Introduction: BEST Ham Salad!

About: Just an old guy who likes to dabble in an eclectic mix of technologies and arts.

I really like ham salad, especially the way I make it. The store-bought salads are watery, bland and sometimes downright nasty. This way, I can control what goes in it and suit my individual taste.

You can follow my recipe or enhance it as you like. Later I will make some alternative suggestions that some folks like to add.

Step 1: Ingredients

I now always use a ham steak as the basis. I have tried leftover baked ham and purchased ham cubes but both of these often come out too dry to get the real salad feel that I like. This is a 1 1/2 lb Smithfield Hardwood Smoked Ham Steak. It's about US$3.50/lb.

About 1/2 cup each of chopped onion and celery is next. And finally, about 3/4 cup mayonnaise (or Miracle Whip), 1/2 cup Sweet Pickle Relish, 1 tsp ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp granulated garlic and 1/2 tsp ground Cayenne pepper (the jar with the white top is not Cayenne, but a locally sourced mix of ground hot peppers made by a friend of ours).

The ham steak is already cooked and ready-to-eat BUT remember, none of this is going to be cooked so wash your hands well and keep them and your tools clean. Safety first!

Step 2: Tools

The tools are basic except for the food processor - don't have one? - I got this at a yard sale 20 years ago for $3 and use it about once or twice a month. If you can't get one, then start chopping. You will need to reduce the steak to little cubes about 1/8 inch on a side. An old-fashioned hand-cranked coarse meat grinder will work, too.

A nice sharp knife, a fork and a bowl round out the list. You might also need a spoon and/or a flexible spatula.

Step 3: Prepping the Ham - Stage 1

The first picture is the unwrapped ham . It has an included bone and quite a bit of fat. There is also a partial rind that needs to be removed (2nd pic).

After removing the fat and rind, cut the ham into strips and then cubes about 3/4 inch square.

The last picture shows the fat and rind and bone that was removed. I didn't weigh it but I bet the ham is 1/4 pound lighter!

Step 4: Prepping the Ham - Stage 2

Toss the ham, onion and celery into the food processor. Attach the cover and pulse your way to Ham Salad.

A few "rules" here:

  • We want to reduce the 3/4" cubes to 1/8" cube - not 1/4" and NOT mush!
  • Use the pulse button and only for about 4 or 5 seconds at a time.
  • If you observe that the mass is not falling into the knives, stop, UNPLUG the machine and scrape down the sides and proceed again. If your processor is too tiny for this much, you may have to do two or more batches.
  • It's OK to stop and check for "mouth feel".
  • DO NOT put any of the other ingredients in the processor. It doesn't seem to work well.

Step 5: Making the Salad

Transfer the mix of ham, onion and celery to a bowl of proper size and mix in the mayo, relish, garlic, black and cayenne peppers.

That's it! The best ham salad is right in front of you!

Transfer it into a covered container and refrigerate it. This ham salad should last about 1 week under refrigeration. Toward the end of that time, you may notice a little separation (i.e. liquid in the bottom of the container), just mix it back in.

You can also freeze freshly-made ham salad and, if wrapped well, will last for 1 or 2 months.

Step 6: Suggestions

Serving - I like ham salad on Ritz crackers with a little chopped parsley or chives or even green onions sprinkled on it. Another way is to put it on sliced cucumbers or a scoop on a bed of iceberg lettuce. It is also good on whole grain bread - plain or toasted.

Other variations - I like my recipe but because of the black and cayenne peppers it has a bit of a bite - some folks add some or all of the following:

  • hard-boiled egg, 1 or 2, chopped
  • Dijon or brown or prepared mustard, 1 Tbsp
  • diced carrot, 1/4 cup
  • dill pickle relish
  • red bell pepper 2 Tbsp, chopped
  • basil, 1/4 tsp
  • lemon juice, 1 Tbsp

I must admit, I haven't tried any of these. I figure if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Let me know what you think! Thanks for looking.