August 07, 2021

HERITAGE RECIPE: Barbecued Beef (a.k.a. Sloppy Joes)

When I chose this recipe from the heritage book, I had no idea what a surprise I was in for (not about the recipe, but about the person who submitted it).

Hopefully it's not too hard to follow...

This recipe for Barbecued Beef (a.k.a. Sloppy Joe's) was submitted to the Rockwood, Michigan Area Historical Society by Jeanette Laura.

I've heard the name before, but there are a lot of Lauras in Rockwood (which is where I lived until I was 15 years old) so I wasn't sure. I asked my mom and she explained that it was my "Aunt" Vickie's mom. (Vickie was my mom's best friend when they were growing up, and I always called her "Aunt Vickie" because they were very close.)

Anyway, Vickie's mom is Jeanette (who just turned 97 years old!) and Jeanette was married to Emerson. This is where it gets interesting... Emerson actually built their home in Rockwood (where they had nine children!) Annnnd, years later, when my parents were ready to buy their first home, that was the house they bought!

So, the house that I lived in from the time I was born until I was 15 was built by Emerson, who was the husband of the woman whose recipe this is. Hopefully that's not too confusing--but isn't that a cool coincidence?!

Jeanette's recipe included a note that said: "Sloppy Joes get served around here often, especially at Dad's poker parties. I just put it in a crock-pot after it's done and let the men help themselves."

I'd never heard of sloppy joes being referred to as barbecued beef, but she listed both names in her recipe. I've always loved sloppy joes but I preferred the Manwich version rather than the few homemade recipes I'd tried. Still, I wanted to give this one a go.

I'm so glad I did! I won't be using Manwich again--this recipe was too good (and super easy). I made homemade hamburger buns to use with it (another heritage recipe--I'll post that another time). If you like sloppy joes, definitely give this recipe a try!

As always, I am typing out the recipe exactly as written in the heritage book and I made it without substituting ingredients or modifying the recipe. The printer-friendly version is rewritten with any clarifications by me.

Here is a printer-friendly version!

Barbecued Beef (Sloppy Joes)

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 c. chopped onions
1/2 c. chopped celery
1/4 c. minced green pepper
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 c. catsup
1/4 c. water
1 tsp. vinegar
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Brown meat and drain excess fat. Add onion, celery, green pepper, salt, pepper and brown sugar. Cover and simmer slowly about 20 minutes. Combine catsup, water, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce, then add to meat mixture. Cook for an additional 20 minutes. Serve on hamburger buns.

My Notes:

This recipe was super straight-forward and I didn't question anything. It seemed like it would make such a small amount, though, so I wondered if it would be enough to feed five people (Eli had a friend over). Sloppy Joes are a great way to stretch a small amount of meat--with the homemade buns, they were super hearty. I think we even had enough meat left over for another sandwich.

To get specific, I used 80/20 ground beef; I doubt it matters, though. Also, 'catsup' is the same as ketchup--no difference in the product, just in the name.

When I've made homemade sloppy joes before, they were always watery for some reason. This recipe was the perfect texture.

I'm not a fan of celery and I usually leave it out of recipes that call for it (I don't like the texture). Since I don't modify the heritage recipes, I included it. I can honestly say that I didn't even notice it there--I chopped it small, but it mixed in with everything really well. And I'm assuming that it contributed to the overall flavor, so I would include it again.

I can see why Jeanette liked to serve this at the poker parties; it would be so easy to cook ahead of time and then throw it in a crock pot.

The whole family really loved these! We all agreed that we would like to have it again. (And it was fun learning that this recipe was served frequently in the house I grew up in, long before I was born!)


  1. what a fun story behind the recipe. i am really loving your heritage recipe series! i have a sloppy joe recipe that is a family favorite that uses tomato soup and i can my own tomato soup and use that. I look forward to the bun recipe as i love to bake bread.

  2. I really love this series! I like the stories behind the recipes the most. It is so fun to hear about the connections.
    This recipe is almost identical to my Grandma Georgia's Sloppy Joe recipe. Her recipe doesn't call for green peppers. :)


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