Posted by: Erica Retrochef | May 12, 2014

Fruited Ham Balls

So that cartography professor I mentioned last week knows about my blog, and gave me an incredible book: Fondue and Tabletop Cooking.


Actually, she brought it in, and asked if I wanted it. The answer, of course, was oh hell yes, because it is chock-full of recipes like Fruited Ham Balls.


1/2 pound ground fully-cooked ham (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup soft bread crumbs
1/2 cup dairy sour cream
2 teaspoons finely chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1 8 3/4-ounce can pineapple tidbits, well-drained and halved
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
Salad oil

Combine ham, soft bread crumbs, sour cream, onion, and horseradish; chill. Shape about 1 teaspoon ham mixture around each pineapple tidbit half. Dip in egg, then in dry bread crumbs. Let stand a few minutes.

Pour salad oil into fondue cooker to no more than 1/2 capacity or to depth of 2 inches. Heat over range to 375­°. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Transfer cooker to fondue burner. Have ham balls at room temperature in serving bowl. Spear with fondue fork; fry in hot oil about 2 minutes. Transfer to dinner fork; dip in sauce. Makes about 48 meatballs.


So basically we start off making a horseradish ham salad.


This is the part when you “fruit” the ham balls — tucking a piece of pineapple in the middle and wrapping the ham salad around it.


Each ball is bite-sized — a bit over a tablespoon, perhaps.


I used panko bread crumbs, hoping for a nice fine crunchy crust. (It worked.)


There are actually a lot of recipes in this book that recommend deep-frying food at the table. I’m unnerved by this, to be honest — not because of the excessive fat, but because having lots of extremely hot oil at a fondue party, with everybody hovering around and dropping things in it, doesn’t sound terribly safe.

And it doesn’t even work: the temperature was steadily dropping while it was over the fondue burner, down past 300°F. If the oil is too cool, the balls (or whatever you’re frying) don’t cook right and they get very greasy. Maintaining 375°F. (a standard frying temperature, incidentally) required the stovetop.


We still ended up with 47 crispy fried fruited ham balls, though.

The oldest kid declared, “It tastes better than it looks.” In fact, she not only ate her share, she asked for seconds and ended up eating almost half of them. Everybody liked these, and I do have to admit it was fun frying them with teeny little forks. Inefficient, slow, moderately unsafe… but fun.



  1. I love stuff like this.
    I guess if you still wanted it to be table-top you could use an electric skillet. I now want to know if my electric fondue pot would stay at fry-temp.

  2. I’m not one for frying things in vats of boiling oil! we have a deep fryer, but it does cool down fast. Between the smell of fried-in-oil and the danger and all the work, hardly seems worth it to cook at home. But this recipe sound really tasty, I think I would flatten the balls out some and saute in oil in a pan like little burgers.

  3. I have that book!!! Funny – my parents were married in 1976 and my mom got that golden beauty of a pot on the cover along with the book for a wedding present. As kids, we LOVED the parmesan cheese fondue. As a matter of fact, that is the only recipe we used out of that book. My mom still has her copy, and her yellow fondue pot (man, I want one!). I found my copy for 1 cent on Amazon a few years back. I love reading it in the winter, but I always fall back to the parmensan fondue. If you ever make it, I suggest upping the garlic and usuing powder instead of salt (then salting it yourself). So yummy with an nice Italian loaf, some broccoli, and steamed carrots!

    • We’ll have to try that one some time (when the lactose intolerant child is away, probably).

  4. WOW. Table-frying. In a FONDUE POT. I can’t even…
    I guess Fry Daddy didn’t come onto the market until sometime in the 80’s, so maybe a fondue pot was as good as it got.

    The pineapple was certainly a festive touch!

  5. I have a Montgomery Ward electric fondue pot (avocado!) that has a setting for deep frying, but there’s no WAY I would do that at the table with a bunch of people. Particularly my friends, if you know what I mean.
    Plus, why the HECK do you salt the oil? That’s just bizarre.

  6. We have fondued every New Year’s Eve since I was about 8–so 1973ish. Never once in nearly 40 years–with children and elderly people involved every year–has there been an oil burn incident, or any issues with fire. I now have an electric fondue pot (hello, garage sale) and 3 dozen fondue forks, and we boil oil at the table in the fondue pot every year at least once. The only injuries are fork-related. Fondue-fork stabs look a lot like snakebites, which ends up being a strange thing to have in January in the midwestern U.S.

    I wouldn’t do anything like this fussy recipe though: we stick to mushrooms, small onions, cherry or grape tomatoes and meat. You could probably do cauliflower and hard squashes, too, or other fairly solid veggies. If you get tired of waiting for your stuff to cook, you can just eat the raw stuff (not the meat). Part of the fun is losing your food in the pot and having to fish for the onion or whatever.

    Salting the oil probably keeps it from splashing. We just use peanut oil, which doesn’t fizzle and pop like other veggie oils.

    Please do NOT use a skillet at the table! Fondue pots are shaped the way they are for a reason.

    • A lot of the frying recipes in the cookbook are simpler than the ham balls. It wouldn’t have been much a post though, if the recipe just consisted of taking veal strips, flouring them, and sticking them on a skewer in the oil.

  7. Oh yeah! I have this and a lot of other BH&G cookbooks from that era. I love the term “salad oil” for some reason.

  8. I live in Boston and have been going through my late mother’s clipped recipes and product tie-in cook booklets. I’d be happy to give them to you for your exponentially expanding collection 🙂

  9. I’m thinking back now to when we used to have fondue when I was a kid (before my mother gave up cooking interesting things, because there were too many family members on weird diets). We did not have a proper fondue pot, or even a hot plate. So I have no idea how we kept the fondue warm at the table. Of course, we were just dipping cubes of Italian bread in cheese or tomato mixtures—not frying meat in boiling oil—but I’m confused how those dinners managed to function at all.

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