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How The Sloppy Joe Came To Be…

Chef Matthew whipped up some Sloppy Joes for Tuesday Lunch this past week. As with many of his delicious creations, Matthew put it together not from a recipe but from his creative culinary noggin. So, we have no recipe to share!

Instead this week, you get a history lesson – did you ever wonder why it’s called a Sloppy Joe and where the tasty treat originated?  As with about everything, there are many theories.

  • The Town Hall Deli in South Orange, NJ claims to have made the ‘Original Sloppy Joe’ sandwich since it appeared in their menu in 1936. It’s a very different version, however, than the sweet & spicy beef-and-tomato-sauce most of us associate with the name. Their Sloppy Joe is made with deli meats and sometimes even cow tongue. It’s served on rye bread often as a double- or triple-decker sandwich with Swiss cheese, cole slaw and Russian dressing – similar to a class Reuben sandwich.
  • Some say it was first invented at Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Havanna, Cuba. Others say it originated in Sloppy Joe’s Restaurant in Key West, FL.
  • Some folks connect the  Sloppy Joe to Maid-Rite sandwiches from Iowa. But while those are loose-meat beef sandwiches, they aren’t in a tomato sauce. So, possibly it’s a distant cousin?
  • In 1969, the Hunt’s company made it an ‘official’ dish with the launch of their new Manwich Sloppy Joe Sauce.  The sauce, made with tomato paste, onions, oregano, garlic and peppers, made dinner a quick, easy meal to prepare.

Sloppy Joe

If you’d like to make a Sloppy Joe at home but without the aid of Manwich, you could ‘google’ a recipe online or just get creative. This might be a good one to take a shot at without a recipe!  Basically, you want to start by browning (and then draining) about a pound of ground beef. Add in some chopped red and/or green pepper and onion, then get creative. Add a 6 oz. can of tomato paste, plus a little bit of this and a little bit of that. The ‘this and that’ might include some ketchup, Worchestershire sauce, minced garlic, brown sugar, salt & pepper – maybe even some paprika, vinegar, and dry mustard?  Add a little and try it. Make it to taste. There is no right answer.

Let it simmer on low-medium heat on your stovetop for 20-30 minutes until it’s all warmed through and tasting flavorful, then serve it up! The traditional way to serve a Sloppy Joe, of course, is on a bun. Some people like a slice of cheese on it. Add a side salad and chips, fries or tator tots for the complete experience.

Enjoy… and don’t forget to keep a napkin handy!

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