Minnesota State Fair’s Darned Good Meatloaf

I heard the Siren Song of Meatloaf this week, and remembered “State Fair Ham Loaf” from the estimable Minnesota State Fair: An illustrated history (Kathryn Strand Koutsky & Linda Koutsky). This beautiful history of the Fair has nearly 185 pages of pictures and text, with an additional 20 pages of recipes from State Fair contest winners, 4H ribbon-winners, and a variety of historic sources.

Given my personal history, Ham Loaf is impossibly exotic. For many of you this may take you right back to childhood.

There was no ham in my childhood. I’m Jewish, and, although my Mother didn’t keep Kosher, she never permitted pork in her house. She had obscure boundaries, though, because her shrimp creole and crab cakes were fabulous, and she made terrific meat and cheese lasagna. But I never understood why she would never order a cheeseburger.

Church-sponsored dining halls are a long-standing Minnesota State Fair tradition, and the original Ham Loaf recipe dates from 1930, when it was served in the St. Paul Hamline United Methodist Church dining hall.

You can put this together in less time than it will take to heat the oven. In adapting this recipe, I cut it in half, doubled the spices, cut out an egg, and mixed the whole thing in a food processor. The end result will look like a thick pink paste. Process the ham and the rest of the ingredients and then add the ground beef. This makes a great cold meatloaf sandwich.


¾ pounds ham (buy a chunk from your deli counter)
1-1/2 cups dried fresh breadcrumbs
1 small onion, chopped
½ tsp salt
¾ tsp fresh ground pepper
¾ tsp curry powder
¾ tsp dried sage
¾ tsp allspice
1 c milk (low fat is fine)
1 egg
¾ pounds lean ground beef

1 c brown sugar
1/3 c vinegar (cider preferred)
¼ c brown mustard

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a 9×5 loaf pan.
2. In your food processor: pulse the ham and onion. Add the remaining ingredients except the beef and make sure that they are thoroughly mixed. Add the beef and pulse until everything is well-combined. Spread into the prepared pan.
3. Mix the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Pour half of the sauce over the top of the loaf.
4. Bake for 60 minutes.
5. Drain the liquid that is collected in the pan. Pour the remaining sauce over the loaf.
6. Bake for an additional 30 minutes. Pour off the liquid.

While this is very good hot from the over, it makes an even better MEATLOAF SANDWICH.


About susangainen

Whimsical Wildlife Documentarian. Abstract Painter. Writer. Teacher. Explorer.
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1 Response to Minnesota State Fair’s Darned Good Meatloaf

  1. Amy says:

    The Hamline Dining Hall is an annual state fair tradition for my husband and I. Definitely one of our favorites. Thanks for posting this recipe!

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