In my family, Thanksgiving meant turkey. Christmas meant smoked ham.
This pleased my Pappy (grandfather) to no end because he did not like poultry. I never found out why, but it was definitely something that just always was with my Pap.
Although Nana (his wife) or Mom (his daughter) always tried to have something else for him that he enjoyed if poultry was on the menu, he never asked them to do that; he was content to partake in the plethora of side dishes and dessert at any meal. He was noted for being very happy consuming a sandwich consisting of Nana’s chow chow piled between two thick-cut slices of her homemade bread.
Pappy looked forward to Christmas and Easter dinners because the star of the show was a baked smoked ham, glistening with brown sugar glaze and studded with cloves.
In our home during the 60’s and 70’s, holiday dinners meant the little “coal miner’s shack” was descended upon by dozens of relatives — brothers, sisters, and cousins occupied every square inch.
After we had feasted, I would drift around the kitchen while my Nana, Mom, and Aunt Gerry (Mom’s sister) donned cotton aprons edged with rick-rack and bustled about tidying up and packaging leftovers.
My Mom always cut the remaining ham off the bone then kept the bone for bean soup, ham and string beans or this ham loaf for supper one evening down the road. As she carved the pieces of meat from the bone, my Pappy would miraculously appear at her side “to see if she needed any help”. Try as he might to hide his true intentions, we all knew he was checking to see how much ham he’d be able to enjoy in the coming days.
Ham loaf is a “Pennsylvania thing”, and is prolific in some areas across the state where you can find already mixed ground ham and pork for you to use.
If you do not have left over ham from a previous dinner, it is easy to find meaty ham ends in grocery stores and butcher shops in The Coal Region meaning there is a supply of good quality ham at our fingertips.
Ham loaf is one of my favorite ways to use leftover ham. The recipe does require ground ham, but meat grinders are not a staple in every kitchen. I have a grinder attachment for my Kitchen Aid stand mixer and love it.
For those without that indulgence in their arsenal, a food processor or a good old hand grinder will do, but a food processor will be chopping the meat instead of grinding it, so the loaf may have a coarser texture than one made with ground ham. Some butcher shops stock ground ham, and others will grind some for you on request.
Leftover ham loaf makes a yummy sandwich (ham loaf on rye with yellow mustard comes to mind…) giving left over regular meatloaf a run for its money. The glaze for the ham loaf is the crowning glory. Some are just brown sugar based, but my favorite is one that includes pineapple which you will find in this recipe. Unbaked ham loaf freezes well. Glaze when it is time to bake. I like more ham than pork in my loaf, but equal parts works just as well.
Using the Correct Ham
For this recipe you want a fully cooked ham, NOT cured “country ham”.
Shape it up
This same mixture is great shaped into meatballs then topped with the glaze. They hold well in a slow-cooker for gatherings and potlucks. Simply roll into 1 1/2 inch balls, place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake at 350F degrees for about 12 to 14 minutes. Add the glaze ingredients to a saucepan and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes to thicken glaze; add the cooked ham balls. I make double the pineapple glaze for this method of serving.
Pennsylvania Dutch Ham Loaf with Pineapple GlazeCourse: EntreeCuisine: Pa. Dutch, Coal RegionDifficulty: Intermediate
- Ham Loaf
1-1/2 pounds ground fully cooked ham
1 pound ground fresh pork
2 whole eggs, beaten
1/2 cup evaporated milk (or regular whole milk)
1 cup finely crushed saltine crackers
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard
1/3 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple in its own juice, undrained
- Make Sauce
- Stir all sauce ingredients together in small bowl, set aside.
- Ham Loaf
- In a large bowl, beat the eggs; add milk, crackers and pepper. Add the ham and pork; mix well.
- Shape into a 9 x 4-inch loaf and place in a shallow baking dish.
- Pour sauce over loaf.
- Bake at 350F degrees until instant read thermometer registers 170F, about 60 to 70 minutes, basting with the sauce frequently. Do not overcook.
- Let rest for 10 – 15 minutes, slice and serve.
- For this recipe you want a fully cooked ham, NOT cured “country ham”.
- The mixture can be rolled into 1 1/2 inch balls, placed on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and baked 12 to 14 minutes in a 350F degree oven. Add the glaze ingredients to a saucepan and gently simmer for 15 to 20 minutes to thicken glaze; add the cooked ham balls. I make double the pineapple glaze for this method of serving..