Mini ham loaves or ham balls, however you shape these tasty little things you’ll love them. Both my grandma’s used to make ham balls. They were one of my favorite things they made. Ham balls have that sweet, salty, tangy factor. In Iowa and other parts of the Midwest you can buy pre-mixed ham loaf. It’s usually a mixture of ham and pork or ham, pork, and beef. In Denver, you really can’t find this premixtire of ground meats. I had to really ask around several meat counters before I found one willing to grind up ham and pork for me. Special thanks to Marczy’s Fine Foods on 17th in Denver for happily accepting this special order!
I didn’t have my grandma’s recipe so I called my mom and she gave me a recipe that was not my grandma’s exact recipe but she thought it was “pretty close”. This recipe had graham crackers as a binding agent and tomato soup in the sauce. Oh my. As she was reading me the recipe my aunt, who happened to be visiting my mom, yelled out that she didn’t think grandma used Graham crackers and she KNEW that her sauce didn’t have tomato soup. Uh oh. I needed to find out more! After that I messaged my cousin and my sister because I knew they would have the best memory of the ham balls and maybe the best resources. They didn’t dissappoint. My cousin even had grandma’s recipe card!
My aunt was right. No grahams and no tomato soup. We also decided that grandma’s recipe was most likely not developed because it was her preferred method, but rather because she didn’t have those ingredients on hand and she did without, or she thought they were too expensive and it was “just fine” without. I plan on trying the graham cracker, tomato soup version soon, but for the sake of authenticity, I’m making grandma’s simple version for my Easter feast.
grandma’s mini ham loaves
2 1/2 lbs ground ham loaf mixture- a combo of ham, pork, and beef. I just had them grind together 1 1/2 lbs ham and 1 lb ground pork (not lean)
2 cups fresh bread crumbs- put a few slices of bread in the food processor
1 cup milk
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup white or apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Mix together the meat mixture, bread crumbs, eggs, and milk. Shape the mixture into small little loaves. They should look sort of like little footballs. About 2 inches wide and 3 inches long. Place them in a 9×13 casserole pan. Mix together the sauce ingredients and pour over the little loaves. Bake, uncovered for about an hour and a half.
Let me know what you think! Did you like this retro Midwest recipe?