Monday, April 12, 2010

31. Sloppy Joe - What's in a Name?

What's in a name? That which we call a Sloppy Joe, By any other word would taste as good...

As strange as it seems, Sloppy Joe's go by a lot of names. In Nebraska they are called Yum Yums and are known as Taverns in parts of Iowa and Minnesota. If you are from Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland you might refer to them as Steamers. Slushburgers is their label in eastern Montana and, if made extra hot, Rhode Islanders call them  Dynamites.

Whatever the name, this popular loose-meat sandwich's origin remains a mystery. Some say it was invented at the Sloppy Joe Bar in Key West, FL in the early 1930s, while others say Iowa is the state of origin and put its beginning in the 1920s.

 I never heard of or ate a sloppy Joe until my teen years. Apparently, my mother was unfamiliar with them or maybe she thought they were more of a junk food item and did not put them on our menu. I don't know what prompted my mother to 'give in' and make them, but one day she made her own sloppy Joe meat mixture - no packaged additives were available yet - and her recipe was delicious but next-to impossible to duplicate.

My sloppy Joe recipe did not happen by accident and was a long time in the making.  My goal - to have the right balance of flavors - not too sweet and not too tart - not too salty and not too bland. Memories of my mother's sloppy Joe flavors kept me on track and the result was my family-friendly, food memory recipe!

Diane's Sloppy Joe's

1 lb. ground beef (I like to use an 85%  mixture)
1 pkg. Sloppy Joe mix
1 can tomato paste
1 C catsup
1 C water
1-2 T minced onion
2 T Worcestershire
2 tsp brown sugar
S/P to taste

Heat a large pan on med-high temperature. (If the pan is too small, the meat will tend to boil and won't brown well). Add oil to coat bottom of pan. Add ground beef and break it up into small pieces...move the meat around with a spoon as it browns to break up the meat further. (Browning does not mean burned nor does it mean means brown!). Add onion half-way through the browning process. After browning meat, turn down heat to low.

Pull meat to one side of the pan and tip the pan to let the fat collect at opposite side by tilting the pan. Remove fat with a spoon to a dish or cup. Allow fat to harden and then, discard. Do not pour fat down the sink or the garbage disposal. Do not pour hot grease into the plastic trash bag...the bag will melt).

Add sloppy Joe mix to meat and blend well. Add water slowly and stir. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Simmer uncovered until meat mixture is heated through and is the correct consistency for
sandwiches. Recipe may be doubled.

Note: This recipe freezes well; be sure to double-wrap it or vacuum seal.


  1. this is our favorite, when we feel like something simple, quick and yummy for dinner.. LOVE it!

  2. Marian wrote: I've never had the courage to make Sloppy Joes. However, I have gotten so far as to buy some Sloppy Joe sauce. One of these days I may take the plunge!