Homemade Bologna - The old-fashioned kind your grandpa lovedPin

Old-Fashioned Homemade Bologna Recipe

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Years ago, my late father-in-law mentioned eating homemade bologna on crackers. He was reminiscing at the time but it stuck with me: I had no idea you could make bologna at home. So, naturally, I had to figure out how to do it.

So, I visited several Amish farms in our area. I scoured vintage cookbooks. I pestered our local farmers and a couple of butchers, too. Then I compiled several different recipes and tested variations until my family said they could not possibly eat one more homemade bologna sample.

And that was fine, because I’d struck gold with this recipe. When I gave him a plate of it on saltine crackers, as he’d mentioned, my father-in-law practically swooned. He’s been gone for years now, but I think of him every time I make bologna at home.

Homemade Bologna is Different

This Homemade Bologna Recipe shows how radically food manufacturers have changed our taste expectations. That greasy, mushy pink stuff we’ve all eaten between slices of flat white bread? That’s nothing like bologna used to be. Now you can enjoy it, too, with none of the guilt for eating the fatty, flavorless stuff from the store.

Emulsifying is a MUST

Unlike the floppy pink slices from the store, old-fashioned 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. The main difference is that homemade bologna is meaty.

That meatiness turned me off the first time because it seemed more like a burger than the smooth stuff of my childhood. A little research revealed the problem: I didn’t know to emulsify the meat by adding ice water before shaping and cooking it. That step has made a world of difference in the texture of my homemade bologna recipe.

Did You Know?

Did you know that in the United States, bologna is often made from a mixture of pork and beef, but in Europe, it’s traditionally made from pure pork?

Keep Things Chilled Throughout

Once you’ve combined the meat and ice water, transfer the bowl to the freezer. This allows the meat to firm back up before shaping and it’s essential for food safety. Ten minutes should do it.

A Tip on Tender Quick

Tender Quick is an ingredient used to cure or preserve meat. It also draws out excess moisture, which helps concentrate the texture as well as the flavor.

If you skip it, the protein fibers won’t shrink together in the curing process and you’ll wind up with something closer to meatloaf. Also, the flavor won’t be as intense, so you might want to double the garlic and onion powder.

Wrap and Secure It

After chilling the emulsified mixture, take half of the meat out and shape it into a log. Do not stuff it into casings—this is bologna, not sausage. The fats are supposed to drip out as it cooks.

Overnight Rest to Meld Flavors

Wrap the logs tightly with plastic wrap and use a twist-tie to keep the ends shut, so the log maintains its shape. Transfer the logs to the refrigerator to chill and rest for 24 hours. This gives the Tender Quick time to work.

Cook on a Rack

Unwrap and cook the loaves of homemade bologna in the oven on a rack propped over a rimmed baking sheet, so excess fat can drip out.

Why The Cooking Temperature Changes

The initial cooking time of 30 minutes at 300°F dries the exterior and helps the bologna maintain its shape. The rest of the cooking at 250°F for 2 1/2 hours cooks it all the way through, which is vital to food safety.

The result? A smooth yet meaty homemade bologna with a hint of smoky garlic flavor that’s perfect on homemade hamburger buns or with cheese and crackers.

Pro Tip

When serving, pair bologna with sharp, strong flavors like pickles, mustard, or aged cheese to balance its mild, meaty taste.

Storage

If you skip the Tender Quick, you need to eat or freeze this homemade bologna within three days. With the Tender Quick, which acts as a curing preservative, it’ll stay good for at least a month in the refrigerator.

Homemade Bologna - The old-fashioned kind your grandpa loved

Old-Fashioned Homemade Bologna

Old world-style bologna with a hint of smoky garlic flavor. Excellent on sandwiches, or served with cheese and crackers.
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 3 hours
Chilling Time: 1 day
Total Time: 1 day 4 hours
Servings: 32 servings
Calories: 110kcal
Author: Katie Berry
Course: Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: beef, freezes well, keto, low-carb

Equipment

  • Food processor OR stand mixer
  • Plastic wrap and twist ties
  • Baking Rack
  • Rimmed baking sheet

Ingredients 

  • 3 pounds ground beef no leaner than 80/20
  • 1 cup water ice cold
  • 1.5 teaspoon Morton's Tender Quick OR 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon all-natural liquid smoke flavor
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder May increase to 1 teaspoon if not using Tender Quick
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder May increase to 1 teaspoon if not using Tender Quick

Instructions

  • In the bowl of a food processor or stand mixer, combine all of the ingredients until smooth. Transfer the bowl to the freezer for 10 minutes before proceeding.
  • Remove the bowl of meat from the freezer and divide the mixture in half. Using damp hands, form each half into a log. Compress it tightly as you work. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and use twist-ties to secure the ends tightly. Refrigerate flat for 24 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 300° F / 150° C / gas mark 2.
  • Remove plastic wrap from meat and carefully transfer both logs to a baking rack propped over a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, turning halfway through.
  • Reduce heat to 250° F / 125° C / gas mark 1 and cook an additional 2 to 2½ hours to an internal temperature of 160° F. Remove from oven and allow to cool  completely. Refrigerate up to 3 days. May be frozen for longer storage.

Notes

For easiest slicing, chill the cooked bologna for 20 minutes and use a sharp, non-serrated knife.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 110kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 30mg | Sodium: 113mg | Potassium: 115mg | Sugar: 1g | Calcium: 8mg | Iron: 1mg
Did you try this?Leave a comment and tell me how it went!

Now try my homemade cottage cheese recipe!

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49 Comments

  1. I never did like the store bought bologna that would always be in my lunch as a child. This seems like a time consuming recipe, but one I would like to try still. I’m so curious to know how real bologna tastes! Lol.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      It does take a bit of time, but it’s fun and it makes really yummy sandwiches.

    2. Danie Munzert-Wilder says:

      Hi there, glad i found your pin, however I’m looking to preserve longer. How would I do that? I make other deli meats and i water-bath them in jars, next in boily bags inside a can, to keep shape. Can I just store in vacuum bags in fridge or freezer?
      Thank you😊

    3. Katie Berry says:

      I haven’t tried water-bath canning this. But, as it states, if you skip the TenderQuick, eat it within 3 days or freeze it. If you use TenderQuick, it will stay good in the fridge for at least a month and you can freeze it for longer.

    4. Richard M says:

      2 stars
      Except that neither liquid smoke nor tender quick are really old fashioned ingredients. At least not to the time when balogna was typically made at home. I would like an authentic traditional recipe for balogna if you find one.

    5. Katie Berry says:

      Liquid Smoke has been around since 1865 and Tender Quick is simply a premeasured combination of salt, sodium nitrate, and sugar — which have all been used to cure meats for a few centuries. So exactly how old do you believe things need to be to be considered “old-fashioned”?

  2. Charlene@A Pinch of Joy says:

    My mother in law used to make summer sausage using this same process. It is sooo much better (and healthier) than store bought. This sounds really good and would be so easy to make starting with 3 lbs of meat! Thanks for sharing on Busy Monday!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      You’re welcome! If your mother-in-law would be willing to share her summer sausage recipe, I have a husband who absolutely loves that stuff!

  3. Dave Van De Cappelle says:

    I would omit the liquid smoke and put the sausage in my smoker. I would also use the sea salt, but also the amount needed for the amount meat, of curing pink salt.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      That sounds fun, Dave. I’ve been waiting for Spring to fire up our smoker. What flavor of wood chip would you recommend?

    2. Dave Van De Cappelle says:

      i use a standard mix of about 60 to 70% Apple, the rest is Hickory, for a good smoke flavour on everything. And waiting fro Spring????? I do mine all winter long, even with 4 feet of snow in the back yard! I keep my smoker in my shed, at the back of the property and keep the route to it shoveled out all winter. I BBQ and Smoke most every weekend, all year long.

    3. Katie Berry says:

      Alas, no shed here. My mean little homeowner’s association ruins all my fun! So I’m relegated to using a Weber smoker on the deck and, well, I’m a wimp so I wait until it’s warm outside.

      Thanks for the suggestion on the wood mix. I happen to have some hog casings in the fridge and think I’ll give them a try!

    4. 5 stars
      Can curing salt be used instead tender quick?

    5. Katie Berry says:

      I’ve never tried using it in this recipe, so I can’t really answer your question.

  4. 5 stars
    I am so glad I found your recipe. It was delicious and I received many compliments. I only changed one thing and that was cutting down on the liquid smoke just a little. I smoked the two chubs on my Traeger 300 for 30 Minute’s then 250 for about two hours. It was perfect and so juicy. This is a keeper recipe. Thanks for sharing.
    Next time I may add some red pepper flakes. Yumm.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Glad you enjoyed it, Andrea! Your addition of red pepper flakes sounds like a fantastic idea — I may try that next time, too!

    2. Mike Allen says:

      We just made this and the only thing we changed with the process was we placed the meat in casings.
      My dad and I have made hundreds of pounds of summer sausage so we are very familiar with how to do it.
      The problem we had was that while we were cooking it we had a large amount of fat tender out them, we dumped the baking sheet 4 times and today when we went to vacuum seal them they were covered with fat and to scrape it off.
      Have you ever experienced something like this?
      Thanks

    3. Katie Berry says:

      Mike, I’m sorry that happened for you. That’s why I don’t put them in casings as you do with sausage, because the casings keep them from completely rendering and baking down to form a bologna.

  5. 5 stars
    I’ve got this in the fridge now for cooking tomorrow. So simple! I cannot wait to cook it and try it. My boys are already salivating for it!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Doesn’t it smell amazing?

  6. 5 stars
    Just took this out of the oven and it is delicious!!
    Going in the recipe book for sure!
    Can’t wait to fry some up later to get a nice crispy edge and have it on a sandwich!
    Thanks!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I am so glad you enjoyed it! Fried on a sandwich sounds delicious.

  7. Good base recipe. We thought it definitely needed more salt and a little bit more of a “kick”. I will add 1 1/2 T. of the salt next time and add some pepper and maybe double the spices. Also, when the meat and water are in the mixer, I beat it on high for around 8 minutes and the texture seemed right to us. Thank you!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Thanks for sharing your tip on the time needed for mixing it! Glad you were able to tailor it to your tastes. 🙂

  8. Tammie Johnson says:

    I am on a very low sodium diet and I miss my bologna sandwiches. Can I use potassium chloride instead of the salt and nitrites?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Tammie,
      Unfortunately, substitution isn’t safe in this recipe since the salt and nitrites act as preservatives.

  9. cheryl welch says:

    5 stars
    I made this and it’s wonderful!
    I made it with 81% ground beef and then canned it in wide-mouth pints for 90 minutes.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’m so glad you liked it, Cheryl! Canning it sounds like a fantastic idea. Enjoy!

  10. 4 stars
    I can’t find the internal temperature anywhere in recipe or comments. Can anyone help? Thanks in advance.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Lyn,
      Ground beef products like this homemade bologna recipe should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 160. The times provided in the recipe will get you there. Enjoy!

      Katie

  11. I am excited to try this—smoking it shall be for the first batch! Does the fat content of the meat factor in much? I

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Unfortunately, it does. The fat keeps it from drying out too much during the long cooking process and is essential for emulsifying.

  12. What would you say if I wanted to add some peppercorns to the recipe. I too, would smoke in my Traeger.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I could see doing that, making it more like salami than bologna. Let me know how it turns out!

    2. Some folks roll the bologna rollin pepper.

  13. Gary Winter says:

    Could you use a combination of pork and beef?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I haven’t tried it using pork. If you do, let me know how it turns out!

    2. I had that same question.

  14. Margaret Gagnon says:

    5 stars
    We have started to add 1 # of ground pork and 2 #”s of 80% burger& black pepper and really enjoy eating it made this way.

    1. That sounds good.

    2. Katie Berry says:

      It does sound good, doesn’t it? I’ve had to stop eating pork due to an allergy, but please let me know how it turns out if you try it!

  15. Margaret Gagnon says:

    Gary,I have always added 1 # of ground pork and black pepper to this and we like it better this way.

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