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.
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.
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:
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.
Iowa Ham Balls
by: Cristen www.foodandswine.com
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.