This 4 ingredient ham salad is a deli dish that I grew up on and loved! Combining chopped meat, pickles, salad dressing, and 1 secret ingredient for the best-tasting ham salad you’ll ever have!
Dad’s Speciality Dishes
Growing up there were certain dishes my Dad made that no matter how hard my Mom tried, she just couldn’t make as good as him.
His City Chicken was the best I have ever EVER had in my life. If you’re not from Pittsburgh it’s a ‘mock’ drumstick consisting of cubes of meat (usually pork and veal), breaded, which have been placed on a wooden and then fried then put in a roaster to steam. I can’t tell you how many times I purposely came home from college on the weekend just for that dish. It’s still one dish that I can’t make. It’s so simple that I just can’t do it. One day though.
Now the fact that we had leftover anything in our house considering we had 8 people living there 4 of which were GINORMOUS non-stop eating machine brothers was a pure miracle. Come to think of it I think that’s the year he made 2-25 pound hams. Anywho we had an abundance, to say the least of ham. And that’s where I learned how to ‘repurpose’ leftovers into amazing ‘new’ dishes. Since we were really poor, buying pre-made stuff, even ham salad was a luxury so we learned to make stuff on our own and honestly it blew away anything you could buy in the stores.
Another dish is his ham salad sandwich spread. 4 simple ingredients that literally rocked like no one’s business. Growing up we had a very famous deli here, Isaly’s, that was known for its chipped chopped ham. That was the key to ham bbq sammiches. The other was their Ham Salad. While I never liked chipped chopped ham (still don’t), I used to love their ham salad. That was until my Dad made it using up some leftover ham we had one Easter.
Yes You Have To Use Miracle Whip
Now I know what you’re thinking… “TKW, this has mayo in it! And you abhor mayo! What gives?” First off this doesn’t have real mayo in it. My Dad tried it with mayo and it was DISGUSTING (and rightly so cause mayo is icky) but the taste was just nasty.
Then he tried the ‘competitor’ – the whipped salad dressing/spread. That was it. Now while I won’t actively seek this stuff out to eat I will tolerate it in certain foods and honestly, it’s what this recipe needs for that zippy tang.
“Working Man’s Food”
This was something that Dad referred to as “working man’s food” because it was easy, didn’t require a lot of stuff, and was cheap.
There is just something homey and simple about this dish. Now it could be the fact that it literally uses only 3-4 ingredients or the fact that it is very inexpensive to make and it makes a bunch. This isn’t fancy schmancy or hoity-toity but it is real, down-to-earth, unpretentious, and for me, home.
It carries memories of my childhood sitting on the kitchen table watching my Dad in his white t-shirt and dickies pants cranking the hand meat grinder telling me stories of when he was a kid. Laughing until we cried and then being the first allowed to ‘sneak’ a taste. God, I miss those days and would give up everything I have just to have one more day in the kitchen with him and Mom. However, even though they’ve both been gone for many, many years they are always with me in the kitchen kind of keeping me in line or in a way, guiding my mixing hand.
Now I don’t have a hand meat grinder but if you do, feel free to use that. I let some of my modern amenities help me out here and just used my food processor to pulse the meat and gherkins down to the right size (pay attention to the pictures – that’s the size you want, you don’t want a puree). This came together in what, 5 minutes after I put it in the food processor, and then you can either eat it then or chill it (that’s how I prefer it).
Now I’m sure if you’ve had this you’ve had it with eggs, onions, or real mayo in it (gag) but this is what I know and what I like. Give it a shot and yes, the ketchup adds that certain je ne sais quoi needed to round out the flavor. Just be easy with it as you don’t want a lot.
Deli Ham Serving Suggestions
- To serve this we opted for crackers or simple white bread.
- Now if you did want to get fancy schmancy with it, you could easily put this on toasted rye crostini and top each with half of baby sweet gherkin
- Veggies – keep it keto and serve it with veggies
- Cucumber Logs – Mom would hollow out cucumbers and fill this inside and we’d eat it that way
- 2 cups cubed ham (increase to 3 cups if you’re not adding bologna)
- 1 cup cubed ring bologna (Optional) – this was put in if we had extra money
- 1 cup sweet gherkins
- 1 1/3 cups whipped salad dressing (not mayo) *See note
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- Place the cubed ham (and bologna) in a food processor and pulse just until you get smaller pieces.
- Add in the gherkins and pulse until the pieces are about the size of rice. You don’t want it pureed; you want small pieces.
- Scrape into a bowl.
- Add in the whipped salad dressing (I used Miracle Whip) and ketchup and mix to combine. If adding in the ring bologna increase the dressing to 1 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoon
- Serve on crackers. Store in an air tight container in the fridge.
Keywords: deli ham salad, pittsburgh ham salad, Dad’s Down Home Ham Salad Sandwich Spread, deli salad, bologna salad, bologna ham salad, ring bologna salad