Meat in Tube Form

By ROB BREEDING for the Flathead Beacon

It’s said that an 18th century English lord, the Earl of Sandwich, stuck some meat between two slices of bread so he could eat while continuing to play cards. Hence, the sandwich was born. I stumbled on a photo of maybe the most epic sandwich ever recently: the Old School Fried Bologna sandwich made at a joint called the B Spot in Cleveland. This sandwich was transgressive, featuring an artery-clogging slab of bologna nearly an inch thick.

A friend said just looking at the photo made him feel a heart attack was eminent.

You may dismiss fried bologna as unworthy Honey Boo Boo haute cuisine. If so, I’m sorry for your lack of culinary sophistication. Done right, fried bologna may be the most fun a dude can have between two slices of bread.

Mom made my brothers and I fried bologna sandwiches on camping trips. This was old school fried bologna, on soft, Wonder-like “bread,” with a thick smear of mayo. The bologna was slit around the edges so it wouldn’t curl up in the skillet. Some argue classic fried bologna requires Miracle Whip, but we weren’t that kind of family.

OliveMortadella

Mortadella

Bologna gets a bad rap, probably because there’s so much lousy product crowding the deli sections of American grocery stores. But made well, it’s a fine sausage with its roots in Germany and Austria, that Bavarian Mecca of tube meat. I’m also partial to Mortadella, the Italian variety made with olives and pistachios.

Sausage is the perfect vehicle for dealing with scraps and hard-to-cook parts of wild game. In my elk hunting days my daughters used to race through the 10 or so pounds of breakfast sausage I’d have the processor grind up, usually by Christmas.

I’ve used elk, deer and pheasant to make sausage, with mixed results. My processor did a better job, except for the time he added chili flakes to the breakfast sausage. The kids weren’t too pleased about that.

I’m told the adventurous sometimes grind fish and stuff it into a tube, but that’s a rubicon I’m hesitant to cross.

Wild game lacks one component essential to sausage: fat. Good sausage can be as much as 50 percent fat (which is why you should eat oatmeal for breakfast). You’ll never get that ratio out of game meat, but you can add beef or pork fat to fill the deficit. This can mask the wild flavor of the meat, but in the case of a rank old bull I once killed in Arizona, that turned out to be a good thing.

photo courtesy of I Believe I can Fry via Flickr

Fried Bologna Sandwich at Michael Symon’s B-Spot Burgers in Woodmere, OH. Photo courtesy of I Believe I can Fry viaFlickr.

Pig is my preferred sausage protein. There are no wild boar in Montana, but some time ago wild pigs became the most hunted big game animal in California. I’m not talking barnyard pigs here. These are the feral progeny of escaped domestic pigs and introduced wild boar. A Central California coastal pig hunt may not match the challenge of trophy elk in the Rockies, but it’s not enclosure shooting either.

More importantly, kill a pig that has fattened up on acorn mast and you’ve got the foundation for some fine sausage.

Bologna is a type of emulsified sausage. Professionals make it with something called a buffalo chopper. Imagine an industrial appliance with a spinning blade something like a boat propeller, rendering chunks of meat, fat and seasonings into a fine paste. This isn’t the sort of tool most folks have in their kitchen. You could make your own emulsified sausage in a food processor, but you may smoke the motor.

So do as I do: Buy your bologna from the deli counter and have the clerk cut it nice and thick. And by thick I mean about an eighth of an inch. While its frying up, put a thin skim of mayo on some hardy wheat bread. Top the crisped bologna with sautéed onions, dijon mustard and pickles. If you really want to go uptown, pile on some arugula lightly dressed with olive oil and vinegar.

Add cold beer and a good sporting event on the television and you’ve found Nirvana. Repeat only occasionally because my friend is right, fried bologna is basically a heart attack in a convenient, easy to hold package.

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