Well, it’s that time again when you are either eating pea soup with hambone, ham sandwiches, or another iteration of ham in its leftover glory from Easter. In a low maintenance household this could include picking the random last vittles off the bone as you look into the fridge wondering what to eat. On the other side of possibility, you may get lucky and have a Monte Cristo, or scalloped potatoes with ham and cheese. Pasta with cheese and asparagus. Ham and cheese crepes. Ah, but if you hail from the Midwest, and in particular Pennsylvania or Ohio, you’re probably eating traditional Ham Salad.
It is hard to fail at ham salad. There is no one or real recipe, as it is dependent upon how much leftover meat one has to grind up, as well as on personal preference as to the how much mayonnaise, mustard and other things to add. Interestingly, in my family we always have ham at Easter and sometimes Christmas and although I don’t really like sliced ham, I can really go at my Mom’s ham salad. I always look forward to picking up my take-home portion of traditional ham salad when I’m home for the holidays, for it makes for excellent sandwiches and snacking.Historically, ham salad was made from leftover deli or canned ham . . . markets sold a deli meat made from chopped ham which was referred to as “chipped ham” and you could get it thinly sliced. You can actually fine ham salad anywhere in the U.S., but chipped chopped ham is still a specialty of Northern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.
Ham salad starts with leftover cooked ham, which is pulsed in a Vitamix or food processor, and combined with pickle, hard boiled egg, mustard and mayonnaise. Sometimes celery and/or onion is added for crunch.
The ham should be processed only briefly so that a bit of chunky texture is preserved. You don’t want spam, just a nice mince that will make a nice spreadable salad when mixed with the mayonnaise and mustard.Once your ingredients are commingled, let sit for an hour or so. The flavor improves as the ham salad sits, and will last for several days. Ham salad is a good idea at appetizer or crudites time, served with rolls, crackers or cold raw vegetables such as carrots and celery. An even better idea for traditional ham salad is to serve it on homemade buttermilk biscuits.This year we scored a bunch of extra matzo from our host from her giant Eastover brunch, and the ham salad paired very well with the matzo. Do try a traditional ham salad this year, for something different!Print
A traditional midwestern recipe for ham salad
2 cups roughly chopped ham
1 hard boiled egg, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
4 small sweet pickles, chopped.
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Pulse ham in a Vitamix or food processor until minced but still retaining very small chunks. You don’t want a paste.
Add all other ingredients, stir well, and let sit for an hour.
Serve with toast, vegetable crudites, on biscuits, or make into a sandwich.