Updated: Oct 5, 2019
I used to just buy plain ground pork from the local grocery store, but since I got my newest KitchenAid toy, I've been grinding my own, so that my meatballs are as "from scratch" as they can be, short of raising our own pigs (that's on my someday list!). I buy whole pork loin or pork shoulder whenever it goes on sale.
Both cuts are quite a bit more lean than is ideal for sausage making, but for meatballs it works out fine, since other ingredients and the sauces makeup for the lack of fat. I cut off any silver skin from the loin and cut into chunks into roughly 1 inch squares. I will emphasis that you make sure you get off as much of the silver skin as possible, since it doesn't grind and it gets wrapped around the gears inside. That slows things down and makes the motor work much harder than it should have to, and could potentially damage it.
Something I've realized recently is how big a difference a VERY sharp knife makes, rather than an "eh, it's sharp enough" knife. I know that sounds silly to many people, since lots of people spend hefty sums on high end knives. The fact is, I've never had the spare cash to buy knives THAT high end. I settle for middle of the road, and they got the job done just fine. Since Kallo recently bought equipment and has been practicing his knife sharpening skills, I've had the opportunity to use some much sharper blades than I ever had previously. They slide through the pork loins like a hot knife through coconut oil.
I toss the meat in the spices and herbs before grinding, just to get it more evenly distributed to begin with, despite the fact I can easily mix it more afterwards. Overworking the ground meat can cause problems with the texture in the end product, so that's one way I avoid that stumbling block. I also prefer to soak the dried apples in the olive oil prior to putting them into the grinder. This not only softens them to make grinding easier, but gets a bit more moisture into the meatballs.
Since we are paleo, I don't put any bread or bread crumbs into the meatballs (or meatloaf) like I would have a few years ago. Instead I've tried various products and combinations until settling upon my favorite. A little flax meal and crushed pork rinds give the meatballs the texture and moisture retention that I'm looking for, plus adding in a touch of more varied nutrition.
One last tip before I get to the recipe: always use parchment paper, or better yet, a silpat for less waste. Either one will keep the meatballs from sticking to the pan, or any stray juices from burning onto it and making a mess. Parchment paper is the cheaper option in the beginning, but if you use it a lot, like I do, it's worth it to get a silpat. I even use it when I bake bacon, so it's easy to scrape off every little bacony crumb to save for flavoring other things.
2 pounds pork shoulder, butt or loin
10 ounces dried apples
1/2 cup crushed pork rings
1/4 cup olive oil (not virgin)
3 tablespoons dried parlsey
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon flax meal
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
Roughly dice the dried apple and mix with the olive oil to set aside.
Chop the pork into 1 inch cubes and toss with the parsley, oregano, salt and pepper, and send it all through the larger die of your grinder.
Once the apples have had a chance to soak up the oil and soften, send all of that through the grinder also.
Give the apples and ground pork a few squishes to mix them and change the die on your grinder to the finer size.
Run it all through the grinder a second time.
Add the flax meal and pork rinds to your work bowl and combine it all by hand.
Form the meatballs and line them up on a baking sheet with at least 1/2-1 inch of space between each.
Bake at 350 for 25 minutes, or until center is cooked through.