What Do You Mean, "WHAT'S A HAM BALL?"
All my life I've thought everyone had ham balls at Easter. That is, until this week, when I casually mentioned to my co-workers my need to pick up eight pounds of chopped ham so my husband could make his most-coveted holiday recipe for my extended family. This is odd? Other people don't know what ham balls are?
Since my husband was at work, I poked around our cookbook collection looking for his recipe. I didn't find his, but I looked where I thought I might strike gold: The Pot 'O Gold Cookbook compiled by the St. Patrick Altar Society in Imogene, Iowa, in 1997. Who doesn't love a church cookbook that starts off like this?
Blessings be upon the cook
who seeing buys this little book
And buying, tries and tastes its wares,
And tasting, throws away her cares;
And carefree, tells her neighbor cook
to get the POT O'GOLD cookbook!
And yes, there were ham ball recipes. (Denise thinks ham balls might be an Iowan thing. I have no idea, but since all my Iowan relatives on both sides make ham balls, I think she might be right. I found four ham ball recipes, four ham loaf recipes (including Party Pineapple Ham Loaf from Gertrude McGargill), one recipe for ham cups and one recipe for asparagus ham rolls (for when you really want to bring the funk).
What's the difference, you may ask? Some of the loafs have pineapples on them. Some use pineapples as a glaze. Some of them seem to be all fuck it, just throw the pineapple in with the rest! Ham loaf is not for the faint of heart. The Party Pineapple Ham Loaf calls for 12-16 slices of pineapple and a half cup of pineapple juice. (And you just try finding fresh pineapple at the four-aisle small-town grocery store in March or April. That is why this shit calls for PLANNING.)
While ham loaf is hot for pineapple, ham balls are more about the fruitless tang, unless you want to get technical and call a tomato a fruit. (Which it is. Well, a berry. Whatevs.) Imagine ham meatballs with a glaze. I called my husband to ask him where he kept his ham ball recipe, and he got totally cagey about it. There was a long pause, and finally I asked him if he were sensitive about his ham balls. He admitted he doesn't really use a recipe and that my mother had just asked him for it and he probably should write it down, after all. He emailed it to me this afternoon. I didn't edit it at all. You're welcome.