Ham in Meatballs or Meatloaf


Many “seasonal shoppers” may have stocked up on a ham or two because of the loss leader specials many stores feature around Easter. Or you may just have some of the leftovers from your own Easter ham tucked away in the freezer, waiting for some new ideas. You made sandwiches, maybe even a casserole or two, but now you have the bone and lonly small scraps of meat left.

If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to use that ham bone for soup. Type “ham bone” into the search box above and you’ll find a variety of soups, including this one for “stone soup” that even includes a link to the old folk tale, Stone Soup.


Those small pieces of meat, however, are a little harder to work with. The following recipe could be a great change of pace with the meatballs served in a vegetable soup or a standard marinara sauce bringing the smoky taste of ham to a standard meal. If you choose to form part of the mixture into a loaf, that will provide a second meal, served with the “usual” meatloaf sides, mashed potatoes and a steamed vegetable (broccoli, cauliflower, carrot slices) topped with a cheese or vinaigrette sauce.

This recipe is so good you don’t have to wait for leftovers. Several local and regional grocers here in Minnesota’s farm belt have great butcher sections where  ham is often available already ground so you can skip the first step if that is available. The ground pork at these stores is also among the leanest ground meat I can buy, and at a reasonable price, so I use it often. While you could use ground turkey or beef for part of the meat here, the pork seems to best allow the ham flavor to predominate.

These meatballs and loaf freeze well, and the recipe is large enough to make at least a couple of meals for most families, perfect for making on a weekend for a few meals through the week.

Seasoning hint:  There is a wide variation in the saltiness of hams, so you may want to test for seasoning. However, with the raw pork and eggs, just taking a bite before this is cooked is not wise. Instead, take a tablespoon or two of the mixture and flatten into a patty. Either saute it on the stove top or microwave it for about 2 to 3 minutes. Then taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

  Ham Meatballs

1 1/2 lb ground ham and pork (see NOTE)
3 eggs
1 c rolled oats
1/3 c dry milk powder
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1/2 green bell pepper, finely diced
1 T brown mustard
2 T barbecue sauce or ketchup

While all ham can be used, the result is often almost too salty. I recommend a mix of about 1 pound of ground ham and 1 /2 pound ground pork, although the ham flavor will predominate if as little as 1/2 pound is used.

1.  If using ham that has not been ground, cut the meat into about 1 inch chunks and whirl in a food processor until the texture of coarse ground beef.

2.  Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until evenly blended. While it may seem messy, the very best way to do this is to mix with your hands!

3a.  To bake (the preferred, and easiest method): Press the mixture into lightly oiled mini-muffin pans. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown, with darker brown edges. Remove from pans to cool and then add to your favorite marinara sauce, soup, etc.
 3b. To saute:  Roll into balls about the size of a ping pong ball (or smaller if desired). Heat a small amount of olive or canola oil in a large heavy skillet over medium high heat. Saute the meatballs, turning as needed, until they are well browned on all sides. Larger meatballs may need a little more time; if in doubt, cut into one and make sure the center is cooked.

Makes about 40 to 48.

Meatloaf Variation:

Press the mixture into two 5 X 7 loaf pans and bake at 350 degrees about 25 to 30 minutes, until the center is well-browned and the edges are darker brown. If desired, spread a light layer of ketchup or barbecue sauce over the top before putting in the oven.


Make part of the mixture into meatballs and then form the remaining amount into a loaf to fit whatever size pan will work best and bake as above. 

Serving suggestions:

Use these in any meatball or meatloaf recipe. Here I added them to vegetable soup near the end of the cooking time. The picture above shows a favorite family meal, with meatballs (or meatloaf) along with steamed red potatoes (mashed potatoes are good too) and salad.

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