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.
In fact, homemade bologna more closely resembles salami, or even summer sausage, than those floppy and flavorless slices that come from the store. 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 swap 1 1/2 tablespoons of Tender Quick for the sea salt.)
How To Emulsify Meat For Homemade Bologna
To properly emulsify meat for homemade bologna (and many other homemade meat products), you need a meat grinder or food processor. 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. Keep the meat very cold through this process, putting it in the freezer between grinds while you change the discs.
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. Push the meat through using the slicing blade first, then the largest grating holes, and finally the smallest. Again, be sure to transfer your meat to the freezer for a few minutes between grinds.
Whether you use the grinder or the food processor, be sure to chill the meat for 10-20 minutes before proceeding to the next step. This will keep the fat in the meat from pooling, so the final result will be smoother, and also reduces the chance for harmful bacteria to grow. 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.
Honestly, though, 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 to take to work. 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:
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