Nothing like a heat wave to drive you into an air-conditioned supermarket in search of no cook meals! I was in line at the deli this weekend considering my hot-weather July 4th holiday menu and I saw the deli advertising a sale on their own homemade cold salads – chicken, tuna and ham. Chicken salad is delicious – in fact I often make it myself. Tuna salad I don’t eat it because I don’t like any fish – but I can appreciate it and often make it for my husband’s lunch.
Ham salad – now that is a different story.
Ham salad is right there in the weird deli food category for me. Along with pimento loaf. I have never tried ham salad. I am not sure why. I love, I mean LOVE ham. I would list ham (or really any pork product) in my top 5 fav foods! Why shouldn’t I love ham salad? Is it because it is minced meat? Considering I like bologna sandwiches and I never met a hot dog I didn’t like – this dislike of ham salad can’t be true. I discuss the situation with my husband. He reveals that his mom used to make deviled ham sandwiches. Sometimes that was dinner. (No doubt during a July heat wave when mom didn’t feel like firing up a stove!) I immediately quiz him – What was in it? How was it served? Did you like it? He says it was chopped up cooked ham, mayo, pickle relish and of course a little salt/pepper. However she usually used the canned variety of deviled ham. Served on Sunbeam “batter-whipped” white bread and….WHAT?! He didn’t actually like it! He tells me that whenever he saw his mother whipping this up – he would slide down to his Aunt Barb’s house to see what was for dinner. (If he was lucky, she was whipping up a pot of Johnny Marzetti!)
“Deviled ham salad” versus “ham salad”
So of course I am going to do a little research and taste-testing. After reading a few recipes and a bit of history on the web; I have to conclude that ham salad is a basic recipe of chopped or minced cooked ham, mayonnaise, relish, sometimes chopped celery and the chopped hard-boiled egg seems to be a black and white issue. You either like it or you don’t.
What makes “deviled ham salad” deviled? Well Underwood Deviled Ham Spread from B&G Brands is what makes deviled ham deviled! They claim the introduction of this product to America back in 1868. From my research I would say that “deviled ham” whether homemade or canned, contains more spice (read “heat”) in it.
The taste test.
I approached the supermarket with trepidation. What aisle would it be in? (With the canned tuna.) Would the ingredients be filled with many long words and chemical products? (It isn’t – in fact I was amazed at it’s mostly natural ingredients.) There it was in aisle 2, nestled in its paper wrapper, reminiscent of a fine Worcestershire sauce.
I whip up two versions – plain ham salad made with deli ham that I dice up and the canned deviled variety.
I consult eatyourbooks.com only to discover that I have 3 (three!!) ham salad recipes hiding among my 62 indexed cookbooks! (Yes that is a lot; but only a fraction of my collection!) James Beard, Irma and of course Better Homes and Garden all offer up similar versions that I have seen on the web. Of course Underwood offers a recipe online. Theirs seems a bit more like a dip or a spread – calling for cream cheese and pimento and such. I decide to compare apples to apples – I will make both using mayo, relish, salt and pepper. That is how my plain Irish-American husband likes things. That is how his mom made it.
I prepare each version. The cat comes running – not a good sign. I refrigerate them to chill before serving. Not being a huge fan of mayonnaise, both versions scare me. Check out the picture below. I tried to make the photo look appetizing – but you can probably tell which one is which.
The moment of truth.
We both try them. We like them! Not love, but definitely not as scary as I thought. The deviled ham definitely finished with a spicy kick. The plain ham salad texture seemed more appealing. I made both with a little too much mayo. I would suggest: mix either one 4.25 oz can or about a 1/4 lb diced deli ham with 2 tsp of sweet pickle relish and 1 tsp of mayonnaise along with salt and pepper to taste. If you want a wetter texture add more mayo.Chill and serve on white sandwich bread with crisp cold lettuce. In retrospect we both thought that the deviled ham would be good mixed with soft cream cheese, chopped pimentos and spread on saltines as a snack.
I will conclude with this thought….
Take some cold leftover cooked meat (ham, chicken) – add some form of dairy (mayo, cream cheese, sour cream) - mix in a few items from your pantry (relish, spices) and spread it on what you have (bread, saltines). That sounds like a cabinet stew to me!
p.s. gotta go feed the cat!