What Is Deviled Ham?

For my birthday two years ago, Sporked’s Jordan Myrick took me on a deviled egg tour of Los Angeles. The truest of friends, Jordan knew of my love of deviled eggs—I often make them for parties—and for my appreciation of The Devil just as a guy in general. But if they had come to me and said, “We’re going on a deviled ham tour of Los Angeles,” I would be a little skeptical. Does deviled ham really have as much to offer as their egg counterpart? Let’s find out more about deviled ham. 

What is deviled ham?

First, let’s understand why it is called deviled ham. The word “deviled” came into prominence in 1700s England, a time when probably the spiciest thing on menus was a radish. 

This blanket term was used to describe any food that had been seasoned with hot spices or condiments, evoking the eternal flames of damnation. For many puritanical Anglicans, this flirtation with Satan was about as wild as they could get.

Deviled ham is a cousin to ham salad, a Southeast American tradition that is a creative use for leftover ham. Often finely diced and mixed with mayonnaise, relish, and chopped vegetables, ham salad is a lot like other mayo-based salads, such as pasta salad, potato salad, and tuna salad. Deviled ham has the finely diced or minced quality, but eschews the mayo for spices.

Perhaps the thing deviled ham is known for most, though, is being sold in a can. The William Underwood Company began selling canned deviled ham in 1868. The next time you are in your grocery’s canned meat and fish section, take notice of the white-labeled can with the bright red devil on it. That’s Underwood.

Unlike deviled ham’s canned meat brother, Spam, which is a solid meat brick, deviled ham has a consistency closer to pâté.

What is deviled ham made of?

The base for any deviled ham, whether homemade or from a can, is ground cured ham. The next step is to spice it up. Underwood deviled ham keeps the ingredient list really simple: ham, mustard flour, turmeric, and spices are all that’s listed on their label.

If you’re making deviled ham at home, that spices category can include a whole list of things: cayenne pepper, paprika, mustard powder, cumin, Old Bay seasoning, spicy brown or Dijon mustard, hot sauce, and even chopped up chilis. Much like on Arrakis, the spice must flow.

How do you eat deviled ham?

Because of its pâté-like consistency, deviled ham is easily spreadable, so it goes great on crackers or in a sandwich. And, unlike canned tuna fish or canned chicken, which usually require some added ingredients to make them palatable, you can eat deviled ham right out of the can.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t also fancy up canned deviled ham. Using it as a base, you can add mayo, relish, and chopped onions or celery to make a deviled ham salad. Or, why not mix deviled ham with a deviled egg mixture to make Double Hell Deviled Eggs? Actually, that’s a good idea, don’t steal it from me! Patent pending!

About the Author

Luke Field

Luke Field is a writer and actor originally from Philadelphia. He was the former Head Writer of branded content at CollegeHumor and was also a contributing writer and actor to the CollegeHumor Originals cast. He has extensive improv and sketch stage experience, performing both at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and with their Touring Company. In addition to writing, he also works as a Story Producer, most recently on season 4 of Accident, Suicide, or Murder on Oxygen. Keep your eyes peeled for his brief but impactful appearance as Kevin, the screaming security guard, in the upcoming feature The Disruptors, directed by Adam Frucci.

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