Leftover ham gets a spicy re-do for sandwiches and canapés
Got a big ol’ ham left over from Easter? Wondering what to do with it? Meet deviled ham—your new best friend.
It’s basically spicy ham salad (often with mustard-forward flavor) that’s been ground to a paste in the food processor. It makes a great spread for sandwiches, crackers, or whatever.
Deviled ham is an old-fashioned treat that many of us have forgotten. Too bad, because it has great flavor. Plus, it takes just minutes to make, so it’s easy for you. And once people taste it, their smiles (and praise!) will come easily too.
Recipe: Homemade Deviled Ham
Back in the 1950s and 60s, deviled ham was popular picnic fare. Then, however, people tended to use the canned version produced by the William Underwood Company. You know, the one wrapped in white paper with that cute red devil on the label. You can still find it on the “canned meats” shelf at your supermarket. But why go that route when you can make a better version in your own home kitchen? Besides, it’s nice to know what’s in your food, isn’t it?
This recipe for deviled ham is pretty flexible. It’s easy to add, subtract, or substitute ingredients to suit your own taste, and I’ll discuss some suggestions for doing so in the Notes.
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to make and yields about 2 cups of spread. It’s easy to halve or double the recipe. Leftovers keep for a few days if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- 1 pound cooked ham cut into ½-inch dice (about 2½ cups)
- ¼ cup chopped onion (optional; I use this when making canapés, but skip it when making sandwich spread—see Notes)
- ~½ cup mayonaise (preferably Homemade)
- 2 to 4 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard (to taste; may substitute brown mustard, Creole mustard, or another variety)
- 1 teaspoon Tabasco (or to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- garnish of your choice (optional; see Notes for suggestions)
- Cut the cooked ham into dice of about ½ inch. If using onion, peel and roughly chop it. Place both the ham and the onion into the bowl of a food processor, and process until the ham is finely ground.
- Add the mayo, mustard, Tabasco, and turmeric. Pulse in the food processor until well combined.
- You can use deviled ham immediately to make sandwiches or canapés (see Notes). But I prefer to let the flavor develop for half an hour or so in the refrigerator (just store it in an airtight container). When ready to serve, add the garnish of your choice, if desired.
- Onion or no? When I’m making deviled ham for sandwiches, I leave it out, and then add slices of red onion at table. When making deviled ham for canapés (or using it as a dip), I like to mix onion in. But you may prefer otherwise.
- I usually make this recipe with 4 tablespoons of mustard. But that's a pretty strong mustard flavor. If in doubt, start with half that, and taste. It's easy enough to add more.
- For sandwiches, I like to spread deviled ham on crusty bread, then add sliced onion, some lettuce, and maybe some pickle chips or sliced olives.
- For canapés, I often spread a bit of deviled ham on crackers or slices of party rye, then garnish them with a squirt of sriracha sauce and maybe some chives (as shown in the photos).
- Lots of other garnishes work well too. Sliced olives, sweet pickle relish, pickle chips, chopped parsley, pimento—your imagination is the limit.
- For an interesting twist on deviled eggs, fill the hard-boiled egg halves with deviled ham rather than the usual egg-yolk mixture.
- It’s easy to change up ingredients in this recipe. For instance, you could reduce the amount of mustard, and add some curry powder. Or even eliminate the mustard altogether and substitute sweet pickle relish. You might want to add some chopped pickle slices. Or some spicy jalapeño peppers, finely minced. How about adding a chutney of some sort? Or perhaps Worcestershire sauce and/or horseradish? I’ve even heard of people adding chopped peanuts to deviled ham (though that’s an idea I haven’t tried).
- The William Underwood Company, which was founded in 1822, packed a variety of condiments, fruits, and vegetables. They originally packed food in glassware, but by 1836 they switched to steel cans to keep up with demand. During the Civil War, Underwood supplied canned food to Union troops.
- Underwood developed deviled ham in 1868. Although the company expanded its line to include other meats and seafoods, deviled ham became its best-known product. The red devil first appeared on their labels in 1895, and soon became an iconic logo.
“Wow, this reminds me of childhood picnics,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, biting into her deviled ham sandwich.
“Same here,” I said. “Although my mom never made this—she always bought the canned version with the red devil on the package.”
“Yeah, I think most everybody did,” said Mrs K R. “Processed food seemed like such a convenience then.”
“That was way before food processors were available,” I said. “So deviled ham would have been a chore to make.”
“And with the canned stuff, you didn’t have to worry about the ham spoiling if you were out in the woods somewhere without refrigeration,” said Mrs K R. “You could just open the can and be sure it was safe to eat.”
“True, that was before those freezer pack thingies were invented,” I said. “So keeping things cold was a problem.”
“Glad we can make our own homemade deviled ham sandwiches these days,” said Mrs K R. “On our own homemade bread.”
“Yes, we should pack some of these sandwiches in a hamper and go on a picnic,” I said. “Our homemade goodies will be so much better than commercially processed ham on cardboard white bread.”
“Great idea,” said Mrs K R. “Back to nature courtesy of Cuisinart and freezer gel packs.”
“Not to mention insect repellent and GPS,” I added.
Henry David Thoreau, you're our lodestar.
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