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~ Snowy-Day Ground-Beef Sloppy-Joe Sandwiches ~

IMG_4636The All-American sloppy Joe sandwich -- one of the most popular comfort foods of the 1950s. Moms across America were making them for their families, they made their way into school lunchrooms, and, they showed up at parties, picnics and potlucks.  Whether you love 'em or you don't, one bite of this now-retro sloppy-mess of a ground-beef and savory tomato-sauced sandwich is certain to conjure up a childhood memory or three.   As for me, I loved them, and my mom made them just the way I liked them -- using celery instead of the more commonly used green bell pepper, plus an extra spoonful of brown sugar because I liked them extra sweet and savory.  Sloppy Joes made snow days, Summer days, and yes, even sick days better.

Manwichad1980sThe original term "sloppy Joe" had nothing to do with a sandwich.  It was slangy code for any cheap restaurant or lunch counter-type establishment with a very relaxed dress code.  As for how the sandwich came to be named "sloppy Joe" (as if its being sloppy to eat isn't reason enough), the most believable story is that, in 1926, a creative restaurant cook named Joe, working at Floyd Angell's Cafe in Sioux City, Iowa, added tomato sauce and green pepper to what midwesterners refer to as "loose meat" sandwiches (which are a mixture of seasoned sautéed ground beef and onions served on a hamburger bun and sometimes topped with mustard and ketchup). That said, by the mid 1940s, the sloppy Joe sandwich was firmly established in America, and, in 1950 Libby introduced its canned Barbecue Sauce and Beef Sloppy Joe, which was the first of several canned sloppy Joe concoctions that could be kept in ones pantry -- all anyone needed to do was open the can, heat the contents and spoon it onto hamburger buns.  The Manwich was introduced in 1969 and lives on today -- it's a tomato-based sauce that one adds to their own browned ground beef. 

Please skip the canned stuff -- making Sloppy Joe's from scratch is almost as easy, &, so very much tastier:

IMG_46002-2 1/2  pounds lean ground beef (90/10)

1  generous cup finely-diced yellow or sweet onion (6 ounces)

1  generous cup finely-diced celery, or, finely-diced green pepper (6 ounces)

1/2  teaspoon celery seed (omit if using green pepper)

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

1  cup ketchup

2  tablespoon yellow "ballpark" mustard

4  tablespoons dark brown sugar

2  teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

IMG_4602 IMG_4602 IMG_4602 IMG_4602 IMG_4602 IMG_4602 IMG_4602~Step 1.  To make the sloppy Joe's, place the ground beef in a 12" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides. Prep the onion and celery (or green pepper), placing them in the pan as you work.  Add the celery seed, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Using a large spoon or spatula, give the mixture a thorough stir, making sure all of the vegetables and the spices are evenly incorporated into the meat.  Sauté, over medium-high heat, using a spatula to stir frequently and break up the meat into small bits and pieces, until meat has lost its red color and almost no liquid remains in the bottom of the pan, about 20-30 minutes.  

IMG_4620 IMG_4620 IMG_4620 IMG_4620~Step 2.  Add and use a large spoon to stir in the ketchup, mustard, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce.  Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is steaming, 1-2 more minutes.  Remove from heat, cover the pan and allow to steep, about 15-30 minutes, to allow some time for the sweet and savory tomato-sauce-flavors to soak into the ground meat.

'Tis true:  Potato chips are to a sloppy Joe, what French fries are to a hamburger -- & in either case, hold my beer!

IMG_4642Snowy-Day Ground-Beef Sloppy-Joe Sandwiches:  Recipe yields 6 cups sloppy Joe mixture/enough for 12 sandwiches.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 1-cup measuring container; 12" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid; large spatula; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b026bdefb196d200cCook's Note: The fabulous '50's may be gone forever, but they are certainly not forgotten.  Remember the stainless steel diner in your hometown that served up a thick slice of mouthwatering meatloaf smothered in a smooth and rich pan gravy alongside a big scoop of fluffy mashed potatoes? Remember meatloaf day in your school cafeteria with stewed tomatoes and macaroni and cheese?  Remember the Swanson frozen meatloaf dinner slathered with a thick brown gravy and French fries?  I remember them all, but, mostly, I remember ~ My Mom's "Special" All-Beef Meatloaf ~, and, the story of humble, homey All-American meatloaf is fascinating.  

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)


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