Investigating an American Classic

Happy 4th of July!

I was reviewing posts from the past that were released on or around the 4th of July and found this little gem from 2010! I investigate an American classic. Deviled ham salad sandwiches. Read on for a laugh!


Nothing like a heat wave to drive you into an air-conditioned supermarket in search of no cook meals!

So there I was in line at the deli considering my hot-weather July 4th holiday menu and I saw the deli advertising 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.  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. Served on Sunbeam “batter-whipped” white bread and…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 at her house. (If he was lucky, she was whipping up a pot of Johnny Marzetti!)

“Deviled ham” versus “ham salad”

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 the two versions –  one made with deli ham that I dice up and the canned deviled variety.

I consult only to discover that I have 3 (three!!) ham salad recipes hiding among my 62 indexed cookbooks! James Beard, Irma and of course Better Homes and Garden all offer up similar versions of ham salad 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.



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