Friday, November 29, 2013

"Apple Betty & Sloppy Joe - Stirring Up the Past with Family Recipes and Stories (Wisconsin family cookbook)" - Sloppy Joes

Date I made this recipe:  November 24, 2013 (Packers v. Vikings, Game #2)

Apple Betty & Sloppy Joe - Stirring Up the Past with Family Recipes and Stories by Susan Sanvidge, Diane Sanvidge Seckar, Jean Sanvidge Wouters, and Julie Sanvidge Florence from Oshkosh, Wisconsin
Published by:  Wisconsin Historical Society Press (
ISBN:  978-0-87020-386-2
Recipe:  Sloppy Joes (Naturally!) - p. 157-158

And they're back!  For the second time this football season, my Green Back Packers played the Minnesota Vikings in Lambeau Field.  Although I am running short on Wisconsin-related cookbooks, I'm not down yet and so finally decided to make something from this fun cookbook to honor the occasion. 

I've had this book for quite some time but held back a bit from using it because I think I was waiting for something that said "Packers" or "football" to jump out at me.  I have such high expectations for my Wisconsin cookbooks, don't I?  But when that didn't happen, I settled for the very neutral and not-even-football-related Sloppy Joe recipe.

As it turned out, this was perhaps the best course of action.  The Packers looked pretty good out of the blocks but then just lacked energy through the first three quarters.  I got worried.  And when I get worried, I do what my family has always done when it gets tense watching the Packers - change the channel.  (Which didn't work so well in the early years of Packers football when we only had one channel...but whatever).  Yes folks, we change the channel to avoid throwing things at the TV (in this case, an iron--and yes, some of us still iron) with the hopes that if we don't breathe down their necks and over-coach (it happens), the team will improve.  My husband cracks up when I do this and in fact, commented this time around that the team probably said "Verme changed the channel...let's DO this!" 

I am not alone in this craziness;  my brother changes the channel as well and several other people I know leave the room.  So there.  When you are a rabid Packers fan, you have to have your strategies. 

At any rate, it worked!  Down by 16 points, the Packers came roaring back under the (please stay with me) backup to the backup to the backup to quarterback Aaron Rodgers.  Aaron has a broken collarbone.  Seneca Wallace was his backup but he's out with a groin injury.  Scott Tolzein is his backup and he was struggling after the first quarter.  That left Matt Flynn to come in and rally the troops.  If you are a Packers fan (and why wouldn't you be?), you'll know that Matt was backup to Aaron a few years ago, and then got traded and life in the trade after-world did not go well.  Fans started chanting "Bring Back Flynn" as soon as Aaron went down and Flynn was available but these things take time, kids.  But now he's back, and he almost saved the day.

I say "almost" because we managed to tie the Vikings and forced the game into overtime. And we went up by three after kicking a field goal but according to new NFL rules, a field goal isn't good enough; to win in OT, you must get a touchdown.  So we got a field goal, then the Vikings got a field goal.  Then we got another and they got another and the game was tied and overtime ran out of time and per the new rules, the game stayed a tie.

I have to tell you, this was kind of deflating.  I'm used to watching college ball where the overtimes are ridiculous but then again, this isn't college ball.  So the Vikings, who blew the lead, slunk off the field.  The Packers did the same.  Packer Nation went "Huh."  Vikings fans also went "Huh." In the end, it wasn't a win but it wasn't a loss.  It was what it was...whatever it was.  And so perhaps the "neutral" Sloppy Joes helped out after all?  And I do hope all the sisters who wrote this cookbook were watching from the wilds of Oshkosh (B'Gosh!), Wisconsin.  Although one should never assume anybody living in Wisconsin is a Packers fan, statistics will show that this is a very reasonable and in fact, very mathematically, correct assumption.

I don't know the exact age of these sisters but they must be close to my age, if not a bit older, because the recipes they include in this cookbook are pretty close to what I grew up eating.  And I think my favorite chapter from this book is the Salads chapter that included the priceless subtitle "Yes, Jell-O is a salad."  (You knew this, right?  Please tell me you knew this.) In my house, and theirs, Jell-O salad accompanied just about every meal and my mother had special Jell-O salads for special occasions such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.  In fact, so inspired am I by this chapter that I think I'm going to haul out her Jell-O molds and get cracking, just in time for the holidays.  Included in this cookbook (and similar to ones in my mom's collection) are such delights as "Carrot Pineapple Jell-O Salad;" "Lime Cottage Cheese Salad;" and "Cranberry Relish Mold."  Sigh. I am having quite the blissful walk down memory lane right now.

In the Meat Chapter, Spamwiches are listed right next to the Sloppy Joe recipe and although mom never made these sandwiches, we certainly ate our fair share of Spam back in the day.  Once again, these gals and I are simpatico when it comes to family food. 

I can't recall if I ever mentioned in previous blog posts the one day a few years back that I had an incredible craving for a Sloppy Joe but if not, here's my story (and I'm sticking to it):  I was working on a legal project in downtown Minneapolis, and for whatever reason, I started to crave a Sloppy Joe.  I mean really crave as in I wanted one right now, period.  But where to find one? 

I called around several restaurants that served comfort food but nobody had Sloppy Joes on the menu.  In desperation, I asked several co-workers if anybody knew of any place downtown that served them.  Nobody knew.  I was crushed but what can you do?

But oh miracle of miracles, a few days later, a Jewish deli, located in the Minneapolis Skyway system not far from my office (skyways are indoor walkways) had a sign advertising their sandwich special of the day - Sloppy Joes.

And Jesus wept.  And I wept.  And it was good.

I don't know what it is Sloppy Joes that triggered such a strong craving that day but it did and so when opportunity knocked, I made it for the game.  And it too, was good.  The only thing I muffed was that the sisters recommended serving it on old-fashioned store-bought hamburger buns and we bought hamburger buns but they were of the whole wheat variety and this was wrong, people, wrong.  Here's why:  white bread soaks up all the grease, turning your bread orange AND allows you to squish the Sloppy Joe into a tight little square.  Our whole wheat buns did not.  We were foolish and for this we apologize; it won't happen again. 

Sloppy Joes (serving side not indicated but it calls for 4 pounds of ground beef so you might want to cut the recipe in half)
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons butter
4 pounds ground beef
1 bottle (14 ounces) ketchup
1 cup water
1/2 finely chopped celery
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
hamburger buns

In a small frying pan, saute onions in butter until transparent.  Brown the ground beef gently in a large stainless steel frying pan until no pink is left, breaking down the chunks as you are moving the meat around.  Drain off excess fat.  Add the sauteed onions (do not drain off the butter).  Combine the rest of the ingredients and stir into browned meat.  Cover and simmer on medium heat, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes.  Serve on store-bought hamburger buns.  (Author's note:  This recipe can be made ahead and reheated.  It's one of those recipes that tastes better on the second day.)

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