I admit it. Whoever named this was no expert marketer. But don’t let the name dissuade you. Ham loaf has it all. Turkey’s got nothing on ham loaf. And here’s the proof: every year, without fail, hundreds of new recipes and approaches surface, trying to turn turkey into what it can never be: delectable, tender on the inside, crispy on the outside, subtly sweet and reliably delicious. Ham loaf is all of these things – without hardly trying. What’s more, ham loaf owes allegiance to no specific holiday. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Talk Like a Pirate Day, it’s equally delicious regardless of the reason for the season (or lack thereof).
So toss the turkey. Trash the turducken. Free up the giant fryer you only use to risk your health, home and happiness for the vague possibility of a fried turkey and a guarantee of a giant oily mess to contend with once your belly is full and the couch calls to you like a siren to a bloated Odysseus, glistening with turkey grease.
Maybe it’d help to rename ham loaf, to give it a moniker worthy of even occupying the same orbit as this undeserved gift from heaven. Porcine pastry. Collateral Hamage. Porque converter. Porkscrew. On second thought, why mess with perfection? It’s ham loaf. It’s so hamn good that, once you try it, you’ll appreciate the name despite its apparent inadequacy.
And if your faith, health or dietary decisions prohibit you from pork products and you’d like to substitute another meat or meat-is-grain-based-protein, don’t.
Feeds one small army
(Three 9”x9” loaves)
What You Need
For the Loaves:
3 pounds ground pork
2 pounds ham (Get the good stuff)
2 cups milk
2 sleeves crackers (traditionally saltines, but Ritz work great)
For the Sauce:
4.5 cups brown sugar
1.5 cups apple cider vinegar
1.5 cups water
3 tablespoons dry mustard
Preheat your oven to 325°. Grease the pans with butter.
Use a food processor to grind up the ham, then grind up the crackers, too.
Using your hands, mix together the pork, ham, eggs, milk and crackers in a bowl.
Form the mixture into loaves in the pans, about 1.5” thick is right on target.
Wash your hands. Raw pork is no joke.
Extra points for scoring the top into 2.5” squares (no pun intended), and if you really want to get fancy you might experiment with plugging a whole clove into the top here and there, but I honestly don’t think you need it.
Meanwhile, boil the water and apple cider vinegar in a saucepan and dissolve the brown sugar into it by stirring in a little at a time. Add in the dry mustard, stir until you have a smooth mixture. Split this incredibly addictive sauce amongst your pans of ham loaf.
Bake for two hours at 325°. While baking, use a turkey baster to suck up the yummy, caramelizing sauce and squirt it on top of the loaves. Do this often.
Serve with mashed potatoes, corn, rolls and virtually anything else. Avoid kale.