Homemade bologna is one of those foods that truly show how radically food manufacturers have changed our taste expectations. That unctuous, mushy pink stuff we’ve all eaten between slices of flavorless white bread, with mayo or mustard, is nothing like bologna used to be.
Here in the Midwest, knowing how to make a good homemade bologna is a matter of pride. Unlike the floppy pink slices from the store, a homemade bologna is more like salami or summer sausage. That’s not to say it’s spicy, although you can certainly make it that way if you like. More than anything, homemade bologna is meaty, no matter how thinly you slice it.
That meatiness turned me off the first time I made homemade bologna. It was grainy, a conglomeration of bits of fat and meat, more like a burger in texture than the smooth stuff of my childhood. A little research revealed the problem: I didn’t know to emulsify the meat before shaping and cooking it. That step has made a world of difference in the final product’s texture.
Next, it was time to experiment with flavoring. Some of the recipes I’d found called for a frightening amount of Morton’s Tender Quick, a brand of curing salt that contains salt, sugar, sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite and other curing agents. The first batch I made called for 3 tablespoons of the stuff, and the result was such a salty product that it was nearly inedible. Other recipes called for Accent seasoning which is essentially MSG.
I’d never consider using MSG in a homemade product, and I couldn’t understand why the recipe called for a curing salt at all when the meat, once shaped, is cooked in the oven and then refrigerated or frozen. So after tinkering with the recipe a bit more, I decided to skip the curing powders altogether. (If you want to keep your bologna in the fridge for weeks, go ahead and use 1 1/2 tablespoons of Tender Quick instead of sea salt.)
How To Make Homemade Bologna
You’ll need a meat grinder or a food processor to make homemade bologna. I use a grinding attachment for my KitchenAid stand mixer, but any meat grinder will work. All you need to do is grind the meat through the various disks, starting with the one that has the largest holes and working to the one with the smallest.
If you don’t have a meat grinder, you can use a food processor to accomplish almost the same thing by using the grating disk. Run the meat through the food processor tube using the slicing attachment, then put it in the freezer for 10 minutes. Next, push the meat through the food processor using the largest grating holes, and finally the smallest. Again, be sure to freeze it for 10 minutes between grinds.
Emulsification takes place when you combine this ground meat with water, as called for in the recipe.
- 3 pounds chuck roast (or ground beef if you don't have a meat grinder)
- 1 cup ice cold water
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar (optional)
- 1 teaspoon all-natural liquid smoke flavor
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- Grind and emulsify meat as directed here.
- Chill meat in freezer 10-20 minutes before proceeding.
- In stand mixer, or using damp hands, combine meat and remaining ingredients thoroughly.
- Divide meat mixture in half.
- With damp hands, form each mixture into a log, compressing with hands as you work.
- Wrap each log tightly in plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate for 24 hours.
- Preheat oven to 300 F.
- Remove plastic wrap from meat.
- Cook meat on greased baking pan for 30 minutes at 300 F, turning halfway through.
- Reduce heat to 250 F and cook an additional 2½ hours.
- Refrigerate up to 3 days. May be frozen for longer storage.
- Note: for easiest slicing, chill the cooked bologna for 20 minutes and use a sharp, non-serrated knife.
I can’t stress strongly enough: if you skip the Tender Quick and use sea salt, you need to eat or freeze this within three days just as you’d need to eat anything made of ground meat in that time frame.
Frankly, it never lasts that long in our house. The instant my husband finds out that I’ve made another batch of homemade bologna, he heads for the freezer and pulls out hamburger buns so he can start making his favorite sandwiches. With a little red onion, a little mustard and some fresh lettuce, he’s on top of the world!
Equipment I Use To Make This: