Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Fried Balogna (Baloney) Sandwiches

Fried-baloney

Photo by Waxmop, Public Domain via Wikimedia

What could be more working class Youngstown than fried balogna sandwiches? It is the essence of simplicity on a budget. It packs a lot of calories (not necessarily healthy ones) in a compact package. All it takes is a skillet, a little bit of cooking oil, balogna slices, good old American processed cheese slices, white bread, and some mustard. Sure, you can get a lot fancier. You can substitute buns, different condiments, and so forth. I’ve seen recipes with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pepper slices, mayonnaise, pickles, pickle relish–even potato chips. You can add a fried egg, kind of the poor man’s sausage egg sandwich! My favorite sandwich topping is mustard, pickle relish, and dabs of sriracha sauce. But I digress…we didn’t grow up with sriracha sauce! Or you can keep it simple.

A few tips I’ve picked up. Frying the balogna on both sides twice gives a nice crunchy edge. You may want to add some seasoning (your favorite) and/or pepper to bring out the flavor. Slicing the balogna from the edge toward the center helps prevent the “pucker” you see in the picture above so that it fries more evenly. I like the bread toasted which seems a complement to the fried balogna. Good old fashioned yellow mustard seems the most authentic but I’d go with your favorite condiment–or skip it altogether and enjoy that fried taste of the balogna–so much richer than out of the package. You can melt the cheese on a slice for the last 5 seconds–more and you have a mess–or you can just put it on afterwards. Fried balogna sandwiches are the epitome of freedom and simplicity.

It’s funny how we delighted in such simple things. I loved when dad would make fried balogna sandwiches. I suspect mom did too, because it was a break from cooking. First the kitchen smelled heavenly, then the sandwich took you there. I suspect there was a time when you could feed a family of four for a buck–and we loved it.

It was not the stuff of a steady diet. But for a Saturday lunch or Sunday evening light meal–a weekend treat–it was perfect.

I suspect you have lots of memories (hopefully good ones) of fried balogna sandwiches. I’d love to hear them. How did you make them? And do you still?

Thinking about this post has had me eyeing that pack of balogna in the fridge all day…

7 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Fried Balogna (Baloney) Sandwiches

  1. My husband and I still eat fried bologna–not on a regular basis, but it’s a real treat a couple times a year. I agree with what you said about it being one of life’s simple pleasures.
    I haven’t always done it this way, but here’s how we do it now. I saute sliced onions–a lot of them–in butter first. While they’re cooking, I cut the bologna in bite-sized pieces. When the onions are starting to soften, I fry the bologna in the same pan, moving the onions on top of them. I flip the bologna/stir the mix several times during the rest of the cooking process so at least some of the meat is brown and crispy and all of it is flavored with butter and onion–oh, my mouth is watering–must buy some bologna!
    My husband eats it on toasted bread with a slice of tomato, if we have them fresh in the garden–he uses ketchup if it’s not tomato season. I prefer to eat my fried bologna and onions with a fork rather than on a sandwich.
    Thanks a lot Bob. Now I know what I’m having for lunch. Must make a run to the grocery store first, though…

  2. Still one of my favorite sandwiches and made just as you describe but substituting cheddar slices for American cheese. I live in Lexington, Ky now and it’s a staple at one of our favorite restaurants. No may or tomatoes for me. My Dad used to make a wonderful open faced sandwich on sliced Italian bread. He would put some butter in a frying pan, and slowly add white Vermont extra sharp cheddar. He swirled it around until it was melted and pourable. He poured in on the bread and shook black pepper and salt on top. You had to eat itmhotmor it would get cold and solidify. What a great memory on those Sunday evening when someone didn’t run out for pizza on Southern Boulevard. This one is harder because I’ve never gotten it right and it’s too late to watch him make them. 🙁

  3. Bob and I still enjoy fried Balogna sandwiches. I cut the Balogna so it lays flat in the pan and we have it with mayonnaise on some great bread. YUMMY!!!
    Thanks for the memories.
    Maria Vince Yane

  4. Fried Balogna sandwiches or just fried Balogna was brain child of the local Meat Market proprietor who did not want to waste the heel which was on both ends of the tube of Balogna. Because of the recession periods, most people would buy the cheapest of lunch meats and there were a lot of Balogna Heels left over because of the poor economic times. Not to waste the meat since it was still good, the butcher would clean the tube shins off the heels and sell the Balogna heels at half price or just give it away. The housewives would take the heels and slice or dice them into small pieces and fried it together with vegetables which became the family’s meal. When the economy got better and the taste of fried Balogna, the housewives start using the sliced Balogna for fried Balogna sandwiches.

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