If there ever was a juice deserving of its “superjuice” epithet it would be the tart cherry guise. Tart cherry juice is very well-endowed with anthocyanins, potent antioxidants responsible for cherries’ rosy hue and believed to ease inflammation. Each swig also abounds in vitamin C. Tired of counting sheep? Cherries are one of the few food sources of melatonin, a compound touted to improve sleep patterns and lessen the effects of jet lag.
You can add a splash of this lip-puckering juice to smoothies, vinaigrettes, and iced teas. Combined with balsamic vinegar and reduced, it also makes an inspiring glaze for grilled fish, roasted veggies and these diminutive meatloaf’s. If you find tart cherry juice too intense on its own, you can dilute it with a bit of water or look for those mixed with other juices such as blueberry and grape.
Several companies are now offering tart cherry juice. For this recipe, I used the excellent juice from Michigan-based (where more tart cherries are grown) Very Cherre. 100 percent pomegranate juice would also work with for the glaze.
Baking individual portions of meatoaf in muffin tins speeds cooking and makes it more likely the end product will be perfectly moist. I found the tart cherry glaze provided a great sweet-tart contrast to the meat. Speaking of meat, we have a local emu farmer we source ground emu and steaks from. Way better than the shrink-wrap stuff at the megamarket. Bison and elk are also good game meat options here. Or splurge for grass-fed beef which is nutritionally superior to the factory farm stuff. You could also add shredded zucchini. If I had some in the fridge, I would have done so.
Mini Meatloafs with Cherry Juice Glaze
1 cup tart cherry juice
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp brown or palm sugar
1 lb ground game meat or grass-fed beef
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
1/3 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp cumin powder
2 Tbsp ketchup
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup cilantro or parsley, chopped
Place cherry juice, brown sugar and vinegar in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to medium-high and simmer, uncovered, until a fairly thick syrup forms, about 12 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375F. In a large bowl, combine all the meatloaf ingredients just until everything is mixed. Do not overwork.
Divide mixture among 10 medium sized muffin tins and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until an internal temperature of 160F is reached. Serve mini meatloaf’s with a generous drizzle of cherry glaze.