I love Lebanon Bologna. It’s great on sandwiches, as is straight from the deli. I also like it pan fried until browned, then placed between two pieces of good old white sandwich bread with a smear of yellow mustard. And hot or cold sandwich, the icing on the cake for me is adding a handful of potato chips piled high, then topped with the upper slice of bread and smooshed down to flatten before eating.
I’m not here to get into the pros and cons of sweet Lebanon versus regular Lebanon bologna – to each his/her own. I am a great believer in everyone eating the version of a food they enjoy, not what anyone tells them it’s “supposed to be”. I happen to personally prefer the sweet version, especially in this recipe for Lebanon Bologna Rollups.
Now, these roll ups with cream cheese and pickles are a classic appetizer in the Coal Region — practically everyone’s seen them, eats them, or makes them. Yet whenever they show up on a table for any event or meal, they disappear like they are the most unique and amazing food there. I have yet to witness any leftovers anytime I see these served or anytime I serve them.
Several years ago while living in New Hampshire, I was waiting at the deli counter in a local grocery store when a woman with a pronounced Boston accent sidled up to me and proclaimed that she was having several guests up to her lake house on “the big lake” (Lake Winnipesaukee) , came to stock up on lobsters and corn and was getting salami for “these fabulous little appetizers everyone just loved that she created”. Turns out she spread cream cheese on salami slices and rolled them up.
It takes more than that to impress this coalcracker and, before I could stop myself, I blurted out, “Oh, I’ve been making those for YEARS, only I use sweet Lebanon bologna (pointing at it in the deli case — several stores in NH carried it) and wrap it all around a sweet gherkin.” With a dismissive wave of my hand, I then exclaimed, “WAY better than plain old salami!” As she turned away mumbling something I did not catch I realized I probably did not make a new friend that day. Ah, well, such is life…
Lebanon County (Pa.) is the home of Lebanon Bologna. German immigrants who settled the area knew preservation of foods, especially of meats, was essential in times before modern inventions such as the refrigerator and freezer. They needed a meat that could withstand the heat of the summer and last throughout the year. They found that by smoking the meat and hanging it in their attic where it was dry, they could remove enough moisture that nothing would grow in it.
You may be in an area of the country where you cannot get Lebanon bologna in your local grocery (my heart breaks for you). Some internet retailers ship, like The Pennsylvania General Store. You can also purchase it through Amazon. Walmart in various areas of the US also carry it, either in the deli to be sliced as ordered or pre-packaged. There are many brand names, Seltzers being one of the most widely distributed, but those of us local to the Coal Region have our pick, including but not limited to, Weaver’s, Martin’s, Kunzler’s, Boar’s Head, as well as many small, local manufacturers.
So go ahead and whip up a batch of these for your next picnic, potluck, or get-together (or a plate to keep for snacking in your own fridge) and watch them disappear!
Some Tips For Success
- Don’t have the Lebanon bologna sliced too thin, it will tear and be hard to work with. I aim for approximately 8 or 9 slices per half pound.
- I soften my cream cheese by placing it in a microwave safe dish and microwaving on “high” for about 20 seconds.
- If the Gherkins are tiny, you will need two placed end to end in the roll. If they are on the large side (chubby, in other words), I slice them in half lengthwise to make for easier rolling.
- Refrigerate the rolls for at least an hour, or until well chilled, before cutting. This allows them to firm up and makes cutting and skewering easier.
- I cut the rolls in half crosswise on a diagonal, but the rolls can also be cut into 1 inch slices. Skewer each cut piece with a toothpick to nicely hold the roll tight.
- I serve mine alongside homemade sweet dipping mustard or yellow mustard to dip or not.
Lebanon Bologna RollupsCourse: AppetizersCuisine: Pa. Dutch, Coal RegionDifficulty: Easy
A party favorite, these savory roll ups with a sweet pickle “crunch” are a perennial favorite with adults and kids alike.
1/2 pound sweet OR regular Lebanon bologna
1 – 8 ounce block cream cheese, softened
1 jar sweet gherkins (pickles)
OPTIONAL: sweet or yellow mustard for dipping
- Using a knife or small offset spatula, spread the cream cheese in an even, thin layer over an entire slice of bologna to the edges.
- Place one or two gherkins (to reach from edge to edge) about 1 inch in from the edge of the slice closest to you and roll the slice of bologna up like a jellyroll around the gherkin(s). You may need to use two gherkins to reach from side to side. Place roll seam side down on a tray.
- Refrigerate for at least one hour or until well-chilled and firm.
- Cut each roll in half on a diagonal or cut into bite-sized pieces (about 1 inch in length). Secure each roll with a toothpick.
- Serve as is or with sweet or yellow mustard for dipping.