Saturday, December 8, 2012

Century-old Recipe for Meatloaf

Not too many years ago, Nancy, her mother, and I had all gone down to Clearfield, Iowa, to visit Nancy's grandparents.  Nancy's grandma Ruth, an avid cook in her day and still a food aficionada at age 97, had apparently been rummaging through old cookbooks and had decided to send a couple home with Nancy's mom.  I was not the driver on the two-hour return trip, so I sat in the back seat and read the cookbooks.  One of them was the 1915 Clearfield Presbyterian Church Cookbook.  The Clearfield Presbyterian Church is long gone, but a recipe that caught my eye needs to be carried into the future.

The recipe was simply labeled "Beef Loaf," but what made me pay attention to it was the ingredient list.  Most meatloaf recipes are fairly similar in nature: meat, meat stretcher, an egg or two, some moisture, and your seasonings.  What caught my eye about the ingredients was that this recipe included ground bacon.  Now, I'm an unashamed meatloaf lover, and I've had meatloaf that was draped in bacon, but the idea of grinding bacon and including it inside the meatloaf was intriguing to me.  Furthermore, with not nearly enough shame, I will admit that I believe the following verse: "Bacon and butter make everything better."  Thus, I definitely had to try this recipe! 

The first try was a success; the second try earned me an "I sure wish I could make a meatloaf like you" at a church dinner.  Thus, this recipe has now become one of my "go to" recipes when cooking for a potluck, so I pulled it out for the Nightingale Circle Christmas Potluck which we hosted at our house last Wednesday evening.  Here is what you do:


1. First crush enough saltine crackers to make a cup of cracker crumbs.

2. Grind one pound of bacon and set aside.

Normally, I would be ashamed to show you that we have an electric
food grinder.  (We have a hand-cranked one that I have used many times
for this recipe.)  However, we bought this grinder a few weeks ago at the
Goodwill Warehouse in Omaha.  You pay for your merchandise by the
pound there, so I estimate that this vintage deluxe Kenmore grinder cost
us less than $6.70.  Aren't you impressed?  You'll see why I wanted it if I
write a post about making suet pudding for Christmas.

3. Mix cracker crumbs, eggs, milk, dried onion, and salt and pepper.

4. Add the ground bacon.

5. Add the ground beef and mix thoroughly.

6. Shape into a loaf and put into a baking dish. 

Keep in mind that you've got four pounds of meat here,
so you need a big pan.  This Pyrex dish is 11" x 14" and
holds 4.8 quarts.
7. Bake in a moderate oven for approximately 1 1/2 hours.

You see the meatloaf cooking here in the stovetop oven.  I actually started it in
the Margin Gem's oven, but I had to finish it on top of the stove
because the dinner rolls wouldn't fit in the stovetop oven, so they had
to be baked in Marjorie's oven.  This stovetop oven is coming in handy!

8. During the last ten minutes, I like to glaze it with two cups of homemade ketchup, about 3/4 of a cup of brown sugar, and two teaspoons of dry mustard.

Mix all of that together until it is smooth and poor over the top of the meatloaf.

The finished product with about half of it gone.

a) At first glance, one might think that this meatloaf is bound to be greasy since it has a pound of bacon in it.  Surprisingly, most of the bacon fat cooks out during baking, and there is no greasy texture or taste.

b) Because the bacon fat cooks out, the hot fat tends to sputter a lot in the oven, so be prepared to run a damp cloth over the inside of the oven after it has cooled down to being just warm.

c) The original recipe did not call for the dried onion or the glaze, but it was quite bland without them.  The original recipe also called for a tablespoon of butter.  Despite my mantra above, I leave that out because it seems superfluous even to me.

The recipe:
Beef Loaf
3 lbs. ground beef
1 lb. ground bacon
2 eggs
1 cup cracker crumbs
1 cup rich milk
3/4 cup dried onion (or to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste.
Mix all together and shape into loaf.  Bake approximately 1 1/2 hours in moderate oven.
During last ten minutes, glaze with the following:
2 cups ketchup
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 tsp. dried mustard

I hope you enjoy this one as much as I do.


  1. Not a meatloaf fan AT ALL, but the bacon might just be enough to win me over.

  2. This looks a lot like the ham loaf we used to get in PA. It was delish with pineapple slices on top. One thing I do add to my sauce is a couple of drops of Tabasco sauce and honey or molasses instead of sugar.

    1. Welcome, Denise! Great ideas for additions to the glaze. I especially like the molasses idea.

  3. My meatloaf recipe always uses 1-2 tablespoons of Wostershiere (sp?) sauce. Great extra "tang". I also create several mini loaves that span the width of the pan; cuts down cooking time and makes for easier leftovers.

    John H.
    Clive, IA

    1. Hi, John. Thanks for taking a look and commenting! I think that the Worcestershire sauce sounds like a great addition, and I think I'll give it a try sometime.