I’ve had a lot of fun searching for and trying out recipes to put in the recipe sections of all of my Seasons of the Heart books, where Miriam, the central character, runs the Sweet Seasons Bakery Café. I consider it my mission to make my readers drool and rush to their kitchens to make these recipes for their families!
And you know what I’ve discovered about Plain cooking? While Amish and Mennonite cooks are the mistresses of making something yummy from nothing special, Plain cooking is not a world unto itself—there is no particular “formula,” no special ingredients that make a recipe “Plain.” Plain food is basically the stuff our grandmothers’ (maybe great-grandmothers’) meals were made of: home cooked, made-from-scratch dishes that a lot of present-day cooks don’t have the time or inclination to make. I love to cook and I cherish the foods and recipes my grandma and great-grandmother shared with me, so I’ve truly enjoyed compiling the recipe sections of my books that are based upon the foods my characters serve in each story.
When I spotted this recipe for ham loaf, I had to try it because one ingredient stuck out: tapioca! I’ve made ham loaf for years but have never seen tapioca crystals used in any sort of a meat dish. Tapioca is often a thickener in fruit pies, and it serves that function in this recipe, as well: this ham loaf bakes up flavorful and firm, which makes it a perfect candidate for sandwiches after you’ve served it for dinner. I can well imagine ham loaf sandwiches appearing in Amish lunch boxes or for a simple supper after an Amish mom’s busy day.
It’s also a nice alternative to meat loaf, and it picks up a tangy sweet-sour taste from the glaze as it bakes. You can ask someone at the meat counter in the grocery store to grind your ham—or use a hand-cranked grinder, as Amish women do, or a food processor blade, as I do.
- 1 lb. ground ham
- 1 lb. ground pork
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 eggs
- ⅔ C. cracker crumbs
- ⅓ C. Minute tapioca
- ¼ C. milk
- ¼ C. cider vinegar
- ½ C. water
- ½ C. brown sugar
- 1 T. mustard
- Preheat oven to 350º.
- In a large bowl, combine the ground ham, ground pork, onion, eggs, cracker crumbs, tapioca, and milk. Mix thoroughly and form into two loaves.
- Place in a sprayed/greased roaster or baking pan.
- Mix the glaze ingredients in a small pan and boil for a few minutes, then pour the glaze over the ham loaves.
- Cover and bake about an hour, basting occasionally. Glaze will thicken as it cooks down.
- Allow to cool about fifteen minutes before slicing, and serve with glaze.
- You can add a little more zing to this ham loaf by adding a squirt of yellow mustard and other seasonings like ground dill weed, garlic powder, and dried basil to the meat mixture.
- If you’d rather leave out the sugar, you can skip the glaze altogether and add a packet of dry sugar-free apple cider mix to the meat mixture, and then sprinkle another packet of the cider powder over top of the loaves before putting them in the oven.
- You can also bake your loaves in a large crock pot for about 6 hours, but the glaze won’t thicken as much.
Charlotte Hubbard draws upon her experiences in Jamesport, the largest Old Order Amish community west of the Mississippi to write of simpler times and a faith-based lifestyle in her new Seasons of the Heart series. Faith and family, farming and food preservation are hallmarks of her lifestyle, and the foundation of her earlier Angels of Mercy series. She’s a deacon, a dedicated church musician and choir member, and when she’s not writing, she loves to try new recipes, crochet, and sew. Charlotte now lives in Minnesota with her husband and their border collie.
Purchase Charlotte’s books here.