Sunday, July 26, 2015

Foodie Field Trip- Iowa Blogger Tour Part 4- Char Brenneman's Hamballs

Well we have been wined, dined, cooked and showered. It's been an incredible two days of learning and networking and making friends. I've tried to think about how I would answer if someone were to ask me what my favorite part was. All of it. Every activity was so different and so rewarding and I feel like I have gained so much. I am inspired to try new cooking techniques using pork and exploring more wines again. I have been slacking off in that department lately.

I'm inspired to continue to learn about where our food comes from. Maybe a beef farm or a food crop farm should be next on the agenda for me. Tour a dairy or other food plant. There are so many opportunities in Iowa alone.

Feeding my obsession- isn't this the cutest kitchen towel?
Chef Dom's pork dinner was definitely a highlight. Being able to try a couple dishes that have been cooked in the sous vide method makes me really want to try this technique. Looks like I have some research to do and possibly look into some classes or maybe- imagine this- a new cookbook on the subject.

An assortment of artisan cheeses

Can't wait to play with this stuff !!
Cooking with all the ladies at Chef Terrie's Country Club Market was so much fun! It's not very often that I get to attend blogger events so getting to hang out with these incredible women was for sure a highlight. I love cooking classes of all kinds and really do my best to attend as many as I can- even if it's something I already know how to make, I am still going to learn something- a new knife technique or get to try out an ingredient I am not familiar with. Living in the country can be a little isolating so classes are also a great way to make new like-minded friends.

Sadly our two days have drawn to a close, and it's time to say goodbye to new friends and head back to reality. Shawnie and Josie have one last surprise for us before we go. The girls have assembled fabulous gift baskets for us! It's HUGE and filled with all kinds of wonderful Iowa products. Four kinds of cheese from the W. W. Homestead Dairy, "Pig Powder" meat rub from Allspice, candies from Chocolate Storybook including chocolate covered bacon, a maple bacon cupcake from Scratch Cupcakery, the cutest piggie cookie cutter, a kitchen towel (they must have known about my obsession!) and a bottle of wine from Penoach Winery, all packed in a really cool wooden box, plus a t-shirt, snack bag, and an apron with our names embroidered on. Brenneman Pork sent me home with a thick and warm hoodie sweatshirt and Chef Terrie gave us all a very handy silicone scraper. Quite a lovely assortment of goodies. I feel like a kid on Christmas morning.

And now, because you have been so patient, waiting, and sticking around through all four promised........hamballs.

If you're not from Iowa, you might never have heard of, or eaten, a hamball. The hamball is a uniquely Midwestern dish that has graced many many many dinner tables over many generations in Iowa. Every church cookbook has three or four different recipes. Everyone's grandmother makes the best hamballs. Potlucks and holidays wouldn't be the same without hamballs. In some grocery stores you can even buy already mixed up "hamball mix" out of the meat counter- just roll into balls and bake at home. What is it about hamballs that makes us love them soooo much?

You just have to have one to get it. They are simply meatballs made with ham and ground pork. Tender, delicious, a little smoky, a little salty, a hint of sweet, usually baked in a sweet and sour type tomato sauce they are amazing with mashed potatoes. Heading out to Brenneman Pork on Tuesday we were expecting pork burgers on the grill. Hey, I love a good pork burger, and anything on the grill is good with me. Instead of burgers thought, Char Brenneman changed it up on us and made hamballs instead. 

Happy happy tummies all around- all the food blogging girls love hamballs. Char knew we were going to ask so she printed off the recipe ahead of time and shared, and I am going to share with you! Get ready to have some friends over for dinner- this is a pretty large recipe and makes quite a few hamballs.

Char Brenneman's Hamballs

2 lbs "ham loaf" mix (2/3 ground ham, 1/3 ground pork)
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 egg
2/3 cup milk

Mix together in a large bowl. Form into balls and place in baking dish. Think tennis ball size when making the balls.

1 can tomato sauce
1 can tomato soup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
couple squeezes yellow mustard

Combine in a bowl and pour over the hamballs. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for one hour.

You need mashed potatoes with these guys, you really do. Peas. Some good bread for sopping up that delicious sauce....... heaven!!!!

Hey, thanks for hanging out with me these last several days. I hope you enjoyed the Iowa Tour de Pork as much as I did. Maybe you learned something new, I know I sure did, or maybe relived a memory of summers spent on a farm, or just piqued your interest in really amazing food and wine. I appreciate your thoughts and would love to hear what you think about the stories shared from this tour. Now, back to our regularly scheduled cooking! 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 55: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


  1. I have had so much fun reading about your tour! So sad to have missed it but thanks to you and Cristen's posts, I feel like I was there for a bit:)

    1. Thanks Jeni !!! I can't wait til the next time I can get together with these amazing women.

  2. This was a fun couple of days - so glad I met you face-to-face! Until next time…. :)