Venison Cranberry Sauerkraut Meatballs with Apple Sage Orzo

by Kaitlynn Fenley

Cranberry sauerkraut meatballs are a delicious and unique twist on classic venison meatballs. These succulent venison meatballs baked in the oven are perfectly tender and flavorful. The deep flavors of the venison sauerkraut and cranberry meatballs pair perfectly with creamy apple sage orzo for a mouthwatering meal.

Venison meatballs baked until golden brown on top of cheesy apple sage orzo pasta. Plated in a white shallow bowl and topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cranberry Sauerkraut Meatballs

I know, it sounds like an interesting combination, but I swear it’s the best flavor combo in meatballs. The sweetness and tart flavors of the cranberry pair with the umami, briney flavors of the kraut for a mouthwatering main dish.

You will use one of three types of sweet cranberries in this recipe depending on what you have. I used my honey fermented cranberries from our Jalapeno Hot Honey Fermented Cranberry recipe. The two other options include cranberry sauce or cranberry jam (preserves).

Do not use fresh cranberries in this recipe, it won’t be the same. Fresh cranberries are too tart, and you need to use sweet cranberries.

Cranberry Sauerkraut Venison Meatballs

The other main ingredient that you use to flavor these meatballs is sauerkraut! I used some turmeric sauerkraut that I had a gallon of in my fridge,

I highly recommend using caraway sauerkraut or garlic sauerkraut in the recipe if you can. Mostly any sauerkraut will work great in this recipe though.

Venison cranberry sauerkraut meatballs cooked until golden brown on top of cheesy apple sage orzo pasta. Plated in a white shallow bowl.

Cranberry Sauerkraut Meatballs with Apple Sage Orzo Pasta

The most perfect pairing for cranberry sauerkraut venison meatballs is apple sage orzo pasta. The buttery, sagey, cheesy, apple-y flavors are absolutely divine combined with the blend of flavors in the venison meatballs.

Normally I cook orzo with white wine, but I wanted to try infusing apple flavor into the pasta. So, I used some dry hard apple cider in this recipe.

I used Italian bronze cut wheat orzo pasta for this recipe. If you want to try it with a gluten free version of orzo, you may have to adjust the cooking methods and times a bit. I’m not sure if it will work with GF pasta.

Ingredients for Sauerkraut and Cranberry Meatballs

  • fresh French or Italian bread, diced into tiny pieces (I used poboy bread)
  • warm water
  • butter
  • shallots
  • garlic cloves
  • cayenne pepper
  • ground venison (hunted or regenerative)
  • Parmesan cheese
  • fresh sage
  • fresh parsley
  • cranberry sauce or jam/preserves or honey fermented cranberries
  • sauerkraut, drained and finely chopped
  • kosher salt
  • orzo
  • dry hard apple cider
  • Rosemary
  • chicken stock
  • heavy cream
  • fresh kale chopped
  • freshly cracked black pepper

Venison Meatballs Baked in the Oven

My favorite way to cook meatballs is in the oven. It’s easy and fast, only taking about 30 minutes. With a recipe like this one, the meatballs do not dry out.

Great oven baked meatballs start with good meat and flavorful ingredients that keep the meat juicy. You’ll notice in the recipe that we do not use bread crumbs, instead using crust bread soaked in a small bit of water. This helps to bind the meatballs and keep them moist throughout the baking.

Venison cranberry sauerkraut meatballs cooked until golden brown on top of cheesy apple sage orzo pasta. Plated in a white shallow bowl.
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Venison Cranberry Sauerkraut Meatballs with Apple Sage Orzo

Cranberry sauerkraut meatballs are a delicious and unique twist on classic venison meatballs. These succulent venison meatballs baked in the oven are perfectly tender and flavorful. The deep flavors of the venison sauerkraut and cranberry meatballs pair perfectly with creamy apple sage orzo for a mouthwatering meal.

  • Author: Kaitlynn Fenley
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 18 meatballs 1x
  • Category: mains
  • Method: oven baked
  • Cuisine: Italian

Ingredients

Scale

Venison meatballs

  • 2 oz fresh crusty french or Italian bread, diced into tiny pieces
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 28 ounces ground venison
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ cup honey-fermented cranberries or cranberry sauce or jam
  • ½ cup sauerkraut, drained and finely chopped
  • ½ tsp kosher salt

Apple Sage Orzo

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 8 sage leaves
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1 cup dry hard apple cider
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1 ½ cups chicken stock
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup fresh kale chopped
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • freshly cracked black pepper

Instructions

  1. For the meatballs, preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a large baking pan with a piece of parchment paper.
  2. Place the diced bread in a large mixing bowl and pour the warm water over top. Let soak for about 10 minutes.
  3. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the butter. Once melted, add the minced shallot and garlic. Cook for a minute or so until softened. Stir in the cayenne. Turn off the heat.
  4. Add the ground venison, sage, parsley, salt, cranberry, sauerkraut and butter-shallot mixture to the bowl of bread. Mix until incorporated.
  5. Using your hands, shape the meat mix into approximately 18 (2 oz) meatballs.
  6. Place them onto the parchment paper lined pan. Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake on the top rack of the oven for 25-30 minutes, until lightly browned and cooked through.
  7. For the orzo, place a medium shallow pot over medium heat. Add the butter and let it melt and start to simmer.
  8. Add the sage leaves. Let them crisp as the butter begins to brown. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sage to a paper towel lined plate.
  9. Add the shallots to the butter and season with a pinch of salt. Cook for about 2 minutes
  10. Stir in the dry orzo pasta, coating it in the shallot butter.
  11. Pour in the hard apple cider and add the sprig of rosemary.
  12. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  13. Stir in the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer again, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for about 6-8 more minutes, stirring often.
  14. Add in the heavy cream, kale, and parmesan. Let the cream simmer while the kale wilts and parmesan melts, stirring continuously. Season with salt to taste. Remove the rosemary sprig.
  15. Serve the venison meatballs over the orzo. Garnish with the butter fried sage, freshly cracked black pepper, and more parmesan.

Keywords: venison, cranberry, sauerkraut meatballs

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3 comments

Millie January 10, 2023 - 4:56 pm

SO delicious.

Reply
Bree February 2, 2023 - 3:00 pm

These meatballs were out of this world good. but I think my favorite part was the orzo with the apple cider.

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley February 2, 2023 - 3:07 pm

The orzo is totally my favorite part too 🙂

Reply