“No, ga-hrose! Ham Balls?” Yeah, my sister didn’t hold back when I told her I made them. Too bad she’s so far away coz I know I could convert her with these little lovelies. They’re the real, deal Iowa Ham Balls, heritage style. No soup or ketchup.
Whaaat? You’ve NEVER had a Ham Ball? Then you’re probably not from Iowa and probably didn’t grow up with them. And you’re probably missing out. Think of pure comfort food, like a meatloaf but with ham, spiked with the warm holiday flavors of clove and allspice and lovingly napped with sticky sweet/sour sauce that’ll knock your socks off.
As my sister knows, Ham Balls are down home cooking at its best or at it’s worst, depending on who’s made them and your own personal beliefs. Honestly they’re the kind of down home cooking you’re either proud of or slightly embarrassed by, or maybe even both if you’re a conflicted soul like me…
Plus, there’s that name. Ham Balls might easily lead your mind south in a way that Meat Balls don’t. And now, your mind probably just went there. See what I made you do, lol! Well, these aren’t those kind of balls. Which makes me wonder, what DO they do with those? It makes me wonder, too, why meat ball sounds so good and ham ball sounds, well, maybe not so much.
I’m in a mood, I guess, so forgive me. If only we had some of these Ham Balls left, I’d be eating them instead of getting into trouble on the internet. Seriously, it’s hard to stop. Serve them hot from the pan with something carby and delish like mashed or baked potatoes and a simple side – broccoli would be good. 🙂 If you want to be really down home, add a slice of white bread and some butter to the party!
These Ham Balls make a bunch, so come hungry. They freeze well & are a great use of leftover ham. They’re easy peasy to make (bonus, I know) especially if you have a food processor to pulse up the ham into fine shreds (or maybe you have a meat grinder? Use that.) If you can’t get good ground pork, do the same with some loin or shoulder. And don’t worry when your Ham Balls are pinkish in the middle. That’s how they’re supposed to look.
If you’re a feeling particularly kitschy (And by that, I mean retro!) serve these in a tiny size at your next party. And now my sis is going to call me and really let me have it. Because even though they’re delish, we always make fun of meatballs at parties. Usually after we’ve gone to a party and eaten a lot, lol!!
Iowa Ham Balls with Sweet/Sour Glaze
This recipe will make 18 good-sized ham balls, allow 2 to 3 per person.
- 1 pound ground ham
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 3/4 cups fresh bread crumbs
- 2 eggs, beaten
- scant cup milk
- pinch ground allspice
- pinch ground cloves
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
To make the glaze, mix the brown sugar with the mustard powder. Slowly add the vinegar, whisking well as you pour it in. Set aside & whisk again before using.
To make the ham balls:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or spray a 9 x 11″ pan.
Combine ham, pork, breadcrumbs, egg, milk and spices. Mix only until combined. Shape into roughly 1/3 cup sized balls (divide mixture into half, then each half into 8 portions.) See note, below, on mixing.
Place in greased baking pan (the fit will be close) and bake for 30 minutes, covered. Uncover, add glaze, and bake for an additional 45 minutes, basting every now and then with the glaze. (the glaze will smell strongly of vinegar as you baste – don’t breathe in and don’t worry, it will dissipate.) The balls should be looking shiny and somewhat brown when done.
Remove from oven, let cool a few minutes, then serve warm. (Glaze with slightly thicken as the temperature lowers.)
Note: the ham, pork & breadcrumbs can all be pulsed up in the food processor. Chunk up and pulse a bit at a time until broken down. I normally pulse up the ham, add some of the ground pork and whirl it a few times to combine, then mix all ingredients together. It makes for a more cohesive ball.