Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sloppy Joes

When I was growing up, my mother made sandwiches she called "barbecue beef," but really they were what most people call sloppy joes.

Imagine my shock when I went to a restaurant and ordered a barbecue beef sandwich and it had sliced roast beef. I was horrified.

After I got over my shock, I grew to love barbecue beef sandwiches from that very same restaurant that disappointed me the first time, but I never outgrew my fondness for sloppy joes the way my mother made them.

I tweak the recipe now and then, but there's one secret ingredient that I never mess with. To me, sloppy joes just aren't right without that one ingredient: Open Pit Barbecue Sauce.

And it has to be the "Original" version.

Since we moved to Colorado, sightings of Open Pit are pretty rare. I guess it's a midwest thing. But I've got a few bottles squirreled away for the times when I need that taste of home. We've all got our vices, right?

Mom's Sloppy Joes

1 medium onion, diced
1 green pepper, fire roasted, peeled, seeded, diced
1 pound ground beef

approximately equal amounts (or to taste) of:
Open Pit barbecue sauce

And then a little bit of:
Oil, for cooking the onions

Sweat the onions in a little bit of oil until they're soft. Add the green pepper and ground beef, stirring to break up the beef.

Okay, here's the deal. I know the whole theory of not crowding the pan and browning the ground beef...and it's a nice theory, but it's not how mom made it. She tossed it together and stirred, and if any browning happened, it was probably an accident.

When the beef is just about cooked through, add ketchup and Open Pit. I don't measure, I just squirt until it looks sloppy enough. You need enough sauce so that it's a little loose and soupy.

Simmer the mixture for at least 15 minutes; longer is better. You want the meat to absorb the sauce and take on that dark red color, and you want the meat to soften.

Or, okay, maybe that's not what you want, but that's how mom made it. If you like your meat with a little chew, take it off the heat whenever you think it's ready. Otherwise, cook until the meat is soft. Mom's sloppy joe meat was soft like a stew, not browned like taco meat.

You might need to add more ketchup and/or Open Pit as the meat cooks. It should be a loose mixture, but not a soup.

If you can't find Open Pit, I don't know what you can substitute. All I can suggest is that you use a barbecue sauce that you like.

I've tried other barbecue sauces, and I haven't found any that are similar in taste to Open Pit. It's tangy with a little kick; it's not sweet, and there's no smoke. It sounds simple, but I've tried making my own version and I just can't get it right. I've resorted to stocking up when I see it anywhere, usually about once every year or so. I only use it for two recipes - neither of them ribs - so it lasts quite a while.

Oh, and yes those are homemade buns. Recipes will be coming along soon.

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Anonymous said...

I grew up in Chicago with sloppy joes made with Open Pit barbeque sauce and I am old enough that the only choice was the "original"....I had forgotten this memory and recently saw Open Pit in dollar stores in CA....thanks for the recipe for "barbeque beef"

Anonymous said...

My mom is from Chicago and that's the 'secret' ingredient that she always used, too. That's why I looked up a recipe using Open Pit. Thanks

Anonymous said...

there is nothing like open pit bbq sauce. and i dont know why cant find it in the grocery stores anymore. why i have to have people buy it for me and ship to me. i live in Tn. why dont you have it in the stores.

Donna Currie said...

Some grocery stores will special-order it for you, if you ask.

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