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Canned meat is finding its place on kitchen shelf again

Canned meat is finding its place on kitchen shelf again

December 03, 2008|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

Since 1937, Spam has found its way into American cupboards, hiding its hammy goodness inside those nearly indestructible, rectangular blue cans.

Sure, Spam has been the butt of jokes, but there are millions of people around the world who love its distinctive taste. And for some, it has gone beyond just eating Spam. There are Spam-fan Web sites, annual Spam festivals, a 16,500-square-foot Spam museum in Austin, Minn., and a Spammobile. There's even a Broadway musical, "Spamalot," a Monty Python satire of the story of King Arthur and his knights at the castle Camelot.

(The term spam for Internet junk mail actually comes from a "Monty Python's Flying Circus" skit in which the word "Spam" is spoken more than 130 times).

Spam to the rescue

Although Spam isn't as much of an American staple as it once was, with the economic downturn, people are looking for ways to stretch their grocery bills. Enter Spam. A New York Times article reported last month that Hormel is cranking out Spam to keep up with increased demand.


Rumors claim the name is an acronym for SPiced hAM or Shoulder Pork and hAM, but, according to Spam's Web site (, the name of Spam doesn't stand for anything. And the official Spam site lists ingredients as having ham, pork, sugar, salt, water, potato starch and, to keep its pink color, sodium nitrite.

Both ham and pork? Yes, there are distinctions, the site reports. Pork can come from different cuts of meat from a pig. Ham is specifically the cut from the upper rear leg of the hog. And the difference between a hog and a pig? That's another lesson.

It's in the can

Like other canned meats - such as canned ham or even tuna - Spam is ready to eat from the can. What turns off most people is the thin layer of gelatin that covers it straight from the can. But it's nothing to be afraid of. Just wipe it away before cooking.

Spam, like most ham products, can be salty. Hormel has a Spam Less Sodium version for sodium-conscious consumers. And because it is made from pork products, nearly anything that calls for ham can be adapted to use with Spam.

The most popular way to make Spam is a simple sandwich. Slice the Spam about 1/4 inch thick, and, in a nonstick pan over medium heat, fry it until it curls up on the end. Some people like it browned or even with a charcoal-like crust on it, but that's to taste. Then, melt two pieces of Swiss cheese over the Spam. Because you've saved money on the meat, upgrade to a nice rye bread, spread on a layer of Dijon or another spicy mustard, and serve. A can of Spam can supply about six sandwiches.

Either way you slice it, Spam is one way to add protein to a meal without breaking the piggy bank.

Spam omelet

3 eggs
4 tablespoons milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup Spam, diced
1/4 cup onions, diced
1/4 cup peppers (red or green, to taste)
1/3 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (reserve about 2 tablespoons)

In medium bowl, whip eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Set aside. Spray medium frying pan with nonstick spray. Heat pan to high. Drop in Spam, onions and peppers, fry until onion is clear. Add in egg mixture. Let egg fry slightly on one side. Once egg mixture becomes less runny, add in cheese in center of omelet. Flip one side of omelet over, forming it in half. Turn down to medium heat. Sprinkle top with reserved cheese. Serve with toast.

Cook's note: Milk can be replaced with water or omit liquid. Test egg pan with a drizzle of egg to make sure that the pan is hot enough.

- Recipe by Crystal Schelle

Baked Spam

1 12-ounce can Spam
2 tablespoons whole cloves
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup of Sunkist or other orange pop
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 small can pineapple rings

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Put Spam in a small baking dish and score top in a criss-cross pattern. Insert cloves where scored lines intersect.

In a small mixing bowl, mix brown sugar, Sunkist and mustard. Brush Spam with mixture. Place pineapples on top of Spam. Bake for about 20 minutes. Spam will be golden brown and sugar will caramelize.

- Adapted by Crystal Schelle from an original Hormel Foods recipe

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