Farm Life, Food, Pigs

Iowa Ham Balls

Iowa Ham Balls
A couple of months ago, I was invited to accompany bloggers from around the U.S. on a tour of a modern day pig farm. In efforts to connect their audiences more closely with how food is raised, these bloggers jumped into life on a pig farm, with the Brenneman family, on their multi-generation family farm in Iowa.
Blogger Tour Nursery
When a person steps outside their comfort zone, (ie: a blogger with little farm experience steps onto a modern day pig farm) remarkable things can happen. I’m just incredibly lucky that I can be surrounded by people that embrace the importance of transparency in modern agriculture. The bloggers were so impressive, asking many questions of Rob, Tim, Erin and the other staff at Brenneman Pork. No question goes unanswered and nothing is off limits. That is when the real conversations happen. With the food climate as it is today, there’s never been a greater need to open our barn doors and show people what we do, but more importantly… tell them why. It is the best medicine address the sensational claims in the social media sphere. Real people. Real farms. Real bloggers. It just works.
And I’m so glad to be a part of it.
Baby Pig
When a person travels, the comforts of home are always appreciated, and when Char Brenneman, the matriarch of Brenneman Pork, serves up her ham balls… if you don’t feel at home, you have no soul. When you are surrounded by a group of food bloggers, and they are all gushing over something, you’d better be eating it.
On this blogger tour:
Blogger Tour Brenneman ham balls
Let me preface my next comments with: no I do not have Char’s recipe. However, I have my family recipe and it is darn close! This classic Midwest main dish has been featured on my blog before, but that was my ‘healthified version’ complete with rolled oats, shredded zucchini, carrot and more. The recipe I’ll share with you today is what I was brought up on. Slightly sweet, with a mix of ground beef and ham loaf, glazed with a tangy slightly BBQ mixture of ketchup, brown sugar and vinegar, these coveted meat ‘balls’ grace every holiday table in my home.
Pretty much the best thing you’ll ever eat.
The Bach even approves.
Blogger Tour Chris iowa ham

Iowa Ham Balls recipe
Iowa Ham Balls
by: Cristen
Makes 18-24 ham balls
2 lbs. ham loaf
1 lb. ground beef or ground pork (remember, I grew up raising beef cattle: hence the beef in the recipe)
2 cups crushed butter crackers (some people do graham, but that’s too sweet for me.)
1/4 cup minced dehydrated onion
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
1 tsp dry mustard powder
To make the ham balls:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees:
Combine ham loaf, ground beef, crackers, onion, egg and milk. Mix only until combined. Shape into 1/4 C balls. (I have a 1/4 c cookie dough scoop I use to help me. Place in two greased 8×8 pans (10-12 each). Bake for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, combine ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar and mustard powder in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil while stirring, then remove from heat. After 45 minutes, remove ham balls from oven, pour glaze over par baked ham balls. Return to oven to set glaze for 15 minutes. Remove and cool a few minutes, then serve warm.
*These are also fun to serve at tailgates, toss them in a crock pot, or make minis. Reduce baking time on the minis by 20%. Keep warm in crock pot.

The National Pork Board covered my expenses to be able to leave my family (during harvest–sorry Mom Dad and Tanna) to attend this blogger tour. As always, the opinions expressed in this post are all mine.

Grow Farm Her Erin recipe

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  • Reply Jan Fleming December 4, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    What do you mean by ham loaf, something that I have made previously and have leftover or something from the deli counter?

    • Reply Cristen December 4, 2015 at 5:40 pm

      Jan, the product I’m talking about is fresh ham, unprocessed, and ground. It is found at the deli counter at your local grocery store. We have Fareway and HyVee here where I live and I can tell you, Fareway’s Ham Loaf is superior to HyVee’s. :)

  • Reply John and Jane December 5, 2015 at 1:37 am

    Cristen,I actually had the same question. What is ham loaf? I have just ground up a chunk of ham, but maybe that’s not what you’re talking about.

    • Reply Cristen December 15, 2015 at 10:24 pm

      Hey there! Yes… ham loaf is actually a product that they mix at our local grocery store. Ground ham, but not ground ‘cured and smoked’ ham. Does that make sense! Sorry to be so confusing!

  • Reply Russ December 5, 2015 at 1:58 am

    We use 3 cans of tomato soup instead of ketchup in the sauce. But other than that these are just like my mothers ham balls.

    • Reply Cristen December 15, 2015 at 10:24 pm

      Yes Russ! I’ve had the tomato soup sauce too! All end up pretty close in the end!

  • Reply Roberta Meyer December 17, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    I make similar to these but use bread crumbs and 1 lbs. of regular sausage besides the beef and hamloaf. Get lots of compliments.

    • Reply Cristen October 11, 2016 at 5:27 pm

      That sounds great Roberta!

  • Reply Katie Anderson Olthoff October 3, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    I make mine with all ham and graham crackers, with sweet potatoes (with brown sugar and butter) on the side. It’s like dessert for supper, and it’s MY FAVORITE!

    • Reply Cristen October 11, 2016 at 5:24 pm

      Dessert for supper, I love it! I’d never thought of a sweet potato side dish with them… great idea!

  • Reply Mary October 13, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    So ham loaf is just ground fresh ham or is something else added to it

    • Reply Cristen October 13, 2016 at 10:47 pm

      Our local grocery grinds actual smoked ham with ground pork, but you will find that people do it differently in various stores!

  • Reply Mary December 9, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    Hi Cristen! Can’t wait to make this. Can you bake and freeze these? If so, should I bake with or without sauce? Planned on heating them in crockpot to serve. Thanks!

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