With school back in session for nearly everyone, it is helpful to have some quick-to-prepare meals for busy nights. At our house, we have something extra on the schedule at least three out of the five weeknights. These sloppy joes will help you get supper on the table fast without having to rely on Ramen or boxed macaroni and cheese. The ingredients are standard grocery staples that you would almost always have on hand.
I have been eating these sloppy joes for approximately 40 years. My mom made them this way, and this is one of the few homemade items I learned to make when I first started cooking for myself. Of course, when my mom made them, we always topped them with slices of her homemade dill pickles, so that made them extra special and tasty. I seem to remember sticking a few potato chips inside my sandwich for some crunch too.
Somehow sloppy joes and cookies became my signature items back when I was teaching high school and was the yearbook adviser. Whenever we finished a yearbook deadline, we would celebrate with a potluck in class. As the only adult participant in the potluck, I felt responsible to bring at least one main course type of dish–“real food”–to make sure we didn’t just have a chip and candy buffet. I brought in my crock pot full of sloppy joe meat for the first potluck, and I was never allowed to bring anything different after that; I always had to promise to bring sloppy joes. I tried to tell my students I could cook many other things, but they only wanted sloppy joes. (And cookies of course.) They were a big hit with the students. I recall some even asking for the recipe. I’m not sure how other people make their sloppy joes, but according to my students, the brown sugar in my mom’s recipe is the secret ingredient.
I served these the other night with some of my homemade microwave potato chips and some of my mom’s homemade dill pickles. For my kids, as it was for my siblings and me, the sloppy joe just isn’t the same without Grandma’s pickles. Someday I will have to learn how to make those too. For now, we are grateful to be given a few jars whenever we visit with Grandpa and Grandma.
Mom’s Sloppy Joes
- 1 pound lean hamburger or ground turkey
- 1 small onion chopped fine
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 can condensed tomato soup
- approximately 1/4 cup ketchup
- approximately 1 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard
- approximately 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
*I have never measured the ketchup, mustard, and brown sugar, so I am giving you my best guess for quantities. I usually taste and adjust until I think it tastes right.
- Brown the hamburger with chopped onion, salt, and pepper in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Drain the fat if necessary. (I usually use such lean meat that draining is not necessary.)
- When the hamburger is cooked, add the can of tomato soup, ketchup, mustard, and brown sugar. Stir until combined. Turn the heat down a bit and let simmer for a few minutes to thicken a little. Taste and add more salt, pepper, ketchup, mustard, or brown sugar as needed.
- Turn the heat down to medium or low and simmer slightly until ready to serve.
- Serve in hamburger buns or on bread.
*Leftovers keep very well in the refrigerator or freezer; some may even like the leftovers better because the sauce thickens up more and the flavors have more time to combine. You can make the meat ahead of time and just reheat for a meal or put in a low crockpot for a potluck.
Source: My mom