By Jessica – July 14th, 2008
The term Sloppy Joes will probably be familiar to almost every American, but it may be a mystery to the rest of the world.
In essence, Sloppy Joes is ground meat in a simple barbecue-like tomato sauce which is typically served on a hamburger bun. It’s one of those classic American family meals, probably because it’s fast, cheap, filling, and can be made for a crowd. I suspect most Americans my age have fond memories of eating it as kids, but it’s a meal that seems to have fallen out of favor somewhat, probably after getting a bad reputation thanks to the likes of Manwich and Hamburger Helper.
Let’s be clear: there is absolutely nothing glamorous about the Sloppy Joe. But then, there’s absolutely nothing glamorous about a hamburger either, but you don’t hear anyone complaining about that. Sloppy Joes is summertime food, comfort food, family food to be eaten off of soggy paper plates with a helping of potato salad or coleslaw and washed down with a root beer or an actual brewski. Made from scratch, it’s quick, tasty, and not even necessarily all that unhealthy.
Like most popular dishes, Sloppy Joes can be made any number of ways. You may get chopped peppers, chilies, celery, garlic, or who knows what else in any given Sloppy Joes recipe. Some people add spices like paprika or cumin, others may use ground pork or chorizo rather than ground beef. Sometimes Sloppy Joes is topped with cheese or raw onions, like a taco (which really makes it more like a Sloppy José, I suppose).
My particular recipe comes from my granddad in Florida. There are no extraneous flourishes to it; it’s meat and onions in a sweet and tangy tomato sauce, and for a fun meal on a sunny day, it can’t be beat.
For 4-6 people, you’ll need:
- 2 pounds (1 kg) ground beef
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons mustard
- 2 tablespoons vinegar (cider or wine)
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Cook the onion in the butter until it’s soft, then stir in the meat, salt and pepper. Once the meat has browned, stir in the sauce and cook the whole thing slowly for about 15 minutes. Serve on hamburger buns or other rolls, with mayonnaise, either open-faced for eating with a knife and fork, or closed if you’re brave enough to try to pick the thing up (it’ll be very juicy!). Oh, and some hot sauce wouldn’t be out of place either; my family uses datil pepper sauce made according to my granddad’s recipe, but since you’re not likely to have any of that sitting around unless you happen to be either from St. Augustine, Florida or related to me, then Tabasco or something similar would do the trick as well.
If you insist on being really healthy, you could use very lean ground beef and/or drain off the fat from the pan before adding the sauce, and you can easily make a decent veggie version by using Quorn or some other fake meat product.
If you have leftovers, they’ll taste just as good the next day. And if you’re daring, try them on a pizza with sliced jalapeños—extremely unconventional, yes, but surprisingly tasty.