Deviled Ham Sandwiches Are Over A Century Old

One of the easiest ways to use your leftover ham has origins that are over a century old. Homemade deviled ham sandwiches are usually made with ingredients such as those found in spicy deviled eggs, including mayonnaise, mustard, and some form of heat, like hot sauce or cayenne pepper. However, one of the oldest deviled ham recipes doesn't make for an extremely spicy dish. It comes from an 1893 cookbook titled "Beverages and Sandwiches for Your Husband's Friends" by One Who Knows. The original formula for deviled ham wasn't that devilish by modern standards. It involved finely chopped ham, egg yolks, lemon juice, black pepper, and dry mustard. However, it wasn't even the oldest form of the dish.

Deviled ham was made popular 25 years earlier when the William Underwood Company (known for its canned foods) began commercially producing it in 1868. By 1870, the company established the signature red devil logo that would become the oldest U.S. food trademark still in use today. Although other companies produce deviled ham, Underwood Deviled Ham remains popular as one of the longest-running prepackaged foods in history. Although the brand's iconic logo has changed since the 19th century (notably altering the demonic clawed figure to a smiling devil), the ingredients have stayed simple.

The evolution of deviled ham

Underwood Deviled Ham Spread contains deli ham cured with water, salt, brown sugar, and sodium nitrate and is seasoned with mustard flour, turmeric, and other unnamed spices that make it "deviled." The culinary term "deviling" refers to adding flavorful spices to a dish, a common practice dating back to the 18th century. Of course, what was once spicy to consumers of vintage deviled ham sandwiches probably doesn't match the current definition. Modern deviled ham sandwiches can be customized in thousands of ways, and most opt for additional spice. However, tradition is never far away. Whether served open-faced with a poached egg or mixed with chopped, hard-cooked eggs, some modern deviled ham sandwiches made with Underwood's spread seem to give subtle nods to the 1893 cookbook recipe.

Using Underwood Deviled Ham can make sandwiches especially salty (due to the curing agents), but that has not affected the brand's success. Underwood is now a part of B&G Foods, and its famous devil appears on other Underwood canned, non-deviled favorites. For some, deviled ham sandwiches are a staple party food. For others, they are a nostalgic childhood favorite known as deviled ham salad. No matter the name, ham lovers can agree that it's one of the most versatile spreads — even after 150 years.