Like most boys, I suppose I became familiar with Sloppy Joes at day camp. I don't remember my first eating of them; so why day camp sticks out in my memory is an uncertain thing at best. If you the reader are asking "so what?" I can't help. I had Sloppy Joes for the first time in 3 decades and have decided to add them to my regular cooking repetoire. It's a comfort food.
I'll admit to a small outrage at the price of a can of Sloppy Joe mix, doesn't matter if it's Heinz or Hunt's, 'bout a buck sixty-nine per can of 15 ozs. And that for a total of 16 ozs. of beef. Hummpphh!
Unhappy with the price, I decided to find a recipe with which to make my own sauce. Thereby insuring leftovers. It's the leftovers that seem most important about Sloppy Joes. My research started with rec.food. recipes. Oooo -- plenty of recipes. Most from a printed cookbook and none that moved me much. Looking into printed sources, I viewed: The Joy of Cook of Cooking, Better Homes and Garden's Crock Pot Cookery, The Good Housekeeping Cookbook (all recipes triple tested), and looked through a host of other sources. Nothing worked. The essence of the Sloppy Joe is that barbecue-ish flavor. It's much more than ketchup. I've decided that it took a long time to mature the ingredients used in the canned versions. The spice profiles now a deeply kept secret.
The Joy of Cooking's spice profile had an optional use of Thyme. I suspect that those authors were not the Sloppy Joe type of eater. Being written by women, that's somewhat understandable. The Good Housekeeping Cookbook, being better in it's use of molasses as opposed to brown sugar. Molasses would give that sticky-gooey texture to the sauce, so necessary to make the meal feel filling.
I think that the use of celery in addition to the bell pepper is essential, too. I'm still debating in my mind about the cider vinegar. I think I'll use malt vinegar. Pickle juice and yellow prepared mustard in discreet quantities, also necessary. So for now, the recipe for the sauce is as follows:
1 small onion -- rasped to juice
1 small green bell pepper -- diced in 1/8"
2 stalks of celery -- rasped to juice
1/2 C. chile sauce (store bought)
4 cloves of garlic -- minced
2 T. Worcestershire Sauce
2 T. Molasses
15 oz. can of Tomato Sauce (or Tomato puree)
1 T. Malt Vinegar
1 T. yellow Mustard (French's)
1 T. liquid from a jar of Dill Pickles. (I would use Heinz Hamburger chip pickles' juice)
1 tsp. of Salt
1 tsp. of Black Pepper
You could rasp the bell pepper to juice too. Just remember what Sloppy Joe sauce is like.
Oddly enough there are variant spellings of the name of the recipe. I have chosed SLOPPY JOES, even though it's not gramatically correct in some contexts.