Ham loaf is comfort food that originated with the Pennsylvania Dutch (Germans) back in the 1800's. Basically it is a meatloaf made with ground smoked ham and some regular ground pork, along with a variety of other common ingredients. There are many recipes for ham loaf on the Internet and I reviewed a number of them and then combined the information with what I remember from the ham loaf my mother used to make. This food goes well with dishes like potatoes au gratin or macaroni and cheese. A side salad is also a nice addition to the meal.
Ham loaf can be served like meat loaf and it is excellent for making sandwiches when cold. The recipe I provide is slightly on the sweet side as I use some crushed pineapple like my mother did, and which is not found as an ingredient in the Internet recipes I reviewed. My mother's ham loaf did not have a glaze but the Internet recipes I reviewed do use a sweet and tangy glaze, so I decided that would be a nice thing to have in my recipe.
Ham loaf is quite simple to make provided you have a meat grinder. If you do not have one then go out and buy one as that device is very useful for many recipes in Food Nirvana. I use the meat grinder attachment with my KitchenAid® mixer.
One of the Internet recipes indicated that in raw form the ham loaf or loaves can be wrapped in aluminum foil and frozen for later use. In other words the product stores well when frozen. If you do that then I suggest using it within three months. Personally, I will freeze it unwrapped and then vacuum seal it and return it to the deep freeze. That will provide at least twice the storage life as no oxygen will be present and there will be no possibility of freezer burn.
I tested my original recipe combination ideas with good results and I made final improvements that are included in the recipe below.
Ingredients: (Makes 3, 1 1/2 pound loaves)
2 lbs. of ground lean smoked ham
1 lb. of ground lean pork
2 extra large or jumbo eggs
2 cups of canned crushed pineapple
2 cups of cracker crumbs or bread crumbs
1/2 cup of regular oatmeal
1/2 cup of milk
1 tsp. of black pepper
1/2 tsp. of sea salt
1 1/2 cups of either dark or light brown sugar
2 tsp. of ground mustard powder for the ham loaf
1 1/2 tsp. of ground mustard powder for the glaze
2/3 cup of apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar
1 tbsp. up to 1/4 cup of water for the glaze
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine the oatmeal with the juice from the can of crushed pineapple in a 2 cup Pyrex® measuring cup and microwave the mixture until it absorbs the water, stirring once after about 30 seconds. One additional 30 second period in the microwave oven, with stirring afterwards, will likely be enough.
Process the ham, pork, oatmeal, bread/cracker crumbs, and the crushed pineapple through the meat grinder, using a large bowl to collect the ground items. I do a first pass for the ham and the pork using the die with the 1/4" diameter openings in the meat grinder. If you want a finer texture to the ham loaf then process the meats through the grinder a second time using the die with the 1/8" diameter openings. Then process the oatmeal mixture through the meat grinder. Then mix the bread crumbs with the crushed pineapple and process that through the meat grinder.
Transfer all of the ground ingredients from the large bowl to a large (6 qt.) electric mixer bowl.
Combine the eggs, mustard powder, salt and pepper in a one quart bowl and whisk the mixture until it is well blended. Add the milk to the eggs and whisk until well mixed.
Using a regular beater, run the electric mixer for two minutes on low to medium speed to mix the ground ingredients together.
If you have a large electric mixer with a large mixing bowl of size 6 quarts or larger then you can do the next step all at once. Otherwise, divide the ground ingredients in half and put only half of them at a time into the mixing bowl. Similarly, if you divide the ground ingredients into two portions then divide the egg mixture into two portions as well, so that all mixing is done with half of the total volume of ingredients.
Add the egg mixture to the meat mixture gradually and then mix on medium speed for two to three minutes. At this point all the ingredients should be well blended. You will be able to handle the mixture in the next step without it sticking to your hands.
Form the ham loaf mixture into two large or three medium loaves. I use glass baking dishes about 4" by 9", like those typically used when baking loaves of bread. Spray them with Pam® before placing each formed loaf into the baking dish.
Combine the brown sugar, mustard powder and vinegar in a small saucepan to make the glaze. Mix the ingredients. Heat the mixture over low heat while stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add up to 1/4 cup of water if the mixture is too concentrated to allow the sugar to dissolve easily when the mixture is at a simmering temperature. Mix further if necessary but to not boil the glaze. Remove the glaze from the heat.
Pour about one-third of the glaze over the ham loaves. Cover the baking dishs tightly with aluminum foil and bake the ham loaves for 50 minutes.
Uncover the ham loaves and discard the pieces of aluminum foil. Pour the remaining glaze over them, and baste them using a pastry brush every three to five minutes. The idea is to have the glaze get thick and somewhat sticky and to have the ham loaves to be cooked through completely. This will take about 20 to 30 minutes.
Remove the baking dishes from the oven and let them cool slightly on a wooden cutting board before serving the ham loaf. I suggest letting one of them cool to room temperature, covering it with aluminum foil and chilling it in the refrigerator, to be used later for making cold sandwiches.