Old-Fashioned Glazed Ham Balls

January 28, 2016
Old-Fashioned Glazed Ham Balls - A recipe straight from a vintage Iowa church cookbook. Meatballs made with ham and pork .. slathered in a sweet & sour glaze.

“If people want to find me, they can.  They'll see a middle-aged woman wandering around the grocery store, looking to see what to buy for dinner.”    ~ S.E. Hinton

Whats for Dinner - Audry Hepburn 1-650x

Photo Credit: NY Times – Audrey Hepburn grocery shopping with her pet fawn in Beverly Hills, 1958

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What do you usually make for dinner?

I couldn't help but smile at the gym on Saturday morning.  A group of women waxed poetic about the joys of meal planning, and the (sometimes) sorrows of sticking to it.  In fact, one had taken care of her weekly grocery shopping on her way to class, and it was 7 am(!)

There was a hushed moment of silence

“If I create a plan, it saves an incredible amount of money, time, and (most of all) brainpower.”

“What sounded good on Sunday isn't what I'm hungry for today.”

“Meal planning (and most of all, prep) keeps me on track with my eating.  There's always something healthy at the ready.”

I'm glad they didn't put me on the spot.  Some weeks we have it more-or-less together, and other weeks we're all over the place (impromptu salad + protein from the freezer – again!)

Whats for dinner 3-650x

Photo Credit: Instagram – @sidwainer

Time Magazine's Len Penzo wrote a great article about just this very problem.  He maps out diners for his family two weeks in advance.  Fellow Iowa blogger Bethany, from Reality Daydream ups the ante and plans for an entire month


“Whenever my kids ask me what's for dinner, I've always got an answer because I sit down twice per month and create a 14-day daily menu.  I then post it on the menu on the refrigerator”    ~ Len Penzo

“We pretty much have a rotation of meals that we stick with, so this means I buy basically the same items every time I shop.  I do my best to try one new recipe each month.” ~ Bethany 

Inspired, I made my own two-week list.  It was quick to put together since I've landed on a new system (Evernote) for keeping my “want-to-cook” recipes more organized.  Unlike Bethany and Len, at our house, we have a few recipes on repeat, although more often than not I'm trying something new.

Old-Fashioned Glazed Ham Balls - A recipe straight from a vintage Iowa church cookbook. Meatballs made with ham and pork .. slathered in a sweet & sour glaze. Old-Fashioned Glazed Ham Balls - A recipe straight from a vintage Iowa church cookbook. Meatballs made with ham and pork .. slathered in a sweet & sour glaze.

Monday: Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Harissa and Chickpeas

Tuesday: One Skillet Spicy Ranch Chicken

Wednesday:  Big Salads

Thursday:  Left-overs

Friday: Steller Quinoa Burgers

Saturday:  Dinner at our neighbors; we're bringing a salad and Apple-walnut crisp

Sunday:  Indian Baked Beans

Monday: Hempseed Encrusted Grouper

Tuesday:  Left-overs

Wednesday:  Big Salads

Thursday: Le French Tuna Salad

Friday:  Date Night

Saturday: Lasagne Soup

Thoughts?  Is this a good approach?  Would you be brave enough to try it?  Any recipe recommendations?  I'd love to hear ..

Old-Fashioned Glazed Ham Balls - A recipe straight from a vintage Iowa church cookbook. Meatballs made with ham and pork .. slathered in a sweet & sour glaze.

The first time a friend brought a crock-pot filled with ham balls to Spaghetti Saturday, I couldn't help but feel a twinge of nostalgia. Growing up as a kid on a rural Iowa farm, they were a staple at Sunday church potlucks.  No doubt we ate them on a styrofoam plate, next to potato salad, a white-bunned sandwich, and dessert salad

Savory meatballs made with ham, coated in a thick, sticky, sweet + sour glaze.  They're baked in the oven until piping hot and irresistible.

Her ham balls originated as a ham loaf mix from our local grocery, so I reached for the church cookbook my Mom and Grandmother used.  Sure enough, next to the recipe was a hand-written star, along with a few scribbles with her additions.

Let me tell you these ham balls are good.  Really good.  Perfect for holiday gatherings, office or church potlucks, or even during football season as an appetizer for a big group of cheering fans.



ps:  More fun recipes and stories from Spaghetti Saturdays

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~ Adapted from the Sugar ‘N Spice Cookbook (United Methodist Church Estherville, Iowa)

Old-Fashioned Glazed Ham Balls


  • Glaze
  • ½ cup vinegar (any kind)
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp mustard wet, not dried

  • Ham Balls
  • 3 lbs freshly ground smoked ham
  • ¾ -1 lb ground pork
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 ½ cup whole milk
  • 2 cups bread crumbs (gluten-free if you're avoiding gluten)


  • Preheat the oven to 350° F

  • Glaze
  • In a small saucepan over low heat, add the glaze ingredients and gently stir to combine
  • Cook, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved

  • Ham Balls
  • Mix ingredients together and form individual balls.
  • Cover and bake for 20 minutes.
  • Uncover and bake another 30 minutes (they should be beginning to brown)
  • Drizzle most of the glaze over them and continue to cook for another 20 minutes, or until done.
  • Serve the remaining glaze with the finished ham balls
Serves: 30
Nutrition + Show
Calories 145
Total Fat 6.2g
Saturated Fat 2.4g
Carbohydrates 11.8g
Fiber 0.3g
Sugars 6.4g
Protein 10g
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  • Reply Patrice Boothe March 30, 2018 at 11:14 am

    Ali, these are SO good! I made them for dinner last night and am so pleased. I also made your Drip Beef recipe this weekend which I am never disappointed with! Thanks, as always, for your wonderful recipes. xo

  • Reply Ellie April 19, 2018 at 6:07 pm

    Super easy and great for a crowd. I buy ground ham in the tube, but you can buy a boneless ham and have your butcher grind it if you have the time.A friend of mine from church brought this over to our home when my husband had transplant surgery. It was new to all of us and I have to admit, we all gave it an eyebrow raise…and then we tasted them. This recipe will leave you licking your plate clean and don’t be suprised if you find yourself having a serious craving for ham balls. WONDERFUL!!

  • Reply Diana H May 14, 2018 at 12:08 pm

    Well living in Phoenix now for two decades nothing helps cure homesick at holidays like back in Iowa Ham balls (grandma famous stuff yourself family favorite) all I can say is in IOWA we DONT USE BEEF but correctly ground pork (shoulder) but I do like this version with more egg than grandma’s. Also if you want balls a bit less sweet is to substitue one cup Ritz crackers for one cup graham crackers. Crisler/favorite side to use the extra gravy on top of cream cheese loaded mashed potatoes..YUM!

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