Saturday, January 29, 2011


by Sheila Connolly

I've been trying hard to stick to my New Year's resolution to organize better, and so far I've filled two boxes with useless paper.  (Yes, I recycle.)  These are articles and printouts that I thought were important when I saved them, going back as much as five years.  They've been living in boxes labeled "Miscellaneous" and this week is the first time I've looked at most of them.  Often I find myself wondering why the heck I saved them at all.

But the grand clean-up does offer some rewards.  For example, I found my mother's recipe cards, and among them were a couple of recipes from my grandmother.

No big deal, you say?  You have to bear in mind that my grandmother never learned to cook.  How she managed this I do not know, but she lived to be 94 with all her faculties and all her teeth.  Tough Yankee stock.  When she used to babysit for my sister and me, when we were young, we lived on cereal and ice cream.  She was, however, very good at restaurants, and was happy to take her granddaughters alongBas long as we promised to behave ourselves.  And we did.

There were only a few dishes she would ever attempt: fudge, gravy, and meatloaf.  Herewith I present you with My Grandmother's Meatloaf.

Frankly I was curious to see how it stood up to the test of time.  No doubt we all make meatloaf (and I'm sure several of us have posted recipes here), and this was a staple of my childhood.  I've been making meatloaf for years myself, but over time the recipe has strayed.  My husband has his own version, which includes barbecue sauce and ground bacon.  So how did the 1950s version hold up?

My Grandmother's Meatloaf

2 lbs ground beef (should be lean)
1 lb ground veal
1 lb ground pork
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup bread crumbs
2 tsp ground sage
1 small onion, minced
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Mix all the ingredients, being careful not to overwork (makes the meatloaf dense).

Shape the meatloaf and place it in a baking pan with space around it. Lay strips of bacon over the top.  Pour 1/2 cup of boiling water in the bottom of the pan.  Bake for 60-75 minutes, basting every ten minutes (you may need to add more water).

Of course, I doubt my grandmother or my mother would have used fresh sage.  I cheated and chopped the onion fine in my trusty Cuisinart (which didn't exist back then), as well as the bread crumbs (homemade, of course!).

The element that surprised me, and which I did not remember, was basting with water.  You'd be surprised how much of the water disappears during the cooking process, although whether it is absorbed into the meatloaf or vaporizes isn't clear to me.  But I think it makes a difference and helps keep the meatloaf moist.

I made the full recipe because in our household we love leftover meatloaf (with mashed potatoes and my grandmother's gravy), but it works just as well halved (use two eggs instead of three).



  1. This meatloaf looks lovely and delicious. Looks simple to make. I have never made any but would love to try one of these days. Thanks very much for sharing.

  2. She never learned to cook? A woman of true strength of character! This looks like a good, flavorful meat loaf, though, and well worth a try. Is this Meg's recipe too?

  3. Sheila, it looks great. Homemade bread crumbs? Are you kidding? How do you do them? I love the idea of water. I forgot that my mother used to do the same thing. Do you think maybe older stoves also took the "moisture" out?


  4. It's a wonderful recipe to me when I learn a new trick and the water basting is new to me. I must try this.

    I especially love that you included an image of the recipe card. What a treasure!!

  5. My mom's meatloaf recipe calls for beef (not too lean), but I've tried it with turkey and with a pork/turkey combo, both of which worked fine. Mine is seasoned with celery seed and mustard instead of sage.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  6. We do the bacon wrap, too. Adds great flavor!
    (And so much more filling than cereal and milk.)

    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  7. Bacon makes everything taste better. I once had a serious discussion with a local chef who makes bacon ice cream. (Haven't tasted it, though.)

    Who ever thought meatloaf was a way to express yourself? Everybody has their own twist.

  8. Thanks. Love the picture of the card. I'm going to try it. Meatloaf is one of my favorite things and this sounds good. And mashed potatoes are a must with it.

  9. Thanks, Sheila! I love this trip down memory lane. The recipe looks terrific. BTW, I do my homemade bread crumbs in a mini-food processor. They take seconds (or I wouldn't be making them)

  10. She looks like she was a beautiful lady. Meatloaf is the ultimate comfort food...and this recipe has bacon! What could be better? :)

  11. I am blown away by the water bath. Never in a million years would I have thought water would be a good idea on ground meat. I can imagine that it helps it stay moist though. I will definitely be trying this!

    ~ Krista

  12. I'm with Krista and everyone else who are amazed by the water bath. I will definitely give this a try - using the full recipe. We love our leftover meatloaf here. Especially as sandwiches the next day. Extra mayo! Mmm!! Thanks, Sheila. This is great!

  13. I would have never thought about the water in the pan I will have to try this. Thanks Sheila this recipe sounds really good.

  14. For those of you daring enough to try the water bath, let me say that a half-cup in a baking pan isn't a lot, so the meatloaf is not sitting in a puddle. One of my theories is that the basting helps extract some of the fat during the cooking. But the meatloaf does stay moist! (We're down to the last couple of sandwiches worth now.)

  15. Sheila, I have to ask ... Where's your grandmother's GRAVY recipe? You must have it, since you said you her gravy with meatloaf leftovers. Please share!