Run For The Roses Country Ham Meatballs in Maple Bourbon Gravy (and a “Wendy Discount!” too.)

Your Derby party table won’t be complete without a few specific things… and this one checks several boxes… country ham, meatballs and bourbon! (And don’t miss the “Wendy Discount” on ham down below.)

country ham meatballs in a maple bourbon gravy for kentucky derby partiesLike country ham, the Kentucky Derby is such an old southern tradition. There’s nothing like being there at Churchill Downs… dodging big brimmed hats while wearing one and enjoying all the delicious foods and of course, a traditional mint julep.  But since trekking to the beautiful land of bluegrass isn’t always possible, plan a fun gathering of your own with some old favorites at home.  County ham doesn’t always have to be tucked inside a biscuit. And what’s a party without meatballs? We think you’ll really like these… especially since you can make them ahead and freeze (uncooked or cooked) if need be, to head out of the gate really fast at party time, swimming in the best simple gravy, gussied up with Kentucky bourbon, of course! 

Sometimes, isn’t it funny how a recipe will jog the mind and bring up old memories?  This recipe, created for Rays Country Ham, did that for me this week.
About 30ish years ago, I road tripped to Kentucky with some friends to a couple of Kentucky Derbies.  Our friend lives in Lexington so we always had an open invitation to “come on!”  We had so much fun… making our hats, spending time with him.. a friend we grew up with… and of course, wild times at the Derby.  Young and broke, we could only afford infield tickets for $20, but I tell you, we wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. THAT is where “the” party is.  
One year, it rained BUCKETS!  The infield was one big muddy mess. And by the end of the evening, so were we! My shoes were in my hand… and my fishnet hose were tattered.  Mud was e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e.  But this trip is right there at the top of my life’s most memorable!  We had so much fun slip’n and slide’n and playing in the rain and mud… oh the good ole days!
I’d break a hip if I did all that now.
I bought my black hat at Hudson Belk’s… and went to fix’n that thing up!  It was a peacock feather extravaganza!!  I still have it and one day I’ll pull it out and maybe do a post of its own. I wish I knew which of many boxes my Derby pictures are in… I do have this teeny tiny one in my computer from the mud day, pre-rain!
It even caught the eye of news folks.  That night, once back in Lexington, and de-mudded, we happened to have on the 11:00 news… and right there before our eyes, there I was in my flamboyant peacock feather adorned hat!  We all just hollered… had no idea it was captured out there that day and just cracked us up! 
Another memory about that day…
I came to learn I CANNOT STAND MINT JULEPS! 
Of course being at the Derby, one must consume them… and I just HAD to have one of those commemorative Derby glasses (a real pain in the ass to then tote around and not break for hours!) As a matter of fact, none of us really cared for them, and most got poured on the ground… yuk!  I’d love to know how many folks are in the closet about these things and don’t like them either, but tolerate as if they do.  If they’re “all that,” why is it we don’t see them on cocktail menus any other time of the year in other places?

I’m not a bourbon drinking gal, BUT, I do love the subtle sweet and rich flavor it can add to recipes.  So when my client asked me to create a Derby recipe with his country ham, of course it had to have some bourbon! Now y’all know I’m gonna use NC made goodies when I can… and will do that in the future with one of the tasty ones made here, but used a more widely available one for this recipe since folks buy this tasty country ham from all over!  You can get some too, with the “Wendy Discount!”  Just hop over to Rays Country Ham store… read about the company’s history here in NC…(don’t miss the interesting video on home page too) and when you order (free shipping), just put WENDY in the coupon area for a 20% full order discount!  GO HERE, PUT ITEMS IN CART AND YOU SHOULD SEE THE “WENDY DISCOUNT” APPLIED AUTOMATICALLY. If you have any problems contact Ray via the Ray’s web page! 

So run get yourself some country ham and make some meatballs. You don’t have to have a Derby party to enjoy… who doesn’t love a good comforting supper… of meatballs in savory gravy over creamy grits?
And PS… be sure to make my “NOT Derby Pie” for dessert. Bet you don’t know about the name of this pie being trademark protected.  Read all about is and grab my recipe here!

 

This recipe created for and published by Rays Country Ham!
Food propping/styling and photography © (copyrighted) by 
Wendy Perry.

Disclosure:  I only use and recommend products here I use myself. I may receive a small commission from affiliate links on this or other posts on this web site at no additional costs to you.

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Run For The Roses Country Ham Meatballs in Maple Bourbon Gravy

Like country ham, the Kentucky Derby is such an old southern tradition. There’s nothing like being there at Churchill Downs…dodging big brimmed hats while wearing one and enjoying all the delicious foods and of course, a traditional mint julep. But since trekking to the beautiful land of bluegrass isn’t always possible, plan a fun gathering of your own with some old favorites at home.  County ham doesn’t always have to be tucked inside a biscuit. And what’s a party without meatballs? I think you’ll really like these… especially since you can make them ahead and freeze (uncooked or cooked) if need be, to head out of the gate really fast at party time, swimming in the best simple gravy, gussied up with Kentucky bourbon, of course! 
Course: Appetizer, Brunch, Gravy, Main Course, Supper
Cuisine: American, North Carolina Goodies, Southern, Tailgating
Author: Wendy Perry

Ingredients

Meatballs:

  • 8 ounces Rays Country Ham
  • 1 lb. ground sweet Italian Sausage
  • 2 cups herbed bread crumbs (I used Pepperidge Farm Classic)
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tall can evaporated milk *Add about half can to moisten.  Use more as needed for a moist mixture.
  • garnish: scallion, chives, parsley or fresh herbs

Gravy:

  • 3 cups low sodium/salt free chicken broth
  • ¼ cup good maple syrup
  • ¼ cup good bourbon
  • 2 heaping tablespoons spicy brown mustard
  • 1 pkg. brown gravy mix
  • 1 pkg. roasted chicken gravy mix
  • lots of freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375F.
  • Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
  • Chop up the ham a bit and put into food processor. Grind to a rough but not pureed texture.

Meatballs:

  • Combine with remaining ingredients (except garnish). 
  • Roll into ping-pong ball size meatballs and place 1-inch apart on the parchment paper. Bake about 25-30 minutes until lightly browned.  Serve in gravy.

Maple Bourbon Gravy:

  • In a small Dutch oven or similar heavy pot, whisk all ingredients together and bring to a boil.  Once fully boiling, lower heat and continue on a low rolling boil, watching closely and whisking often until the gravy has reduced and thickened, about 6-8 minutes.
  • When ready to serve, heat gravy and warm meatballs on low in gravy.
  • Serve in small chafing pan to keep warm.  Garnish with something “green” like slivers of scallion, chives, parsley or other fresh herbs.

Notes

To Freeze:  Place in a single layer on tray lined with parchment or waxed paper. Once fully frozen, put them into a covered container or zippered bag.  Freeze no longer than 3 months. 
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