One of the most beloved foods my mom ate during her trips to visit her grandmother in Salona, Pennsylvania was hot ring bologna.
Every nook and cranny in this world has its version of a salty, cured and freaky-good processed meat product. This one, pictured below, is what you’ll find in gas stations, butcher shops, and mom and pop shops across Western Pennsylvania. Unless you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you’d be a clown not to try it.
I’m a vocal fan of processed meats. Hot dogs, Spam, Slim Jims, really – any meat in a can or a forced into an unnatural round or square shape will do it for me.
Not that I don’t love real-deal proteins, like a just-arrived-from-New-Zealand, gore-y rack of lamb. That undeniably delicious – read: salty & fatty flavor – and my total ambivalence over what part of the animal I’m eating inevitably draws me to tubular shaped foods like ring bologna.
I asked her how she ate this – imagining a very specific cooking process, or maybe a go-to sandwich on a very specific bun with very specific toppings. It turns out, they just ate it. They’d cut it into pieces and eat it cold. It’s cooked & cured to hell and back, so there’s no need to complicate things.
But I like to complicate things. I wanted to get it sizzly, and render some of that fat, and serve it family-style right out of the pan for swift ingestion. So that’s what I did. Topped with local Chow Chow, which is a spicy, pickled garden vegetable medley you’ll find in Centre County where my family hails from, I can’t think of a dish that sums up eating in that part of the country better. Serve it with a German-inspired whole grain mustard sauce with two ingredients – mustard & some sour cream, for an added Oktoberfest vibe.
Eat a whoopie pie afterward, and you’re really indulging like a Western Pennsylvania native.
Too bad for us because I’d, predictably, already eaten all the whoopie pies.
I N G R E D I E N T S
Serves 2 – 3 as an appetizer.
– 1 hot ring bologna, brand of your choosing
– 4 – 6 tablespoons Chow Chow, brand of your choosing
– 1 / 4 cup whole grain mustard
– 1 / 4 cup sour cream
D I R E C T I O N S
1. Combine the whole grain mustard and sour cream. Set aside.
2. Cut the ring bologna into 1 / 2 inch slices, on the diagonal. Remove the outer casing.
3. Heat a skillet on high, add the bologna, and render the fat in the skillet, cooking on medium-high for 8 minutes or so.
4. Remove from the heat, top with the Chow Chow, and serve alongside the mustard sauce, or pour dollops on top of the bologna and Chow Chow. Serve hot.