On Fridays I clean out the refrigerator. I take stock of what needs used up and what to share with the girls (the chickens). This week I found the end of the Easter ham, some kinda limp celery, half of a red onion, a chunk of sharp cheddar that swore it was going to start growing if it didn’t get eaten, and a few kosher dill gherkins swimming in a jar.
Ham Salad it is!
Ham salad is a retro food. I remember it served at all picnic functions when I was a child. Grandma Olive served it out of the plaid enameled tin picnic basket on the evenings we went to tent meetings. In the 50’s and 60’s it was “fast food”.
I refer to this recipe as a guideline, because ham salad at our house is ephemeral and always changing according to what is available. You can put anything in ham salad that you would put on a regular ham sandwich.
- ham that has been ground or finely chopped ( you can still buy ground ham in Ohio, I use the Kitchenaid grinder attachment or the food processor for leftover ham)
- mayonnaise or your preferred salad dressing. We are firmly in the homemade or the Helman’s/Best Foods camp.
- chopped onion, today I had half of a red onion-a family favorite is green onions-tops and bottoms
- chopped pickles or relish (sweet or dill) or any pickled vegetable
- whole grain mustard-any kind of mustard will do
- green pepper-more likely to have that around in full summer
- grated cheese, always optional
- chopped olives
- chopped celery, radishes, or a little grated carrot (careful, carrots add a lot of sweet)
- a splash of vinegar or pickle juice, I used some tasty Raspberry vinegar-because it is SPRING!
- fresh ground pepper, I do not add salt, as most of the items going into this spread are pretty salty-so hold that pinch of salt until you taste the finished product
So first you chop everything with a fine hand, if left too chunky it is difficult to keep in the sandwich. Throw it all in a bowl, I chose an 8 cup Rubbermaid Glass Storage Bowl, because I was thinking ahead to storage. Be careful with the mayonnaise, don’t go over board right away or you will end up with slimy paste-not salad. You can always add more. I buck the old time recipes by trying to use equal amounts of chopped veggies and ham. The ham salad is usually better after sitting in the refrigerator for a few hours. We eat ham salad on grainy bread, in Pitas or over greens. I once had a grilled ham salad sandwich at a country diner-way good-but way fatty! Some zesty spring greens or sprouts are a great topping. Oh goodness, do not forget thick slices of ripe tomato in season! I know that ham, cheese and mayonnaise are not on most folks “good for you” list, so I try to balance that aspect with lots of veggies, greens and grainy breads.
Another throwback to the 1960’s-my mother ground bologna, sweet pickles and American cheese together for a poor man’s version of ham salad, using fake mayo-calling it “Sandwich Spread”. How did I ever make it to my 60’s without high blood pressure, heart failure or