“Dinty Moore” – The original cabinet stew.

I have been slowly working on a “friends and family” cookbook. I asked everyone I know to send me some of their favorite family recipes so I could compile them into one volume and mail one out to everyone.  The response was kinda low -but I did get some gems.

The most interesting one came from my father’s side of the family; who all hail from California. They lived on the fringe of  the “dust-bowl” in Ohio and traveled west in the 1920’s  for a better life. My father’s family started out very poor, but thanks to the frugality of my grandmother, the kids were raised in the 30’s and 40’s on the best they could find – including oranges right off the trees, mushrooms found in the local area, and hunting efforts by my grandfather.

Several of his family members sent me a recipe for “Dinty Moore.” When someone hears “Dinty Moore” they automatically think of the canned beef stew from Hormel Brands. (Whether you eat it or not is another blog.) Well that canned stew; according to www.hormelfoods.com was introduced to America in 1935; and by the 1950’s, canned convenience foods in post-war America were all the rage! It is still the #1 selling canned stew product.

Well this “Dinty Moore” recipe was not like the canned stew at all! It has hamburg, corn, cheese and black olives among other things. Kinda like a “South-West American Chop Suey!” In fact I can’t even figure out why it has the name “Dinty Moore.” Here is the excerpt from the family member….

I remember Grandma Hope, Aunt Betty and Aunt JoAnn always made their favorite versions by adding more or less of each ingredient and even sometimes substituting ketchup for the tomato sauce.

No one remembers where the recipe originated from or why it has the same name as the famous canned beef stew.  “Dinty Moore” was probably used as a generic name to describe this “stew-like” dish because it was such a popular brand at the time.  The last time I remember having “Dinty Moore” with the family was in July 1972. My husband at the time had returned from his 3rd tour in Vietnam and we spent several days in California with my family before traveling onto Oklahoma to see his family.  In California, Grandma Hope had a family get together to welcome Jerry home and of course there were a few pans of “Dinty Moore” around!

I think Grandma Hope was just trying to get dinner on the table with whatever ingredients she had on hand. (sound familiar). I can envision the kids clamoring for the very popular “Dinty Moore” and her saying “I’ll give you my version of Dinty Moore!”

Not wanting to risk embarrassment by publishing my “friends and family cookbook” with an un-tested recipe; I made it recently. It was good! You definitely have to like olives and of course be opened minded enough to eat process cheese, but it was surprisingly good! Even my husband thought so and he is a very discriminating eater!

So there you have it – Grandma Hope with the original “Cabinet Stew” in the family!  -Carol

Here is the recipe:

1 large onion chopped

1 lb lean ground beef

2 small cans tomato sauce (4.5 oz)

½ lb process cheese, chunked– American or Velveeta

1 “pint” ripe olives (equal to aprox 1 6oz cans of chopped black olives drained)

3 cups cooked and drained macaroni or small pasta

1 small can corn (4.5 oz)

Preheat oven 350. Brown onion in small amount of bacon fat*. Add ground beef, cook until done. Pour into oven proof dish and mix in other ingredients. Bake  30 Mins.  or until hot and bubbly. *1-2 tbsp of oil can be used instead.


2 comments on ““Dinty Moore” – The original cabinet stew.

  1. Karen Clark says:

    My mother was feeding this to our family in California’s Central Valley in the 50’s. The only differences–she grated medium cheddar cheese to put on top of the casserole and used cream style corn instead of whole kernel. My middle aged kids and their families love this. I’ve been known to “spice it up” with chipotle Tabasco sauce.

    • cabinet stew says:

      THANKS for the comment – I have been hoping someone would recognize this dish and that it just wasn’t one his (my dad) family made up! He grew up in central California around the same time as well.(a touch earlier) It has been passed down in our family too and I love the idea of a little hot sauce – going to try that! Thanks so much for the comment!

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