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Classic Midwestern Baked Ham Balls Recipe

plate of ham balls on rice
plate of ham balls on rice - Erin Johnson/Mashed

There are all sorts of foods associated with the Midwestern region of the US. Many of them have roots in Europe, like zwiebach (doughy dinner rolls) and the crisp cookies known as sandbakkels, but others take advantage of convenient leftovers and pantry staples, like ham balls, which are essentially meatballs made form ham. "Ham balls may not be something you've tried before, but they are an excellent way to use up leftover ham," says recipe developer Erin Johnson, who notes you can use any kind of cooked ham you have around to create these sweet-and-smoky spheres, which get extra protein and bulk from ground pork and a punch of flavor from homemade BBQ sauce. "I love these because they are delicious, and very easy!"

"I like to serve these on top of mashed potatoes or rice," Johnson says, but you can enjoy these however you like. These comforting, saucy ham balls are great as an appetizer, entree, or even a savory party snack. Here's how to whip them up.

Read more: US Foods You Surprisingly Can't Find In Canada

Gather Your Ingredients For Midwestern Baked Ham Balls

ingredients for baked ham balls
ingredients for baked ham balls - Erin Johnson/Mashed

Aside from leftover cooked ham, this recipe calls for eggs, milk, diced onion, ground pork, and crushed-up butter crackers. (If you don't have or eat dairy milk, Johnson says it's okay to substitute your preferred brand of plant-based milk.) For the homemade BBQ sauce, you'll need ketchup, molasses, pepper, salt, smoked paprika, mustard (either stone ground or Dijon), and apple cider vinegar.

Step 1: Prep The Oven

oven screen preheated to 350
oven screen preheated to 350 - Erin Johnson/Mashed

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Step 2: Mince The Ham

minced ham in food processor
minced ham in food processor - Erin Johnson/Mashed

In a food processor, pulse the ham until it is finely chopped.

Step 3: Make The Meat Mixture

bowls of ham, pork, and onion
bowls of ham, pork, and onion - Erin Johnson/Mashed

Add the ground pork and onion to the ham and mix until well combined.

Step 4: Add The Other Ingredients

ground meat with milk, eggs, and crackers
ground meat with milk, eggs, and crackers - Erin Johnson/Mashed

To the meat, add the eggs, milk, and cracker crumbs. Mix together thoroughly.

Step 5: Form And Bake The Ham Balls

ham balls in pan
ham balls in pan - Erin Johnson/Mashed

Form the meat mixture into even-sized balls and place in a large, oven-safe baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes.

Step 6: Mix Up The Sauce

bbq sauce ingredients
bbq sauce ingredients - Erin Johnson/Mashed

Mix together the ketchup, molasses, vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and paprika. Stir well.

Step 7: Combine Sauce And Meatballs

spooning sauce onto meatballs
spooning sauce onto meatballs - Erin Johnson/Mashed

After 30 minutes, remove the meatballs from the oven and spoon the sauce mixture over them.

Step 8: Finish And Serve Your Midwestern Baked Ham Balls

ham balls in bbq sauce
ham balls in bbq sauce - Erin Johnson/Mashed

Bake for an additional 15 minutes and then serve warm.

Can You Make Any Part Of This Ham Ball Recipe In Advance?

ham balls over rice
ham balls over rice - Erin Johnson/Mashed

Even if you have a fridge full of leftover ham, you still may not have a ton of free time. This recipe isn't terribly time-consuming — it takes about an hour from start to finish — but there are ways to make the process even snappier, if you need it to be. "If you want to take a shortcut, you could top these with your favorite barbecue sauce instead of making your own," Johnson notes. "You could [also] prepare the balls in advance and bake and glaze before serving," she says, adding that you can "make them up to the night before you intend to cook them." However, be mindful about how old the ham you're using is. If enough time has passed that you're not sure if you'd eat the leftover meat, maybe wait until next time.

Once you've made these baked ham balls, "Keep them covered in the fridge for up to 3 days," she says. "You can reheat in the oven or microwave."

Can You Use Another Type Of Cracker For These Ham Balls?

ham balls close-up
ham balls close-up - Erin Johnson/Mashed

Since this recipe relies on leftovers, you may not be itching to take a trip to the store in order to make this Midwestern classic. The ingredients are largely comprised of pantry staples like ketchup, molasses, and eggs, but what if you don't have butter crackers? Can you still make these baked ham balls?

"You could use whatever cracker you have on hand or even substitute panko," says Johnson. "Some versions of ham balls even use crushed graham crackers but I haven't been brave enough to try that." Clearly, there's room for experimentation here. If you do spring for graham crackers, know that they're sweeter than other forms of cracker, so if you don't have much of a sweet tooth consider using a tiny bit less molasses in your BBQ sauce. At the end of the day, this is your meal, and you can make it however you see fit.

Classic Midwestern Baked Ham Balls Recipe

pot of ham balls in sauce
pot of ham balls in sauce - Erin Johnson/Mashed

Prep Time: 15mCook Time: 45mYield: 6 servingsIngredients

  • 1 ½ pounds cooked ham

  • 1 pound ground pork

  • 1 onion, diced

  • 2 eggs, beaten

  • 1 cup milk

  • 1 ½ cups butter cracker crumbs

  • 1 cup ketchup

  • ½ cup molasses

  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon stone ground or Dijon mustard

  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

  2. In a food processor, pulse the ham until it is finely chopped.

  3. Add the ground pork and onion to the ham and mix until well combined.

  4. To the meat, add the eggs, milk, and cracker crumbs. Mix together thoroughly.

  5. Form the meat mixture into even-sized balls and place in a large, oven safe baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes.

  6. Mix together the ketchup, molasses, vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and paprika. Stir well.

  7. After 30 minutes, remove the meatballs from the oven and spoon the sauce mixture over them.

  8. Bake for an additional 15 minutes and then serve warm.

Read the original article on Mashed.