For Labor Day, the group of neighbors and former neighbors and whoever that congregates at my house planned a potluck supper. I proposed to cook sloppy Joe, so that no one would have to be out in the heat grilling hamburgers. Not a good idea—one dear friend said she really didn’t care for sloppy Joe. So we had hamburgers, Jay seasoned them, and Christian cooked them. And they were among the best burgers I’ve ever had. Christian fussed a little because everyone would be inside and he’d be outside cooking. As it turned out, most of the men went outside to kibbitz, and he had plenty of company. The men unanimously agreed that it was the swan song of my grill—an expensive Weber 15 years ago. My contractor says a good cleaning might save it, and he’ll look.
But meantime, I didn’t get my sloppy Joe. I’m not exactly sure what real sloppy Joe is. Apparently recipes are all over the place with bell pepper, lots of ketchup, sometimes vinegar, sometimes brown sugar, who knows. Mine isn’t really a sloppy Joe recipe—in the cookbook, A Jug of Wine, it’s called a wine stew. I used to fix it for the kids when they were young, and because it has hamburger I called I sloppy Joe. Sometimes we ate it on buns; sometimes in bowls like a stew—that sort of depended on who was watching their carb intake at the time.
Once Megan asked for the recipe and cooked it for Brandon, who said, “It’s really good, but it’s not sloppy Joe.” Megan wrote me caustically that apparently she was the only one who grew up thinking red wine was an essential ingredient of sloppy Joe.
After I couldn’t fix it on Labor Day, of course I got a hunger for it. So tonight, just for me, I fixed a batch of sloppy Joe. So good! If Jacob, my non-meat-eater, happens to be here for a meal, I know he’ll eat it—he loves it. But I enjoyed it tonight—actually could have eaten a second sandwich but will refrain—and I’ll have leftovers tomorrow.
So here’s my version of the recipe (I always change things) should you care to try sloppy Joe that is really wine stew. Call it whatever but enjoy.
Judy’s sloppy Joe
1 lb. ground beef
1 15-oz. can of beans (any kind you want), rinsed and drained
½ c. chopped onion
½ c. diced celery
2 Tbsp. bacon drippings (If you can bring yourself to use it in this health-conscious age, use vegetable oil, but the bacon flavor really makes a difference.)
¼ c. ketchup
1½ Tbsp. Worcestershire
Dash of Tabasco
1 tsp. salt
⅛ tsp. pepper
¼ tsp. oregano
¼ c. dry red wine
1 Tbsp. A-1 sauce (If I don’t have this, omit it; I can never tell the difference.)
Cook onion in bacon drippings. Add beef and brown. Add remaining ingredients and simmer 20 to 30 minutes.