Category: meat (Page 1 of 5)

The JeniEats Brief Guide To Ham: Cooking It + Ideas For Leftovers

One thing that’s not a mystery: How much I love ham.

Growing-up, I looked forward to our family’s Easter dinner because of ham. Partly because of that cheesy potato hot dish topped with crushed corn flakes, but mostly because of ham. The leftovers were the best.

The good thing about preparing a ham is that it’s really, really easy. It’s already cooked, so all you have to do is heat it through and add some sauce. Our family was divided over raisin sauce. Half loved it and the other half hated it, reaching for the mustard instead. My favorite glaze combines the best of both worlds: Sweet fruit jam and mustard.

Ham ramblings aside, here’s a guide to all of my recipes that include ham. You’ll find my first adventure cooking a giant ham to ideas for using up your leftovers.

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Roasting My First Turkey: Dry Brining & Starting Upside-Down

Last week I cooked a turkey all by myself. It was fun and kind of freaky.

Our parents love to cook for us. They prepare beautiful meals when we return to Minnesota and pull out all of the stops on holidays. Last week, we stayed in St. Louis over Thanksgiving. This was our first holiday away from home and so we prepared the meal together.

One of my favorite, local grocery stores Straub’s made it easy to reserve a fresh (not frozen) turkey the week before Thanksgiving. I visited the meat counter to pick up my bird the day before. When the butcher appeared from the backroom with a large box that he insisted on carrying to the register, my eyes widened in surprise. The small turkey I had ordered turned out to weigh 15 pounds. With our small fridge, wet brining was out of the question, so I followed Kim Severson’s dry brine method instead.

First Dry Brining Attempt
Removing the raw, fleshy turkey from its packaging and transferring it to a storage bag proved to be slippery and challenging. After I poured out the excess liquid from inside the carcass, I dried the outside of the bird with paper towels and rubbed it with kosher salt. Then, I wrapped it in two plastic bags and let it sit overnight in the fridge. This process involved a change of clothing.

The next day, I set the bird on my counter for a couple of hours to get closer to room temperature and blotted it dry again with paper towels. I rubbed it with butter and stuffed the inside with apple and onion. To make sure the white meat stayed moist, I also rubbed butter between the breast and skin. Finding a large enough baking dish was tricky. I smashed the turkey into an old, crinkled disposable baking pan and hoped for the best. It literally took up my entire oven. If the turkey had been any bigger, it wouldn’t have fit. Phew.

Roasting Upside-Down First
To roast my turkey in our convection oven, I followed these instructions from the Purcell Murray blog, except that I started roasting the bird upside-down. Somewhere on the internet, I remembered reading suggestions to roast the turkey upside down for the first part of the cooking time and flipping it during the second (until the temperature reaches 160 degrees F). The skin covering the turkey breast is so thin. This method seemed to prevent the white meat from becoming tough and dry. In fact, the combination of dry brining and roasting upside down seemed to work well as a whole. I only basted the bird with butter once between flips. Our finished turkey was perfectly seasoned. The meat was moist and tender and the skin was crisp. “Don’t tell our parents, but this is the best turkey I’ve ever had,” said Jake.

I did goof up, though. When I was breaking down the cooked turkey for freezing, I pulled out a paper bag filled with the gizzards. I had been wondering where they were!

What I learned
Our turkey tasted notably seasoned, but just shy of being too salty. If you do try the dry brining method, my word of caution is to thoroughly dry the bird before rubbing it with butter and roasting it. For one thing, the salt and butter won’t adhere to a wet surface. Most dry brining recipes don’t instruct cooks to rinse the bird before baking. To avoid an overly salty turkey, don’t go overboard and crust it with salt when dry brining. I didn’t even sprinkle any salt inside the bird. Finally, make sure you really blot off the excess moisture afterwards. The pan juices after roasting are delicious, but they concentrate and become salty. Keep this in mind if you plan to add them to your gravy.

My favorite part about cooking my own turkey was making sure that the special bits like crunchy wing tips and oysters didn’t go to waste. We remember a couple of turkey dinners where the host/hostess served only white meat and cast aside the skin and legs. I think they assumed that nobody wanted to eat them.

What are your tried and true tips for roasting turkey? Do you have any favorite recipes that utilize leftover turkey? 

Recipe for Meatloaf Meatballs With Mom Glaze

Lots of people have bad memories of meatloaf, but it’s always remained one of my favorite foods.

Growing-up, my mom always prepared the recipe from the back of the Quaker Oats box. She always spread a mixture of brown sugar and ketchup on the top of the loaf before baking and adorned it with strips of bacon. The next day, my favorite treat was enjoying cold meatloaf sandwiches. I think I looked forward to them more so than the meatloaf itself.

Food television really opened my eyes to different foods and watching people prepare familiar dishes in different ways than I’d seen at home. While my mom prepared meatloaf in a loaf pan, I’ve adopted the more freeform method of forming a mound on a pan that I first saw on Barefoot Contessa. My fondness of meatloaf led me to order it at different restaurants. Now, I don’t order it often anymore because I can usually make it better (or just as good) at home.

I’ll always remember the time I was hanging out at a grade-school friend’s house around dinner time. On our to grab our shoes at the front door, we wandered through the kitchen as her dad was making meatloaf. He was holding a big bottle of mustard and maniacally laughed as he squirted it to the meatloaf mix. My folks never added mustard to their meatloaf mix and so I made a mental note to try it someday when I had my own kitchen. Now I always add mustard to mine.

The real reason I turned my last batch of ground meat into meatloaf balls was because it was fun. That’s really all there is to it.

Meatloaf Meatballs With Mom Glaze
Serves two. 

Meatballs Pan

1 lb ground meat (recommend pork and beef)
1 slice of bread soaked in milk
1 handful of parsley, finely chopped
1/4 onion, minced
1 clove garlic, grated
BBQ Sauce

Brown sugar, honey or maple syrup
Chili powder


  1. Tear one slice of bread into tiny pieces and soak in milk. The bread will be easier to break down into a paste as it softens.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the ground meat, bread and milk mixture, parsley, minced onion, garlic, at least one good squirt each of mustard and your favorite BBQ sauce, and pinches of salt and pepper.
  3. If you’d like to taste-test the mixture for seasoning, cook a tiny bit of the meat in a frying pan.
  4. Form meat mixture into balls and bake at about 375ºF (or 350ºF in a convection oven) until mostly cooked through. You can flip them partway through cooking, too. *Our new place is equipped with a convection oven which cooks foods must faster than our old ones. 
  5. While the meatballs bake, mix together the sauce by combining ketchup, brown sugar, and chili powder.
  6. Glaze the tops and sides of the meatballs with sauce. Return to the oven until the meatballs are cooked and the sauce glazes. Add more sauce, if desired, and return to the oven for a few minutes.

I Tried To Cook A New Meat: My Favorite North Iowa Butcher & Oxtail Stew

Sometimes I pick favorites.

One of my favorite place to purchase meat in town is Louie’s Custom Meats in Clear Lake, Iowa. I’ve brought home ground beef, steaks, whole chickens, chicken thighs, pork butts, ham ball/loaf mix and even frozen fish fillets. Louie’s also sells stunning smoked, bone-in pork chops. I bought one on a whim and sautéed it for a quick dinner. It was so good it changed my life. Everything I make with meat from Louie’s just tastes better

I appreciate how Louie’s updates its Facebook page regularly with weekly specials. Every once in a while, they’ll receive a whole fresh fish and post photos with prices, too. Last week, Louie’s posted an update about oxtail so I stopped by and bought a couple of pounds. As you can see, oxtail really is a tail; a cow tail to be exact. I think it used to be a cheap, throwaway cut of meat but has since become trendy recently, hence its price.

Ox Tail raw

Jake and I had never eaten oxtail before, so we asked Louie and some of our friends for advice. They offered many suggestions including trimming off some of the excess fat, searing the meat, and being careful to remove the fat from the sauce after cooking. Some friends said they simmer oxtail in marinara sauce while others flavor it with bay leaves and wine.

I combined some of their suggestions with Sunny Anderson’s recipe for Oxtail Stew in the slow cooker and added a habanero pepper for heat. Those who are experienced at preparing oxtail might shake their head at my method, as I had no idea what I was doing, but in the end we enjoyed a flavorful stew.


Seared oxtail

For those put off by the thought of eating a tail, the pieces of meat become tender after hours of braising and taste like pot roast. Jake and I had no idea how to eat the oxtail and soon tossed our cutlery aside to dig in with our fingers and gnaw the meat and melting cartilage off the bone. If there’s a pretty way to eat oxtail, we’re stumped.

The actual stew is rich in flavor and texture. The lima beans melt and the collagen from the beef bones adds body. We enjoyed the stew with brown rice and crusty bread.

I Tried To Make Oxtail Stew
Adapted from Sunny Anderson’s recipe for Oxtail Stew. In hindsight, the sauce enhancer (Gravy Master or Kitchen Bouquet was unnecessary. Gravy Master is noted in Sunny’s recipe so I bought Kitchen Bouquet hoping it was a similar product). 


2 pounds of oxtail
Flour, a light dusting for the ox tails
6 ounces baby lima beans
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 habanero pepper, seeds removed and slit
Low-sodium broth
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon hot sauce
Soy Sauce
Optional: 1-2 tablespoons Gravy Master or Kitchen Bouquet
3 scallions, sliced


  1. Sort through lima beans for stones and rinse. Place in a sauce pan with water and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and set aside.
  2. Pre-heat pan to medium-high. Lightly dust oxtail pieces with flour. Sear in vegetable oil on all sides until golden brown. Set aside.
  3. Remove the excess fat, leaving enough to cook the onion.
  4. Cook the onion until softened. Add the garlic, paprika, thyme and bay leaf. Saute briefly until fragrant.
  5. Drain the lima beans and place in the slow cooker.Add the ox tails, slit and deseeded habanero and onion-spice mixture.
  6. Fill slow cooker with about half water, half stock until it almost (but not quite) covers the oxtail.
  7. Cook on high. Check on the oxtails after a couple of hours. Skim off the foam and fat.
  8. My ox tails took about eight hours to become tender. I occasionally skimmed the fat and added stock when the beans looked dry. About two hours before I wanted to serve the oxtails, I added the tomato paste and Kitchen Bouquet.
  9. Before serving, I tasted for seasoning and added more salt and soy sauce as needed. I also tossed in the scallions.

Have you ever eaten oxtail? If you’ve cooked it, what’s your favorite method of preparation? Feel free to let me know if I missed a step or made the process too difficult. 

My Take On Iowan Ham Balls Glazed With Spicy Cranberry Sauce

Pork tenderloin sandwiches, Maid-Rites, and Greek-style steak. These are all foods Mason City has introduced us to since we moved here a little over a year ago. Now we can add one more to the list:

Ham balls.

I remember seeing recipes for ham loaf in my grandmother’s church cookbooks and ham balls in Jake’s family cookbook, but I’d never actually eaten one until I moved to Iowa. Val of Corn, Bean, Pigs & Kids actually introduced me to my very first ham ball at a North Iowa blogger potluck. I liked them so much that I helped myself to seconds.


My first taste of ham balls, courtesy of Val.

When I saw ham loaf mix for sale at my favorite butcher shop Louie’s Custom Meats in Clear Lake, IA, I felt inspired to make my own version. I combined a few different recipes and made a glaze with leftover cranberry sauce (yup, the canned stuff) which provided the perfect sweet and tangy counterpoint to the savory meat.

“Ham balls!?” exclaimed Jake, when he first caught wind of my dinner menu. He had never heard of ham balls before and was convinced he wouldn’t like them. As the ham balls baked, Jake commented on how “hammy” our house smelled and imagined I would serve him softball-sized chunks of ham. Not so.

As skeptical as Jake was about ham balls, he could not resist their charm. They were crusty on the outside and fluffy on the inside when I pulled them hot of the oven. They taste a little smokier than the typical meatball and hit all of our favorite sweet, savory and spicy cravings.

Spicy Cranberry Glazed Ham Balls
Inspired by Ken Enck & The Taylor House’s recipes for ham balls. Ham loaf mix seems to be equal parts ground pork and ground ham. It shouldn’t be too hard to find in Iowa, but if you can’t find it pre-made, try pulsing ham in a food processor and adding it to the pork. If you don’t want to use cranberry sauce in your glaze, use a different jelly or jam. I found other ham ball recipes that make the tangy glaze from canned pineapple, tomato soup, or brown sugar and vinegar syrup. 

Hamballs watermarked

Ham Ball Ingredients:
1 1/2 lb. ground ham loaf mix
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup oatmeal
2-3 tablespoons minced onion
2 eggs, scrambled
3/4 cup milk
Black pepper, to taste

Sauce Ingredients:
1 cup cranberry sauce
3 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
Dash Worcestershire
2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey (or brown sugar, to taste)
1/4 water
Hot sauce, to taste
Hot pepper flakes


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350℉.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the ham loaf mix, panko, oatmeal, onion,eggs, milk and black pepper. It’s easiest to combine the ingredients by squishing them together with your hands. Allow the mixture sit for a few minutes so the breadcrumbs and oatmeal can absorb the liquid. If it’s still too moist, add some more oatmeal or breadcrumbs.
  3. Shape the mix into small balls. Place in a lightly greased pan in a single layer. It’s OK if they are close to each other.
  4. Bake for about 25-minutes.
  5. While the ham balls are baking, make the glaze. Combine the cranberry sauce, mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire, soy sauce, honey, water, and hot pepper flakes in a small saucepan. Gently heat and whisk until combined.
  6. If the sauce is too thick, add more water. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.
  7. Drizzle the sauce over the ham balls and return to the oven, uncovered. Bake for about 25 more minutes or until the ham balls are cooked through.

Three of my friends shared their best ham ball making tips. Jenny of In The Kitchen With Jenny makes Pineapple Ham Loaf Patties which she says are easy to make-ahead and freeze. Barb suggests using graham cracker crumbs instead of breadcrumbs and adding diced green pepper, while Shannon‘s favorite recipe combines both ground ham and ground beef. How do you make your favorite ham balls? 

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