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Crazy for Ham Balls

No, ham balls are not pig testicles.

On Monday I was invited to “dinner” by Eldon’s mayor, Shirley Stacey. First of all, let it be known when someone invites you to “dinner” in Southeast Iowa, they do not mean come over after work. Dinner is served promptly at noon. “Supper” is the term for the evening meal, served promptly at five. For someone used to thinking five o’clock means cocktail hour and dinner shouldn’t be eaten before seven, I still get confused. Even so, I managed to make it during daylight hours to Shirley’s City Hall feast, where she was serving homemade ham balls. This would be only my second time to indulge in this Midwest dish.

Ham balls. What are ham balls anyway? “An elegant dish for Miss Piggy?” as one friend suggested. Or, “Like Rocky Mountain oysters?” asked another. No, ham balls are not pig testicles! They’re meatballs, made with three different kinds of meat (pork, beef and some mysterious thing called ham loaf) mixed with graham cracker crumbs, then covered (er, smothered) in a sweet brown sugar-tomato soup sauce.

Welcome to Iowa.

This picture was taken in October, during my ham ball initiation.
Left to right: City Clerk Carrie Tenity, me, and Mayor Shirley Stacey

Ham balls are delicious in that hearty, filling, Thanksgiving-stomachache kind of way. Overly full or not, the temptation to have seconds was too great to resist knowing I might not get to have them again for another three months. So I — pardon the pun — pigged out.

I ate so many ham balls, I was in a ham ball-induced food coma for the rest of the day. I was so stuffed, tired and uncomfortable I couldn’t even think straight. I was having trouble explaining something to Molly from the visitor center next door and told her, “My god, those ham balls are giving me amnesia.”

Hamnesia, you mean.” Molly replied without missing a beat.

I laughed so hard I almost lost my lunch. I mean dinner.

Shirley Stacey’s Ham Ball Recipe

2 lbs ham loaf
2 lbs ground pork
1 lb ground beef
3 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp onion powder

2 cans tomato soup
2-1/4 cups brown sugar
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup vinegar
2 tsp dry mustard
2 Tbsp ketchup

Mix meat mixture together and roll into balls. Place on cookie sheet and bake at 350 for one hour.
Mix sauce (double sauce recipe for extra juicy).
Placed baked meat balls in Crockpot. Pour sauce over and heat until ready to serve.

Excellent to freeze ham balls and have ready for any occasion. You can also put them in a baking dish and pour sauce over them before baking.

Next time: It’s Ham Ball Pie! (Pictured: A meatball pie from Pillsbury)