This ham salad was guaranteed to make an appearance in Mom’s kitchen twice a year; after Christmas and after Easter — the two times a year we had ham in a form other than center cut ham steaks which were always devoured completely at the meal when served.
In my younger years, holiday dinners at our Coal Region home included far more folks than my immediate family and so what seemed to a kid like most humongous ham known to man-kind always appeared at the dining room table. Even with a lot of hungry mouths to feed, that meant plenty of leftover ham which was always a good thing!
Because leftover ham was only available twice a year, I looked forward to another one of my favorite holiday foods – ham salad! I loved opening my metal Barbie (or Scooby Doo, or Monkees) lunchbox and finding a ham salad sandwich made on the square white bread I loved — you know the one — same “bottom” crust all the way around.
To insure I would have my “treat”, Mom always made sure to put some slices away immediately after Dad finished carving off the remnants of the Easter or Christmas ham. Even my ham-loving Pappy (grandfather) made sure to steer clear of the reserved ham; that yummy ham salad was so important to me!
I loved to help my Mom grind the ham for the salad through an old-fashioned, hand-cranked meat grinder clamped on to the side of the kitchen table. I remember her years later, our roles reversed – she was now the observer watching me grinding and mixing – trying to hide the horrified look on her face as I pulled out my newly acquired food processor and commenced to tossing in the ham AND onion AND celery and EGG and employed the new preparation technique known as “pulsing”. The look on her face may have been of dismay, but the look in her eyes as she gazed at that whirring wonder said, “Where have YOU been all my life?!?” We officially retired the hand-cranked grinder for making ham salad that day.
This recipe is one that lends itself to customizing to your taste quite well; put the celery in or leave it out; use more or less mustard; use sweet or dill relish; add more mayo to make it creamier — see where I’m going with this?
There are many, many family recipes for ham salad, this is Mom’s and it is what I have always used. Sometimes, I don’t include eggs (after Christmas is usually egg-less — after Easter usually includes eggs because there are almost always hard-cooked eggs to be found in the fridge). Make it your own, however you do it, it is a classic way to use left-over ham in the Coal Region.
Mom’s Ham SaladCourse: Appetizers, Entrees, SandwichesCuisine: Pa. Dutch, Coal RegionDifficulty: Easy
1 pound leftover ham, chopped in a food processor
1/4 cup celery, finely diced
2 Tablespoons finely minced sweet onion
2 hard-boiled eggs, finely diced
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish, drained OR dill pickle relish, drained
1/2 cup mayonnaise or as needed to get the consistency you favor
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
- Run the ham through a meat grinder OR Cut the ham, onion, and celery (and eggs if using) into small chunks then pulse in a food processor until finely chopped.
- Place ham, celery, onion, eggs, in mixing bowl. Add relish, mustard, and mayonnaise. Mix well, adjusting mayo to your taste.
- Chill and use as a spread on crackers, sandwich filling, to stuff tomatoes, etc.