Meatloaf is certainly a favorite amongst households when it comes to the classic family dinner. But ham loaf? Maybe not as common, or something you may have never heard of until now.
If you’re not familiar with this PA Dutch classic, then you’re in luck. Keep reading this blog to learn all about Amish ham loaf, how it differs from traditional meatloaf, and how to make your own at home.
What is Ham Loaf?
Ham loaf is fairly similar to its more well-known meatloaf counterpart. Both are made from ground-up meat that is bound together with ingredients such as eggs and breadcrumbs and then shaped into a loaf-like structure before being baked/cooked.
The difference between ham loaf vs meat loaf lies, as expected, in the meat used to make them. Rather than using a variety of ground meats (most popularly beef), ham loaf utilizes ground ham and ground pork.
Part of the popularity that comes from the meat dish is that it’s a great way to use leftover ham that dinner hosts may not know what to do with.
So if you’re hosting a holiday meal (especially for Christmas or Easter) or a large dinner party featuring ham and other Dutch sides, consider turning your leftover ham into another unique dinner option.
Amish Ham Loaf Glaze
Another characteristic that sets ham loaf apart from the traditional meatloaf dinner is the sweet glaze used.
Some cooks prefer a classic brown sugar and mustard glaze for their ham loaf, while others like to go more bold and incorporate some strong fruity flavors in it such as pineapple and cherry. And sometimes, you may find no need for a glaze.
One of the reasons for the integration of the glaze was not just to enhance the flavor of the ham loaf, but to discreetly hide any changes in taste due to the meat being days old at times. The first glaze recipe to successfully do this consisted of brown sugar, vinegar, and mustard.
You can’t go wrong either way, and can be a fun way to add a sweet twist to your loaf recipe.
Examining Ham Loaf Origins
So where did ham loaf come from? Like most Pennsylvania Dutch staples, Amish ham loaf was believed to have originated from what is now Lancaster County.
In the late 1800s, it became a popular item amongst butchers as they saw it as a way to repurpose their leftover (and at times, old) ham as mentioned above. Many Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch restaurants and food-related businesses soon made the meat dish a popular staple for customers.
Eventually, the tasty twist on meatloaf became popular elsewhere too, to the point that the dish is now considered very popular in Ohio.
Amish Ham Loaf Recipe
If you’re interested in how to make ham loaf to share with friends or for your next family gathering, then we think you’ll enjoy this recipe perfect for any dinner occasion.
- 2 pounds of ground ham
- 2 pounds of ground pork
- 2 cups dried bread crumbs
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups evaporated milk
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 tsp. curry powder
- 2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 2 tbsp. yellow mustard
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp. mustard powder
- 2 cups water
- 1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (175 degrees C.) Prepare a broiler pan by covering the bottom portion in foil. Replace the slotted top and spray lightly with cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, mix the ground ham, ground pork, and bread crumbs.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, onion, lemon juice, ginger, nutmeg, mustard, evaporated milk, salt, and pepper.
- Pour wet ingredients into the bowl with your meat and bread crumbs and combine with your hands until it starts coming together. If it feels too wet, add in more breadcrumbs.
- Shape the mixture until it resembles a loaf and move to the prepared broiler pan. Let sit for about 30 minutes before putting it into the oven.
- Bake for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- During the first 30 minutes, prepare your glaze by mixing your brown sugar, vinegar, mustard powder, water, and powdered black pepper in a small bowl. Once the 30 minutes have passed, take the ham loaf out of the oven and baste it with half of the glaze.
- Return the pan to the oven and repeat the basting process after another 15 minutes as passed. Then let the ham loaf cook in the oven for a final 15-20 minutes. If you have any more glaze you would like to use, top the loaf with it and let it cook for another five minutes.
- Let rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing and enjoying.
There are also many fun twists on ham loaf you can try, including ham balls.
Also known as “ham/pork meatballs,” ham balls are made by taking the mixture from a ham loaf recipe and forming them into balls. They are then cooked for about 1 hour in the oven, and taken out once or twice during that time to baste them with your glaze.
Some people will even add 1-2 cups of graham cracker crumbs to the mixture to add a subtle sweetness to the dish. But like ham loaf, the ham balls won’t be complete without incorporating a sweet glaze on top as well.
Ham Balls can be purchased at the Markets at That Pig Place so if you are in the mood to try this unique twist on ham loaf, then be sure to stop by.