ST. JOHN’S, NL — Whether served on a sandwich, fried crispy and plated with bacon, eggs and hashbrowns or boiled with vegetables to make a stew, bologna is as popular in Newfoundland as cod tongues, toutons, fish cakes and salt meat.
However, the sausage’s popularity goes well beyond Canada’s easternmost province.
Folks living in the United States and other countries celebrate Oct. 24 as National Bologna Day.
Bologna can be made of ground pork, beef, chicken, turkey, salt, spices and other additives that give it a distinctive flavour.
The meat is so popular that one Newfoundlander published a cookbook dedicated to bologna recipes.
The Bologna Cookbook (Flanker Press 2014) turned out to be an award-winning book.
The book’s author, Kevin Phillips, grew up in Cape St. George, NL on the province’s Port au Port Peninsula, where his father owned a general store. Bologna was a great seller, he said, with everyone in the community having a meal at least once a week.
“I remember when trucks used to come up and we would unload boxes and boxes of bologna… I don’t ever remember my dad slicing up the bologna, he would cut it in chunks and sell it by the pound… it was a staple, a protein back then,” Phillips said during a recent phone interview.
Phillips is a retired member of the Canadian Armed Forces. Having served his country for over three decades, he now splits his time between Ontario and his home province of Newfoundland.
When he retired, Phillips rekindled his passion for cooking and began a new career as a chef. His initial plan for him was to resurrect and share some of his favorite recipes online, with a focus on traditional and lost recipes.
“You can’t compare it to any other food.” — Phillips
As the recipes continued to pile up, though, Phillips’ project went from online to book form.
While there are 200 recipes included, he had more than double that amount to choose from for his book.
It was his publisher, Garry Cranford, who suggested he stick to around 200 recipes, he said.
“I went with fifty appetizers, fifty breakfasts, fifty lunches and fifty suppers.”
Why so popular?
Phillips said bologna is enjoyed by people from all parts of the country, including Newfoundlanders living away from home.
It’s sold in several stores in Ontario, he said, and is often shipped to the country’s Western provinces.
Bologna has a unique taste, Phillips said, that’s hard to describe.
“You can’t compare it to any other food,” he said.
Phillips’s cookbook includes everything from bologna and eggs with havarti to bologna caesar wraps; from cheesy bologna calzones to balsamic peppercorn bologna steak.
When asked about his favorite bologna recipe, Phillips spoke about a more traditional way to serve the sausage.
“There’s always your fried bologna, onion, gravy, mashed potato and green peas … that’s what my mom used to make and it was delicious.”
Bologna stew was also popular, he said.
Everything in moderation
Teresa Elliott was born and raised in Brookfield, NS, where she still lives today.
Pictures of Elliott on social media make it evident that she lives a healthy lifestyle — which means bologna, for the most part, doesn’t fit into her meal plans.
With that said, however, she does indulge in it from time to time and agrees taking everything in moderation approach to healthy eating is a good plan.
“I love bologna fried with onions, mushrooms, pan-fried potatoes and a little seasoning… So good,” she said.
“I love bologna fried with onions, mushrooms, pan-fried potatoes and a little seasoning… So good.” — Teresa Elliot
Elliott’s mother is from Halifax, NS, while her father is from St. John’s, NL Both of her parents grew up in large families, she said, with nine children in her mother’s family and 16 in her father’s.
While they went on to have a smaller family themselves — Elliott has two siblings, including a brother who now lives in Grand Prairie, AB and a sister that lives in Riverview, NB — bologna was a staple in their family’s household when she was growing up .
She recalled, as a child, her mother buying whole rolls of bologna to bake in the oven.
“She would make a glaze out of brown sugar, mustard and water … We would normally eat this as a meat and potatoes type of dinner or sometimes she would change it up and we would have rice with it,” Elliott said.
Bologna, bread, butter and molasses may not sound like appetizing plate mates, Philipps said, but these foods are delicious when served together, especially when you add a cup of tea to your meal.
“When you think about it, bologna is pretty salty, molasses is nice and sweet, so together it’s a special taste,” he said.
Pickled bologna is also great but the key to success is to make it with all-beef bologna, Phillips said.
“There’s too much fat in the ordinary bologna to pickle it … But what a beautiful taste when you pickle all-beef bologna.”
Where does bologna stand with younger generations and others who are focused on healthy eating?
“You eat it in moderation,” Phillips said.
Bologna Stew with Black Peppercorns
Recipe from Kevin Phillips’ “The Bologna Cookbook”
(Make six servings)
- 2 lb bologna, cut in three-quarter-inch cubes
- 5 tbsp butter or salt pork fat
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 large celery stick, diced
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 1 large parsnip, diced
- 1 small turnip, cut in three-quarter-inch cubes
- 4 large potatoes, cut in three-quarter-inch cubes
- 1 tsp whole peppercorns
- 5 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 8 cups beef broth (or water)
- salt and pepper
In a stewing pot over medium heat, sauté bologna in butter until lightly browned. Reduce heat. Add onion, garlic, celery, carrot, parsnip, turnip, potato and peppercorns; sweat for 10 minutes. Add flour and stir until mixture is slightly brown. Pour in broth and bring to boil. Stir until liquid thickens. Season to taste.
Cover pot and let simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.