Here is what I used:
2 lbs fully cooked frozen meatballs
2 cans whole cranberry sauce (not the jelly)
2 cups firmly-packed brown sugar
4 teaspoons hot Chinese mustard
2 cups GOOD Cabernet Sauvignon (I can't emphasize the need to use good wine enough. I used a Murphy-Goode Cab from California)
The night of our Christmas party I poured the sauce back into a saucepan and heated until warm. I thought the sauce was too thin, so I mixed about a tablespoon of cornstarch with some water and stirred into the sauce. Within a minute the sauce thickened up to my liking.
For the meatballs, you can either heat them in the microwave or oven and then stir into the sauce and serve. Likewise, if you are putting this into a crockpot, you could add the cooked and frozen meatballs into the sauce and turn the crockpot on high for an hour or so until the meatballs are thawed and hot.
I served the Cranberry Cabernet Meatballs in this chafing dish and I couldn't BELIEVE the reaction I received. I am not exaggerating, everyone went nuts over this appetizer and the meatballs went so quickly! Jim is still pissed that he only got two...he says when he went back for seconds they were all gone. I made 2 lbs of Cranberry Cabernet Meatballs!
I would say that the wine you select is very important for this dish. The meatballs themselves also need to be a brand you know and trust. If you want to make the meatballs yourself, even better. Here is my recipe for homemade meatballs. If using homemade, I would suggest you cook them fully before adding to the sauce so that they hold together and not fall apart. I've done this before and ended up with meat sauce instead of meatballs in tomato sauce. I wouldn't say it's a terrible thing, I just served it over noodles and called it something entirely different.
Next up is the other meatball recipe I used at the 2010 Christmas party. It was actually MY favorite, but for some reason most guests (or at least the first 20 people) gravitated towards the Cabernet Meatballs. Oh, and I couldn't end the post without pointing you to the first cocktail meatball recipe I ever tried. The ingredient list will surprise you but your guests will love you for serving them. Check out these Hard To Believe Meatballs, I will give you a hint...there is grape jelly in the sauce!