Day 19: Spam-off – House-made Spam vs. Spam

29 Jan

At left, House-made Spam, At right, Spam from a can

Sadly, the Monty Python spam sketch had not yet been made in the 1940s (for the lyrics to the Spam song, click here). But as Brit Jean Parnell recalls in this History Channel clip of her childhood in Dorset during the war, “US forces training in England,” American GIs stationed in the UK frequently gave Brits, among other things, Spam! So when I came across this article from my old haunt,, I decided to give the spam recipe a whirl and do a comparison. I’ve adapted the recipe a little from Chef Sawako Okochi of the Hawaiian restaurant Lani Kai in New York.

House-made Spam from Chef Sawako Okochi, Lani Kai restaurant, New York, NY via

Adapted from recipe

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup thinly sliced shallots
3 tablespoons minced garlic
2 ounces brandy
1 ounce sugar
2¼ ounces salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pinch ground coriander
1 pinch smoked paprika
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 clove, crushed to a fine powder
1 pinch fennel seeds
2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 pound ham, cut into 2-inch cubes
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons potato starch

Heat vegetable oil in a pan, sweat the shallots and garlic, and deglaze with 1.5 ounces of brandy. Cool. Combine the sugar, salt, pepper, corianer, paprika, cayenne pepper, clove and fennel seeds. Combine the pork and ham cubes in a large bowl. Sprinkle the spice-sugar-salt mixture over the pork mixture. In a meat grinder, grind the pork and ham through a large dye. Combine half of the ground mixture with the shallot-brandy mixture, and grind though a small dye. Put the ground meat mixture in the fridge.

Whisk together heavy cream, eggs, potato starch, and 0.5 ounces brandy. Transfer the ground meat to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Turn on the mixer, and slowly incorporate the cream mixture. When all the cream is incorporated, take a small amount of the meat, wrap it in a plastic wrap, and poach in simmering water. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Put the mixture in a plastic wrap-lined terrine mold, and cover with plastic wrap. Put another terrine mold on top of the meat, filled with 3 pounds of weight. Press overnight in a refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Remove the weight and cover the terrine with foil. Cook in a bain-marie for about 2 hours, until the center reaches 147ºF. Put the weighted terrine mold back on the cooked spam, and press overnight in the refrigerator. Wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated, the spam will last for a few weeks.

The recipe uses ham and pork shoulder, just like spam, but it contains some spices, cream and egg, which make it a lot more perishable than the real thing. It’s also a coarser ground than Spam, which is more of a mousseline texture than the country texture of the house-made one. The meat jelly that develops when the terrine is cooked means it stays nice and moist when grilled.

In the 1930s, spam, the canned meat product, was born at the American Hormel company. Its name was a shortened version of “spiced ham” – spam. Even though it wasn’t developed to be a non-perishable, highly transportable meat product for the war, those features made it ideal, since in times of food shortage and limited supplies of fresh meat, it made a good stand-in protein source.

Image courtesy of America in WW


Nearly everyone who lived through the war has a spam story (great Margaret Thatcher spam story at that link). It leaked into UK recipes during the war. This might be because after the Lend Lease act of 1941 in the US, America assisted the Allied forces by supplying, amongst other things, foodstuffs. One of those foods was spam. Today it’s still hugely popular in Hawaii, and is served there in all sorts of recipes, including a sort of spam sushi. Shudder.

I haven’t seen it in the UK before. Do share any spam stories in the comments!

At left, grilled house-made spam, at right, grilled spam



2 Responses to “Day 19: Spam-off – House-made Spam vs. Spam”

  1. SeanMike January 29, 2012 at 1:40 am #

    Well – what did the taste test say?!

  2. Amanda January 29, 2012 at 4:13 am #

    I’ve had a Hawaiian fix me spam-fried rice, using the special spam. Hormel makes a Tabasco spam that, if I remember correctly, was for a while only available in the Philippines and in Hawaii. It was fine, though I don’t think it’s likely to be better than [insert other thing]-fried rice.

    Mocking spam became taboo in my family after my dad revealed he ate it, sometimes more often than other meat-based proteins, growing up in Florida in the 1960s and 70s.

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