Friday, November 22, 2013

Ham balls

A little while ago I was looking for my childhood ham ball recipe online and I could not believe that I couldn't find it. Oh, there were ham ball recipes. There were ham balls made with pork and ham balls made with beef. BEEF. That is just a meatball. But there were no ham balls that were just ground ham loaf, which is the recipe I grew up with. So I made the trek across town to Fareway, the only store I know of locally that sells ground ham loaf, and I made these for dinner. And of course I documented it to share here.

First, gather your ingredients. Honey graham crackers, egg, milk, ground ham loaf, dry mustard, brown sugar, tomato juice and vinegar. I also used a bit of cornstarch to thicken the sauce later.

A note on ground ham loaf: do not substitute regular ground ham. For several years we didn't live near a store that sold ham loaf, so we thought ground ham might be the same thing. We had the deli worker grind up regular ham and learned the hard way that it was definitely not the same thing. Regular ham is much, much saltier than ham loaf.

See the naughty baby in the background? This was her pretty much all through dinner making.

Crush your graham crackers. I used a rolling pin and a gallon zip top bag. I crushed an entire sleeve, which was a few crackers too many. Guess I have to make a cheesecake now.

Dump all your ham ball ingredients in a bowl and mix them up. I do it like meatloaf: first with a spoon, then with my hands.

Lined a pan with foil and start making ham balls. I got 25 out of two pounds of meat. I made them a little bigger than a ping pong ball, but you can go a little bigger than that if you want.

Whisk your sauce ingredients together and pour them over the raw ham balls. I use the same bowl to make the sauce, just rinse it out first.

Bake at 350 until done (145 degrees Fahrenheit). My recipe says an hour and a half, but mine took about an hour and fifteen minutes and they were actually 165 degrees because my thermometer was set wrong. They were fine, though; I think ham loaf must not overcook like beef, or at least not as obviously.

After the ham balls were done, I put a few teaspoons of cornstarch in a little bowl and made a slurry with a little bit of the sauce, then I poured that and the rest of the sauce together in a pan and whisked that over high heat until it thickened.

We traditionally serve it with scalloped potatoes and a green vegetable, but I think this would be great with mashed potatoes or rice because of the sauce.

Ham Balls

For the ham balls:

  • 2 pounds ground ham loaf
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup crushed honey graham crackers
  • For the sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cups tomato juice
  • 1/4 cup vinegar, I used white
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 T. dry mustard
  • Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ham ball ingredients in a bowl, mixing with hands if necessary. Form into balls and place in a foil-lined 9x13 pan. Whisk all sauce ingredients together and pour over the raw ham balls. Bake at 350 for 1 1/2 hours or until cooked; the USDA recommends pork be cooked to 145 degrees with a three minute rest.

    While the ham balls are resting, put 2 tsp. cornstarch in a small bowl and whisk in about 1/4 cup of the sauce to form a slurry. Pour the rest of the sauce into a saucepan and whisk in the slurry. Whisk over high heat until sauce is desired thickness.

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