. They also make an amazing party food option, especially when served with a generous bowl of homemade cranberry sauce to dip in.
- Soak the dried cranberries in Cointreau or freshly squeezed orange juice to rehydrate and absorb this tangy flavour for at least an hour.
- Use freshly ground pork mince or sausage meat that is crumbly and similar to Cumberland or breakfast sausages, by squeezing the meat from the casing.
- Choose a thickly cut smoked bacon or speck piece to cut into small cube pieces.
- Cook the onions, bacon and garlic gently. The aim is to have transparent onions, slightly golden bacon bits and softly fried garlic at the end of frying.
- Fresh parsley and sage are full of flavour and colour compared to dried versions, but should they be hard to find, halve the amount needed when using dried herbs.
- Ready-cooked chestnuts are readily available in vacuum-sealed packets. Give these a coarse chop and fry for a few minutes together with the onion mixture to bring out the full flavour.
- If you are organised, access your frozen supply of gluten-free breadcrumbs to add to these stuffing balls or simply buy a store-bought product.
Gluten-Free Cranberry & Chestnut Stuffing Balls
- 100 g dried cranberries
- 100 ml Cointreau or freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 120 g smoked thick-cut bacon rashers or speck, cut into small cubes
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 30 g butter
- 450 g breakfast/Cumberland sausages or minced pork, finely ground
- 150 g store-bought or homemade gluten-free breadcrumbs
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
- 150 g peeled & cooked chestnuts, roughly chopped
- 1 egg, beaten lightly
- salt and white pepper, to season
- olive oil, for greasing the tray & stuffing balls
- Soak the cranberries in the Cointreau or orange juice for one hour.
- Chop the thick-cut bacon or speck into small cubes.
- Fry the onions and bacon in the butter over medium-low heat for 10 mins, stirring every now and then.
- Mince and add the garlic to fry for 2 mins.
- Add the chopped chestnuts and fry for another 2 mins
- Cool slightly, then add all the remaining ingredients, mixing well with your hands. Drain the cranberries from the Cointreau/orange juice liquid, but keep some of the liquid aside in case you need to add more moisture to the stuffing balls.
- Roll a small ball and fry in some olive oil until cooked through. Taste and add more seasoning if needed. This is a good way to taste-test the stuffing before rolling all of them into balls.
- Once you are happy with the seasoning, start rolling the stuffing into golf size balls with oiled hands. These can be rolled ahead of time, covered and chilled until roasting time.
- Position the stuffing balls onto a greased roasting tray or tin.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
- Cook for 15 minutes.
- Turn them over and cook for a further 10 mins.
- Serve with either whole roast turkey or with individual stuffed turkey fillets.
- Either store & chill them to cook later with your chosen roast meal or cook them in advance on their own
- Keeps for 3 days chilled
- Can be reheated in the microwave or oven
- Suitable to freeze raw or cooked (only freeze raw if the sausage meat was bought fresh and not frozen as refreezing raw meat is not advisable)