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No-fry meatball recipe a reader favorite

Thursday, November 29, 2001

Mrs. Murphy's Meatballs -- the name alone caught our attention. When we printed the request from Bob McCarthy of Whitehall, we were bombarded with responses.


We not only received the recipe, which appeared in the late Joe Browne's Our Towne column, we received yellowed copies of Browne's column as well. (Browne's Our Towne column appeared daily in the Post-Gazette from 1969 until 1989.) Judging from the column, readers were just as eager to get a copy of this recipe then as they are today.

Here's an excerpt from Browne: "Man, I didn't know people were so crazy about meatballs! Since I mentioned that Mrs. Kathryn Murphy makes meatballs that are kinda special, I've been getting letters and phone calls for the recipe. So, here's the recipe right from Mrs. Murphy."

After testing the recipe, we realized why so many readers held on to it. These are tasty meatballs. And just as the 25 readers who sent us this recipe have done, we are going to hold on to it, too. We served Mrs. Murphy's Meatballs with mashed potatoes and a green salad.

Our second recipe today is Hot Water Sorghum Gingerbread. Have you ever seen sorghum in the grocery store? No? Neither have we. So we replaced the sorghum molasses with the better known sugar cane molasses.

But here's a little information on what sorghum is and how it's similar to molasses: Sorghum is a cereal grass with tall spongy stalks. A sweet juice is extracted from the stalks and the juice is boiled down to produce a thick sweet syrup called sorghum molasses.

Molasses is the dark thick syrup produced in refining sugar cane. There are three forms of molasses: light (it has a mild flavor and is used mostly on pancakes or waffles); dark (thicker, darker and less sweet than the light -- it is used as a flavoring for desserts such as gingerbread and foods such as baked beans); and blackstrap (very thick, dark and bitter, usually sold only in health-food stores).

The gingerbread recipe worked out well using dark molasses. We served the gingerbread warm with a dollop of honeyed whipped cream. If you prefer, a sprinkling of powdered sugar works as well.

Kitchen Mailbox would like to thank all the readers who responded to the meatball request. Because of space limitations, we cannot print all of your names, but we do appreciate the time you took to send us the recipe.

Here's the recipe sent in by Barbara Turcovsky of Valencia.

Mrs. Murphy's Meatballs

1 pound ground chuck
1/4 cup rice, not instant
Green pepper, chopped fine
Small onion, chopped fine
1 stalk celery, chopped fine
2 cups cabbage, finely shredded
1 can tomato soup plus 1/2 can of water

You will need a large frying pan at least 2 inches deep. Pour the tomato soup and water in the frying pan -- place over a low heat. In large bowl, mix together thoroughly the meat, rice and vegetables. Form mixture into balls (our meatballs were about 1 1/2 inches). Place the meatballs in the frying pan with the tomato soup. Simmer for about 1 1/2 hours.

Note: We used a food processor to chop the vegetables. This is important: The meatballs should be placed in the pan raw -- do not fry.

Vivian Gates of West Mifflin requested a recipe for Lincoln's favorite Gingerbread Cake. Debbie Bailey of Fox Chapel found the recipe in the 1968 "The Presidents' Cookbook" by Poppy Cannon and Patricia Brooks.


1/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup boiling water
1 cup dark molasses
1 beaten egg
2 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Melt shortening in the boiling water. Add molasses and egg.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and the spices. Add to the molasses mixture and mix thoroughly. Pour batter into a well-greased square baking pan and bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Makes 8 servings.


* Penny Weakland of McKeesport would like to have a recipe for "good old-fashioned" potato knishes.

* Sheryl Deneke of North Tonawanda, N.Y., would like a recipe for pasticiotti. She describes pasticiotti as a "wonderful Italian cookie filled with ricotta cheese. The cookies are topped with frosting and chocolate chips. I have had them at Italian pastry stands at fairs and other events but could never find the recipe."

If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail to aburnett@post-gazette.com. Please include a name, neighborhood and a daytime phone number on all correspondence.

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