Friday, December 26, 2014

Tradition: Grandma's Ham & Pork Balls with Mustard~Brown Sugar~Vinegar Sauce

I know I've written about my grandma's Ham & Pork Balls before, but I couldn't find the recipe on the blog. So I decided to write another post about them. I say that they're a tradition, but they were not a tradition when I was growing up. It has only been in the last 7-8 years that Grandma's Ham & Pork Balls have become a Christmas tradition.

Grandma always made turkey for Thanksgiving and ham for Christmas & Easter. The pork balls were not a holiday dish. They are, however, like her "weekend" potato salad: "Legendary!" Those 2 dishes are perhaps the ones that her family most enjoyed, the ones that always stick in our minds. Her potato salad was so good that when she would make a large batch and take it to the family cottage for a weekend with the family, we polished it off by mid-day Saturday. The "weekend potato salad" lasted maybe half a day!

The ham & pork balls story is remembered every Christmas now, even though it happened at a random Sunday dinner. In short, there was a family gathering at grandma's house when I was a little girl and my dad and grandpa, who love these meatballs, engaged in a pork ball eating contest. I don't think there was a clear winner. They both ate an obscene number of meatballs - I think family legend puts it at about 22 each. But I remember sitting at the table, everyone was done eating except for those two, sitting at opposite ends so they were facing each other, and grandpa would eat one then look at dad, daring him to down another. My dad, of course, would eat another and look at his dad, as if to say, ha! I have tied you, old man! They went back and forth for quite a while as did our swiveling heads as we watched each one eat yet another meatball. I think they both were about ready to quit when my grandma decided she'd had enough of them trying to out eat each other and decided to take the tray of pork balls away!

Grandpa and grandma are now gone, and I miss them dearly. But grandma's pork balls live on because everyone, especially my dad, likes them so much. They are now a once a year treat - every Christmas Eve or Christmas. Ground ham and ground pork meatballs cooked in a sauce of brown sugar, mustard, vinegar, and water.

Pork Ball Tradition also means that along with the pork balls, one enjoys a cheese & cracker platter:
 This year: gruyere, smoked gouda, cheddar, and a goat gouda.

Also, one enjoys a veggie and dip platter:
This year: celery, cucumber, carrots, red pepper (not pictured) and Beau Monde Dip.

But the real star of this appetizer dinner is the ham & pork balls.

Grandma's Ham & Pork Balls

Meatballs:
1 lb ground ham*
1 & ½ lb ground pork
2 c bread crumbs
2 eggs, beaten
1 c milk

Sauce:
1 c brown sugar
1 tsp ground mustard
1/2 c apple cider vinegar
½ c water

Make meatballs by simply combining all ingredients in a large bowl. Gently mix together with hands. Form the meatballs - we use my cookie dough scoop so maybe a bit more than 1 inch round. Place the meatballs in a baking dish - we use a 9 x 13 glass baking dish. Usually we need a second, smaller baking dish for the last 10 or so meatballs. We usually get about 50 meatballs. 

Make the sauce by mixing the sauce ingredients. Pour sauce over meatballs. Bake 325 for 1 hour, basting every so often.

*We always have to ask the meat counter to grind ham for us. The tubes of  pre-packaged ground ham are gross - they're more like shredded ham and kind of paste-like. Get fresh ham freshly ground. 

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