Pittsburgh Chipped Ham Barbecue Sandwiches with Church Lady Slaw


Ah, the Chipped Ham Barbecue Sammich. A Pittsburgh classic–much like the Turkey Devonshire or the epic sandwiches from Primanti Bros.

For some unknown reason I found myself with a craving for a Chipped Ham (Chip Chop Ham) BBQ earlier this month. It was odd because I hadn’t had one in so long and I don’t recall being a big fan of them as a kid. In my fuzzy memories the recipe my mum used was just chipped ham in a skillet with water, Heinz ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce. But I knew that couldn’t be right. There had to be more to it.  Those watery ingredients wouldn’t make a proper Chipped Ham BBQ.

I decided to prepare th oldie but a goody after seeing the following recipe from Aunt Marie’s Retro Magic Kitchen:

Chipped Ham Barbecue Sandwiches

1 ½ pounds chipped chopped ham (Isaly’s, if available, or any shaved deli ham)
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups ketchup
1/3 cup vinegar
½ cup water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard
4 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
8 hamburger buns

Melt butter in large saucepan and sauté onions for 1-2 minute until translucent.
Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes.
Stir in the ham and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Serve hot on hamburger buns.

This one seemed to be more like it. On her blog Aunt Marie mentions growing up in Western PA and her fond memories of Isaly’s. Aunt Marie definitely knows her Pittsburgh cuisine–go to her blog. I wonder if she grew up in Polish Hill…?

I paired the BBQ sammich with some frozen onion rings, some horsey sauce, and cole slaw. I chose a slaw recipe  from this well-loved Hungarian-American cookbook that my Gramsy had in her kitchen (it was also from this collection that I inherited Dinner is Served!).

I like that since it’s a ‘treasury’ they literally put Mama in a treasure chest.

I don’t know what year this was produced by the St. Elias Byzantine Catholic church in Munhall (that’s right outside of Pittsburgh). 

I think that cookbooks like this are just great–I know that Brian at Caker Cooking would definitely agree. He gets some of his best recipes from these community-based compilations.

Every recipe in Mama’s Recipes: A Treasury of Hungarian-American Foods  is attributed to a member of the parrish–and always as a Mrs. Something or other. These poor women never had first names. Like Mrs. J. Uhrinyak of the Cranberry Jewel Salad (which is totally gelatin-based, by the way).

This recipe for Cabbage Salad is courtesy of Mrs. John Losz. I wonder what her first name was. Let’s just call her Glenda. 

I modified Glenda Losz’s recipe slightly because I used a bag of pre-shredded cabbage which contained some carrots and I added some black pepper, upped the vinegar and increased the celery seed.

It was good. Well done, Glenda.

I typically prefer a vinegar-based slaw to a mayo one but this was light on the mayo so it wasn’t soupy or tasted like nothing but mayo. The cabbage was still crisp. And I’m glad that I’ve discovered the celery seed. It really does make such a difference in cold salads and slaws.

Now onto the ham. Of course, here in Baltimore (not just my Safeway) Isaly’s Chipped Ham is not available. So I did the best thing and went to the deli counter and asked for very very very thinly sliced deli ham. And you know what? I couldn’t tell the difference. It worked out just fine.

I followed Aunt Marie’s recipe but I prefer tangy to sweet so I did increase the amount of vinegar, mustard, and Worcestershire. Once those few adjustments were made–this sammich was just as I remembered. Sweet, sour, juicy, messy–like a ham Sloppy Joe.

I did tear up the ham slices as I added them to the pan but since it’s very thinly sliced lunch meat it automatically falls into little pieces while it simmers. This is kinda like the poor man’s pulled pork sandwich. So if you like pulled pork, I promise that you will like this.

So here is my finished meal–quick, easy, and pretty cheap. The only thing I didn’t already have in my kitchen was the ham and the buns.

I know that the next time I miss home I’ll have this recipe at the ready.

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18 Responses to Pittsburgh Chipped Ham Barbecue Sandwiches with Church Lady Slaw

  1. Laura says:

    This post has spurred a morning-long discussion about BBQ ham, how we love it and who will be bringing a crock-pot to share. YES.

  2. LOVE ham bbq! But only the chip chop Pittsburgh way! This post makes me think of summer picnics and graduation parties. Def a staple!
    Also love the old church recipe book. I’ve got a couple of those in the slovack version that my gram gave to me. The bread recipes are my fave!

  3. Michelle says:

    Haven’t ever had BBQ the Pittsburgh way, but the Mama in a Treasure Chest will stay with me always!

  4. Mimi says:

    Girl. I grew up on Polish Hill. Went to Immaculate Heart of Mary grade school. I have chipped ham in my arteries.

  5. Lauren says:

    This Oklahoman by birth and Kansan by residence had never heard of chipped ham BBQ sandwiches. Pulled pork? Yes. Chipped ham? No. I love those old church cookbooks–lots of goodies. Of course, it’s always great to know someone who was around to sample the originals and tell you to avoid great-aunt so-and-so’s recipes because they were “never quite right.”

  6. Alisa says:

    My friends mother always made hers with some cooked onions and Heinz chili sauce , it may sound simple and strange but it was delicious.

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  12. Maricela says:

    Hello, after reading this awesome post i am also delighted to share my experience here
    with mates.

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