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Corned Beef and Other Missing Lunch Meats

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So the other day, for no special reason, I was remembering the sliced corned beef we used to buy - not the fresh kind, but the sort that comes in cans. It came in packages from Oscar Mayer or whomever, and was delivered to meat counters in square-section long loaf cans, to be pushed out and sliced. I really started yearning for a sandwich of that, but all I could find were little cans for five bucks or more, whereas in my day it was poor people's food - it had to be or I'd never have gotten any!

Then I began remembering all the other sandwich meats, the chopped ham and pickle loaf that used to line the racks. Now it's bologna, salami and five different flavors of ham.

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  1. This is why I like the deli counter at one of my area's more upscale grocers: They Stock Olive Loaf. One of the less-often-seen, but wonderful, cold cuts. I do my part to keep up demand. Good stuff.

    I recall seeing pickle loaf years (years!) ago, but never now. I never got to try it then; it looks like something I'd love!

    24 Replies
    1. re: cayjohan

      I LOVE olive loaf. I remember always feeling like the odd one out when I enjoyed my olive loaf & american cheese with mayo sandwich!

      1. re: cayjohan

        Here the upscale grocer don't carry any of the 'interesting' meats. Just the boring and vile Boar's Head crap. BUT, the small IGA grocers carry many varieties and at much lower prices than the national and regional chains. They also carry the Boar's Head crap, but at $1-2 less per pound.

        1. re: bagelman01

          Interesting that you call Boar's Head 'crap'. In CA and NV, that brand is usually in the upscale markets only and, at least, double the price of Oscar Meyer.

          1. re: mucho gordo

            It has become the only name brand available at Stop and Shop. BH writes a contract with the chain that says a chain may display and carry the store brand and Boar's Head only. So all other brands are banished from sale (or have to be hidden in the back cooler. An exception is made for Kosher (Hebrew National, as there is no kosher store brand or kosher BH).
            BH is a jobber, they label mdse made by other producers. The quality is not good, it has the consistency and taste of a bar of soap.
            The consumer loses out in these deals. For example, you cannot buy Polish ham in the Stop and Shp deli any more. Krakus is banned, and neither Stop and Shop or BH markets a Polish Ham.
            I buy liverwurst for my eldest dog. Before BH moved in on S&S, they carried: Deutschmacher and Mother Goose at $4.99 lb and Hummel's from New Haven @ $3.99 lb. Now they only carry BH @$6.99 lb. No store brand is available. My dog doesn't need $7 liverwurst, so I buy the Deutschmacher at IGA.
            I like Munchee cheese, but it's not S7S or BH and was dropped. I convinced the local store manager to order in the kosher certified Munchee. The BH rep had a fit but I told him to go to hell, he can't stop the kosher product.

            The IGA operators carry their own stoire label, BH and Russer, Willowrook, Sara Lee, Butterball, Krakus, Sahlens and about 10 other brands. Much more to choose from and much better prices.

            1. re: bagelman01

              Obviously BH is in a position where they can dictate terms to the big market chains that are profitable to both.
              Like anything else, some of their products are good and others not so, like their skinless franks.

              1. re: mucho gordo

                mucho....
                you grew up here
                There are many great regional deli processors that make far superior products than BH. They are being frozen out opf the marketplace and the younger generation is growing up without experiencing any real flavors and textures.
                In Hamden on Washington St when you lived here they used to make Daw's Pastrami. Hummel still makes hot dogs in New Haven along with Bologna, Liverwurst, Pastrami, assorted hams.
                Roesslers is long gone. Karl Ehmer and Schick, old time German deli staples are now hard to find around the state except in Danbury.
                Luckily there are Polish and Hungarian Delis that carry sliced to order cold cuts and cheeses, as well as sausages from Europe and domestic suppliers that still have taste and texture (and cost much less than the BH crap).
                This phenomenom is not restricted to the general market. When we were young there were many brands of kosher deli available: Hebrew National (made in Queens and sold bulk, not packaged in the midwest by Conagra), Isaac Gellis, Empire National Morrison and Schiff, Best and many more. Now there's either plastic Hebrew National in few varieties and little flavor or poor quality Glatt such as Aarons or 999 by Alle in the Bronx.
                I pickle my own corned Beef and toungue, brine and smoke my own Pastrami. I haven't started making salami and hot dogs yet, but might be forced to, as the products available are flavorless and without texture.

                1. re: bagelman01

                  No question about it, BM. There are far better products but most of them remained local/regional and never made it to the national level.

                  1. re: bagelman01

                    bagelman, you just reminded me of another thing I noticed a couple of weeks ago, on a visit to Nashville: the last time we were there, in 2011, there were two or three well-known regional brands of "country," i.e. dry-cured and smoked, packaged bacon and ham in all the markets. This time, I could find only Harper country ham, and maybe Clifty Farms - I don't remember - and NO country bacon at all except for some generic packaged stuff at one neighborhood Bi-Rite. In place of all the old brands at each store was a case full of Smithfield products!

                    Of course there are still small independent producers selling dry-cured smoked hams and bacon by mail order and online, my favorite being Broadbent's in Kentucky, from whom I get a 4 to 5 pound uncut slab of excellent bacon for about $30, which includes shipping. But the disappearance of such products from Tennessee and Kentucky stores (yes, I looked up there too) in just two years is serious hell-in-a-handbasket stuff.

                2. re: bagelman01

                  Bagelman01: This just isn't true about Boars Head or Stop & Shop. Besides, if BH tried to do that it is textbook anti-trust. I'm not in the supermarket business, as you sound like you are, but I do know better than to tell my customer that if he wants one of my helicopters he better sign an agreement not to equip it with GE engines. I'd be canned and DOJ would be knocking on my door.

                  Besides, if you don't believe me, the proof is in the pudding. Come on up to the Simsbury S&S. Bought Krakus ham on sale there last week. If I liked the Deutschmacher bologna I could have bought that, or Russer deli etc.

                  And oh by the way, one of the local IGA (Geissler's) also sells BH along with a dozen other brands as you indicate. If BH was telling supermarkets how high to jump, a little guy like Geissler's wouldn't be able to stand up to them and sell anything but BH. But they do.

                  You may not like BH, or the stupid customers who buy their products, but if they are gaining share it is not because of anti-trust practices as you assert. It's because there are a lot more stupid customers like me than there are distinguished palates like yours.

                  1. re: Purduke

                    Absolutely. My wonderful grocery carries Boar's Head and quite a few other brands -- none of them "house" brands, because they don't have one.

                    As for the one poster's attaching the epithets "crap" and "vile" to Boar's Head: There's no accounting for taste. Or in this case, the lack thereof.

                    1. re: Purduke

                      The BH contracts for exclusive showcase space, allowing only S&S brand in the cases is NOT chain wide. In fact the local manager told me after my complaints that he arranged to bring back Deutschmacher Liverwurst, but it ust be kept in the walkin, not the showcase--just ask the deli clerks. It doesn't matter to me anymore, as My purchases wer for my mother's live in aide and mom moved to a nursing home last summer. Haven't spent 5 cents at Stop and Shop deli since. Even when the Trumbull store went under this contract, the Bridgeport stores (4 miles away) were not.

                      Unlike your helicopetr scenario, here Stop and Shop is selling BH exclusive (brand name) showcase space. Nothing illegal about it.
                      This is NOT an AntiTrust move....BTW I'm not in the supermarket business, I am an attorney.

                      And yes our area IGA stores carry Bh and Russer and many brands.

                  2. re: mucho gordo

                    True, and i've never been able to understand why.

                    1. re: EWSflash

                      Lots of reasons: content with what they have, logistics, capital, production capabilities just to name a few.

                  3. re: bagelman01

                    Thank you, bagelman, for calling out Boar's Head for being the boring and vile brand that it is. I never did like that crap.

                    1. re: EWSflash

                      I agree that Boar's Head products are generally the pits. I guess people just buy into the hype of their commercials. And BH is one of the reasons that Stop 'N Shop stores now by and large have the worst deli counters of any supermarket (at least here in NJ).

                      I still do some very minimal shopping at S&S because there is a store convenient to where I live, but never, ever buy deli meats there primarily because just about everything is that Boar's Head crap. I'd rather travel a few miles to a ShopRite store for better quality meats that aren't overpriced. The ShopRite outlets that carry the locally produced "World Class" brand of lunchmeats are my favorite.

                      1. re: The Professor

                        Here in southern New England 'World Class' is the house brand at Big Y Supermarkets. Shop-Rite house brand is Black Bear. Shaw's features Dietz and Watson.

                        Personally, I think they are all inferior quality.

                        1. re: bagelman01

                          ...I strongly disagree. But either way, all three are much better than Boar's Head.

                          Of course, your mileage may vary.
                          We all buy what we like...and we all have different tastes.

                      2. re: EWSflash

                        Boars Head is like Ben & Jerry's and McDonald's fries: mediocrity living on a very long half life of a formerly deserved reputation. They may not be what they were, but for most people it doesn't matter because the evolution was so gradual their sense memory has altered.

                    2. re: cayjohan

                      I, too, love olive loaf. Boar's Head is my favorite. The store brands here aren't as good. I limit myself to 3 or 4 slices when I buy it. No one else will eat it.

                      I'm from Ohio. When I was home the last time I went in search of Old Fashioned Loaf, and Dutch Loaf. These were regularly in my lunchbox when I was a kid. I went to several old, long established meat shops (not chain groceries) but the older butchers say they haven't seen those cold cuts for many years.

                      Does anyone else remember them?

                      1. re: nlgardener

                        Old Fashioned Loaf and Dutch Loaf are really the same thing, a spicy coarse ground pork (sometimes with beef mixed in) meatloaf sliced in the deli.
                        There are a number of purveyors from Pennsylvania who still make this product, and it is also sold under the Valu brand by Kroger

                        1. re: bagelman01

                          Thank you for the info - I will try Kroger when I'm home next time.

                          I can buy Krakus Polish ham at my Stop & Shop. I can also buy Mother Goose liverwurst, which is my favorite. I just prefer the quality of the BH olive loaf to the store brand. Higher ratio of olives to meat, as well...

                        2. re: nlgardener

                          Remember them? Hell, I grew up on them.

                          I'm midwest based and my local butchers carry dutch loaf, olive loaf and my adult favorite, jalepeno loaf.

                          Yum.

                          Liverwurst/Braunschweiger available all day long here.

                          I'm off to get a pound of jalepeno loaf along with fresh made Hungarian sausages soon.

                          Fried SPAM on wonder white bread with iceburg lettuce and mayo.
                          YUM x2.

                          Was a high school treat to me that would make most others gag.

                          Ha.

                          1. re: nlgardener

                            I like the Boar's Head olive loaf, too. I love the grand panoply of worldwide sausages and while many can be better than BH, I stick with it lately for their gluten-free products, as I am celiac and it's just plain nice to get something, reliably, that I both like and can eat.

                          2. re: cayjohan

                            I can get Thumanns olive loaf and head cheese at any super market here in NJ. I don't eat it often, but i like the fact that it is available when I want it.

                          3. You mean like this ?

                            http://qqyhk.m.ec21.com/mobile/produc...

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: LotusRapper

                              I kinda miss those too. They're easily found in stores around here, I don't buy 'em due to their very high sodium content.

                            2. I've seen advertisements in mid-century Life Magazines for some meat product called Treat. I'm sure somebody can enlighten me, and I'm afraid they will.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                'Treet' is poor man's Spam.

                                1. re: ricepad

                                  http://www.armour-star.com/prod_lunch...

                              2. I'm missing olive loaf, my absolute favorite. All the stores seem to have their own bad-tasting versions of it and it breaks my heart. Give me Oscar Mayer olive loaf or nothing.
                                I don't think i've ever seen the corned beef you speak of, though. Shopping at the wrong places?

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: EWSflash

                                  If you look in the canned meats section of most markets you'll see squat, tapered cans of corned beef - Hereford is a common brand. They're around 12-14 ounces, and run about $5-$7 per can. I know of no brand still available for deli counter sales.

                                  Another childhood favorite was called "chopped ham," simply chopped-up ham scraps cooked with a binder and then sliced. The texture was somewhere between the regular boiled ham and Spam. Like the corned beef and bologna, we had a lot of that because it was cheap.

                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                    I remember the cans of corned beef; growing up, my grandmother would slice it and fry it in a cast iron skillet with onions. I have shopping to do this weekend, I'm going to look for it.

                                    I had chopped ham or what we called spiced ham in my lunchbox in elementary school (in NY); mom only bought Wonderbread during those days so that's what I had it on, which was spread with Miracle Whip (grew up on that stuff and still like it). Sometimes, it was accompanied by a slice of Kraft cheese (food). I loved those sammiches!

                                    When I had my own kiddies, I bought it also, but by then, my taste in bread had become sophisticated...whole wheat! (lol) Now, I'm an empty nester and I rarely buy deli meats but you have me wanting to get a few slices spiced ham, if I can find it. Now, mom never bought olive loaf, but she did buy pickle loaf and head cheese. I also liked those. I now live in NC and unless I come up on a country store, deli counters don't stock those type of meats I used to eat in a sandwich back then. I have seen some of those packaged...Gwaltney is one brand. But I'm going to look around. Thanks for the memories!

                                    1. re: Will Owen

                                      Will, I don't know where you are located, but here in the greater Bridgeport, CT area if one goes into supermarkets (even branches of the largest regional chain-Stop and Shop) in poor neiighborhoods you will find chopped ham available in the deli for slicing and purchase by the pound or parts thereof.

                                      1. re: bagelman01

                                        I'm in SoCal, bagelman, and the closest we come to Eastern-style pig products is Taylor Pork Roll, sold here at Bristol Farms, and back in Nashville at Harris Teeter's. I did look at our nearby Food4Less, a downmarket Kroger affiliate, and while they have an encouraging variety of head cheese and cheap Hot Links, their packaged lunch meats are otherwise identical to what's in all the other stores.

                                      2. re: Will Owen

                                        I feel like I have seen canned corned beef at the 99 cent store or Dollar Tree. I won't swear to it, but I would check there.

                                        1. re: Jelly71

                                          I've seen some at 99ยข Only too, just never when I thought to buy it. There's also a brand or two at the Asian markets around the San Gabriel Valley that undercut the mainstream grocers by a dollar or two. What I need to remember is that $4/lb is cheap for BOLOGNA nowadays! And I think nothing of paying $12/lb for my favorite mortadella.

                                    2. When I was a kid, I was an enormous fan of...chicken roll! I don't think they make that anymore, either.

                                      Weirdo chopped and formed chicken paste concoction with the oddest texture, now that I think about it. Squishy.

                                      I actually spotted some a few years ago and got it for nostalgia's sake. Alas, the magic was gone.

                                      I drove my mother nuts since I would use easily 1/4 pound per sandwich. In my defense, it disappeared very easily between two slices of bread. Less than a mound and you wouldn't taste a thing!

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: Violatp

                                        Once Weaver stopped making it, I never found one that was edible, and haven't seen any at all since seeing it at MarketBasket in Mass in 2009.

                                        When we were kids my mother used to buy Turkey Roll for our sandwiches (50s and 60s) she didn't buy deli turkey breast until the 70s. Turkey roll also has disappeared

                                        1. re: Violatp

                                          I grew up with my school lunches of mock chicken loaf sandwiches ..... two pieces of Wonder bread around a single slice of this square, pink sliced extruded emulsion of some God-knows-what animal parts:

                                          http://mundaresausage.com/sausage/ima...

                                          The edge of the slice has this orange peel that my Mom never remembers to pull off first. And of course the sandwich spread was either French's yellow mustard (didn't like), Miracle Whip (better) or Kraft Sandwich Spread (best !). Slop compared to what I eat now, but funny how these foods of your childhood are memorable, even missed.

                                          1. re: LotusRapper

                                            Oh dear. The chicken roll I remember was at least sort of chicken (white meat) colored.

                                            1. re: Violatp

                                              Not this one ! :-O

                                              http://www.lafleur.com/en/products/de...

                                              I don't understand the point of making it "mock" with no chicken at all .....

                                              1. re: LotusRapper

                                                That is an epic list of ingredients! And yes, strange. If anything, it's sort of a meatloaf! Chicken is the only thing *not* in there.

                                        2. Out here in the West Grocery Outlet is my go-to place for
                                          weird lunchmeats and other delights.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: bbqboy

                                            They usually have canned corn beef at a good price too.

                                            1. re: BeefeaterRocks

                                              I'll have to look for it there. :)

                                          2. My favorite was Rolled Beef, in many jewish delis around Boston. Went looking for it a few years ago. Wa told that it used to be made i the deli, from remnants of Corned Beef and Pastrami. No longer available, I guess.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: trail 6

                                              Hebrew National made rolled beef for delis until the late 80s when they discontinued it. It was my favorite deli meat.

                                              I saw them make it in their procesing plant in Maspeth, Queens back in 1978. They cook corned beef,pastrami and shoulder pastrami trimmings pressed together, than rolled and netted and oven roasted. We always carried it in our kosher deli, but it was alwways served cold, never kept in a steam table as it would fall apart.

                                              In those days, HN pastrami and Corned Beef sold for 9.99 lb, rolled beef was 6.99

                                            2. I vaguely recall the canned meat you describe; I think my father made his own version of Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast with it. Also during childhood I'd spy the olive loaf in the deli case and wonder what it was like.

                                              We're lucky nowadays; New Britain, Connecticut is right nearby and is home to the Martin Rosol meat packing company. They make a divine veal loaf and other assorted deli meats and of course Kielbasa and hot dogs. I believe they also make olive loaf. The Polish delicatessens along Broad Street offer an astounding variety of hams, cold cuts and cheeses. I'm quite fond of a particular brand of Pepper Ham. And we can buy sauerkraut (with shredded carrots in it) from the barrel.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: shaogo

                                                Paul....
                                                In addition to New Britain, I particularly like Fils Polish Deli in Cromwell in the shopping center with the Habitat ReStore.
                                                They have great deli and cheeses, many imported dorect from poland. They make their own pierogoes and my 25 year old loves their meat variety.

                                              2. Many decades ago, when I was young, there used to be a limburger spread. I think it came in a jar you could recycle as a juice glass. I actually like it , as a cheese and as a spread. Nowadays you can't find limburger in any form.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Sharuf

                                                  Many supermarkets around here (in NJ) carry both Limburger and Liederkranz . Great stuff. Especially good when it fully ripens (I buy them as close as possible to the "sell-by" date and enjoy them for a month or two afterwards.

                                                2. I remember that canned corned beef. We used to take it on long car camping trips, chop and fry with potatoes and onions for hash. I still make it but with leftover fresh corned beef.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: tcamp

                                                    I don't believe those are the same cans to which the OP was referring.