While I love the distinct flavor of beef in a medium rare steak, I also enjoy a well-made meatloaf served with mashed potatoes, a vegetable, and a lettuce salad. You can’t get more homestyle than that.
Ham loaf is one of those comfort foods that originated with the Pennsylvania Dutch in the 1800s. Though my wife and I are both of Amish background, I had never heard of ham loaf until I attended a catered barbecue dinner during the Meadow Creek dealer event earlier this year. I asked the chef how he made it, and he said he used Gene Wenger’s Ham Loaf. There are many ways to make ham loaf from scratch, but Gene Wenger’s Ham Loaf is a favorite of many in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. If you can find it, try it.
My local bulk food store here in Bedford carries Gene Wenger’s Ham Loaf, so I decided to buy a few loaves and cook them in my Meadow Creek SQ36 Offset Smoker. I scored a couple of brownie points with my wife, as she is very fond of dishes like this. Unfortunately, I couldn’t eat more than a slice or two because they contain gluten, but the texture and flavor of the meat was perfect, and the smoke, seasoning, and glaze on every slice made it irresistibly wonderful!
If you can’t find ham loaf locally or you prefer to mix your own, here’s a recipe I found in a Mennonite cookbook:
Ham Loaf From Scratch
- 1-1/2 pounds ground ham
- 1-1/2 pound ground pork
- 1 cup milk
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 cups bread crumbs
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and shape the meat into a loaf.
For this story, I used my Meadow Creek SQ36 Offset Smoker. I fired it with Royal Oak Chef’s Select 100% hardwood briquettes and chunks of apple wood. Because I was aiming for a higher temperature of around 300 degrees F, I started off with several more pounds of charcoal than I usually do and opened the vents about halfway. Usually I go with 7–8 pounds of charcoal, and I’d estimate I used about 10 pounds to fire it up this time.
I put the loaves on the smoker partially frozen, and they were done in 3–4 hours. If you are new to cooking on an offset, I recommend keeping the temperature lower, around 225–250 degrees F. It will add time to your cook, but it will make your temperature control easier, and you’ll have less risk of burning the meat. You can see in my photos that a couple of the loaves got a little dark on the bottom. You can also risk loosening the paint on the inside of the lid if you go too crazy with the heat.
If you decide to make your own loaves, you might want to harden them a little in the freezer to keep the meat from falling through the grate on your smoker. Another option would be to set the loaves on a grilling mat.
Get your smoker up to temperature and put the meat in the smoker. There’s really nothing left to do except keep your smoker running until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 160 degrees F. If you have a charcoal smoker like I do, you’ll have the fun of monitoring the temperature and adding fuel or adjusting the vents as needed. There’s nothing like going “back to nature” for some good therapy. An offset like this requires you to add more charcoal or wood every 45–60 minutes.
A few minutes before the meat is done, glaze the meat with your favorite barbecue sauce. Check the meat with a digital thermometer in a couple of places.
Once it reaches the temperature you’re looking for, slice it into thick juicy slices and serve it with potato wedges, vegetables, or whatever you desire.