School Lunches – Oh, How Things Have Changed!
Culinary historians of CANADA 150 FOOD BLOG CHALLENGE SERIES
Featuring a Recipe for Pork and Ham Lunch Loaf
Prelude: I am a proud Canadian. When the Culinary Historians of Canada (CHC) invited food bloggers to participate in the “CHC Canada 150 Food Blog Challenge”, I knew that I wanted in! What a great way to celebrate and honour Canada’s 150th birthday by featuring a different Canadian dish or discussing a topic which reflects on what it means to be Canadian. For the month of September, CHC invited food bloggers to share stories and recipes about the history of school food: lunchbox lunches, school cafeterias, or any related topic. This article is called: School Lunches – Oh, How Things Have Changed. I thought it would be fun to take a different approach to this post by writing about what my lunch was like when I was a child compared to what children take in their lunch kits today. To further capture yesterday and today, I will share with you a recipe for Pork and Ham Lunch Loaf, with a bit of history that I think you will enjoy.
It is interesting to note that school lunches when I was a kid were completely biodegradable. Our simple lunches consisted of a peanut butter and jam sandwich on homemade bread and a fruit. We did not even know that we were excellent environmental stewards by using wax paper wrapping and paper bags, and throwing all fruit and vegetable scraps into the compost bin or feed to the animals if you lived on a farm. Nowadays, children have special insulated lunch kits with ice packs, bento boxes, garbage-free packaging, completely nut-free options, and high-quality BPA-free water bottles. Oh, how things have changed over three generations.
What has not changed over the years is that parents still want healthy options for their children’s school lunches that will keep them satisfied and energized. In the good old days, or not so good old days, depending on your point of reference, sandwiches sometimes consisted of a luncheon meat called SPAM. The origin of SPAM is quite fascinating. It was originally invented in 1937 as a result of a contest conducted for Hormel Foods to develop a product that was protein rich, inexpensive to produce and simple to store. Quite simply, the world was in a deep economic depression and the above-described characteristics were crucial. Then, WWII came along and the product became even more important, becoming an international staple with Canada being a major market. Today, it is still extremely popular, particularly in certain Asian countries.
SPAM is a registered name. I discovered in my research it is an acronym for “Special Processed American Meat”. Upon visiting the Hormel website, I noticed that there is a second acronym “Sizzle Pork and MMM”. I cannot say that SPAM lunch meat was something that I ever had as a child in my school lunch, however, given its historical popularity, I thought it would be fun to make my own version.
I based the ingredients on what I researched and have redeveloped the recipe with adjustments it to make it more appealing based on today’s dietary needs and tastes.
The original formula for SPAM contains merely six ingredients, which includes sodium nitrite. Since I am extremely sensitive to this ingredient, I decided to make my own version using even fewer ingredients; namely, ground pork shoulder, ham, fresh garlic, and salt. Time is always a precious commodity for today’s busy families, so I developed two versions of this recipe: one using pork shoulder that is ground with a meat grinder (not everyone has the time or the equipment to do this); and a second version using ground pork purchased at the store. While there was a slight difference in the texture of the finished meatloaf, there was no difference in the taste or how it sliced into neat, clean slices. The baked loaf is weighed down overnight to compress it into a dense meatloaf. Once the loaf is thoroughly chilled, it can be sliced into very thin slices for sandwich meat. This recipe is gluten free, dairy free, egg free and grain free.
I encourage you to try this very simple and easy-to-make recipe for Pork and Ham Lunch Loaf. It is made with healthy ingredients and when compared to today’s prepared luncheon meats, it is easy to store and a fraction of the cost. Enjoy! My grandchildren (and their parents) loved it!
PORK AND HAM LUNCH LOAF
CHEF TALK: This recipe is easy to mix together and pop into the oven. Baking time is approximately 2 – 3 hours, depending on your oven (convection vs. conventional settings). Timing is important in order to weigh the baked loaf overnight, so plan to start the day before you require it. This recipe is gluten free, dairy free, grain free, sugar-free and full of flavour.
Yield: 1 – 8” x 4” meatloaf, which makes many, many sandwiches
Equipment Required: One 8” x 4” Loaf Pan; 1 shallow roasting pan larger than the loaf pan; Meat Thermometer; meat grinder (optional); medium bowl
- 1 kg. (2 1/4 lbs.) ground pork shoulder (cut into small pieces, including any fat) or pre-ground lean pork
- 85 grams (3 oz.) lean smoked ham, cut into chunks
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 15 ml. (1 Tablespoon) Kosher salt
- Preheat the oven to 300°F (275°F Convection). Boil a kettle full of water for the water bath.
- Place a medium bowl under the meat grinder. Using a medium to fine grinder plate disk, grind the pork shoulder by pushing the pork pieces into the feed tube. Alternatively, if you are using pre-ground pork, place this into the medium-size bowl.
- Place the lean smoked ham chunks and garlic cloves in a food processor and pulse to mince finely. Add this mixture to the bowl with the ground pork.
- Sprinkle the salt over the ground pork and ham and mix together thoroughly to incorporate the pork and the ham together.
- Press firmly into the greased loaf pan. Cover the meat in the loaf pan with a small sheet of parchment, then, tightly overwrap the top of the loaf pan with aluminum foil.
- Place the loaf pan into the shallow roasting pan and place the roasting pan into the oven with the oven rack pulled out. Pour the boiling water into the roasting pan until the loaf pan is two-thirds covered with hot water.
- Insert the meat thermometer into the center of the meat loaf through the foil and set it for 160° Bake the loaf for approximately 2 ½ – 3 hours (approximately 2 hours in the convection oven), or until the oven thermometer alerts you to doneness. Carefully remove the roasting pan from the oven and lift the loaf pan onto a rack to cool. Remove the aluminum foil and parchment paper from the top of the loaf pan.
- Drain the liquid from the loaf pan into a small bowl. CHEF TIP: Cool the liquid slightly, refrigerate and reserve for other uses. Remove and discard any hardened fat that accumulates on top of the liquid. The liquid will be thick and jelly-like in nature and highly flavourful. Use the liquid in sauces or soups within three days or freeze for later use.
- Return the parchment paper on the top of the meat and set another loaf pan on top of the meat. Add a weight (such as a heavy can or two) into the second pan. Refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, remove the weight and the parchment paper and slice the pork and ham lunch loaf thin for sandwiches and salads. It is also delicious grilled and served for breakfast.
- Store the pork and ham lunch loaf as you would any fresh lunchmeat. For longer storage, wrap the lunch loaf carefully and place it into a sealed container and freeze for up to one month.
Here is your visual step-by-step on how to make Pork and Ham Lunch Loaf:
What Else Can I Do With This Recipe?
Grilled Breakfast Meat: Slice the loaf ¼ inch thick and grill on both sides. Serve with eggs over easy or scrambled eggs and toast.
Chef Salad: Cut the meat loaf into matchstick pieces, and serve with salad fixings such as lettuce leaves, tomatoes, avocado, chicken pieces, boiled eggs, green onion and Cheddar cheese.
Pizza Topping: Cut the Pork and Ham Loaf into small cubes and sprinkle on top of your favourite pizza. Bake and enjoy!
Please CLICK the link above to access my UrbnSpice LEARNING TIPS, which are listed alphabetically on the Learning Tips blog post under the following subheadings:
- Bain Marie/Water Bath
- Oven Temperature Accuracy
- Parchment Paper
- Internal Thermometer
STAY TUNED: After you master making your own Pork and Ham Lunch Loaf and experience that first delicious panini or sandwich, you might be interested in learning how to make your own thin-sliced turkey deli meat. I will teach you how easy it is in an upcoming post.
If you enjoyed this article about School Lunches and How They Have Changed or give this recipe for Pork and Ham Lunch Loaf a try, please leave me a comment below with your feedback.
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