Funeral Meat AKA: Ham Salad

Our family has some food quirks.  I’ve told you about Hamburger Gravy.  Read about that HERE if you missed it.  I’ve told you about how we eat chili with rice.  Read about that HERE if you missed that.

Today I’m telling you about funeral meat otherwise known as ham salad.

Growing up in southern Minnesota in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, pretty much every funeral luncheon served ham salad sandwiches as their meal to the mourners so at our house, Kramer always called it funeral meat, and to this day, we still call ham salad funeral meat.

As a kid, my mom would sometimes buy some but not all that often.  When our kids were little, I bought some in the spring and fall when Kramer was busy in the fields farming.  It is one of those things that I often forget about but then once I remember, I’m really excited to eat it again.

We hadn’t had it for a long time until last week I was on the phone with Kelli and she said something about having ham salad.  The minute I was done on the phone with her I walked to the refrigerator, confirmed we had the ingredients, and there on the spot made ham salad.

My kids are CRAZY about it.

I had a bowl and ate it with those flat pretzels using the ham salad as a dip.  YUM.

Kalissa came over and had some…then when Karl was home he ate the rest.

I was so sad it was gone.  I guess I misspoke.  I guess I should have said the kids AND I, are crazy about it.  Proof?

The next morning I said to Karl, lets so to the Amish store and get more ham.  We hoped in the car and away we went.

South of us is an Amish community and they have bent and dent grocery stores.  They have recently gotten a freezer section and we love it.  The meat there is so reasonably priced.

We got this big 8 3/4 pound bag of ham ends.

It was $8.75 so, $1 a pound for the ham.  Many people wouldn’t like the ham ends as they aren’t creative in their cooking.  I love them.

I slice some and chop some of the pieces and then use them when cooking.  This time, I was making Ham Salad with some of it.

When I was a kid and only thought it was for funerals, I thought it must be something hard to make.  YEARS later and better kitchen equipment later, Ham Salad is a breeze.

I threw about 2 pounds of ham in the food processor along with 1/2 cup Mayonesa (you can use regular mayo), pepper and garlic salt to taste, 2 pickle spears, and 1/2 onion.  I turned on the food processor and in less than a minute I had ham salad.  You might have to adjust the amount of Mayo depending on the moistness of your ham.

We like Mayonesa. It’s a little different than regular mayo.  It has lime in it.  It is so good and has become our family’s favorite.  You can find it HERE on Amazon.  I don’t think it’s available everywhere.

McCormick Mayonesa (Mayonnaise) With Lime Juice, 28 Fl Oz

Anyway…the ham salad was awesome.  I used honey ham and it was so good.  That made two containers full plus a little for Karl and me to use as a dip with some chips.  Oh my…what can I say.  We are definitely on a funeral meat kick.

I ended up taking the two containers to Buck’s when we went last Sunday.  I left what we didn’t eat there.  I know Buck has loved funeral meat too.

Sorry, it’s not a better recipe.  I’ve never had a batch fail.  You can always add half the amount of pickles and add more once you taste it.  I’m definitely a cook that makes food by taste!!

So curious minds want to know…is “funeral meat aka ham salad” a Midwest thing or a southern Minnesota thing, or just a Kramer thing.  Please leave a comment and let us know.

67 thoughts on “Funeral Meat AKA: Ham Salad”

  1. well no imagination in this family sorry to say. It was just another way to make sure every bit of that huge baked ham got used up. it was even made with all those bits that came off that bone that got boiled in the big pot on the back of the stove. I absolutely never heard it have any name by any friends either.

  2. Our “ham salad” was made with bologna! My Mom did it and I still do. Same ingredients basically. In the winter, she would grill them to make hot ham salad. You have made me hungry too for some!

  3. Rosie Westerhold

    I was an adult before I knew ham salad wasn’t made with bologna!! And I live in Nebraska. Never heard of funeral meat here, though.

  4. I just googled Mayonesa by McCormick and found out Walmart has it for Pick Up only. So they must have it in the store. I’ll have to check it out!

  5. Made it with bologna, pickles, onion and salad dressing, like Miracle Whip. Loved it. Last week I bought hAm salad at Kroger and made sandwiches all week, served with big pieces of lettuce. So delicious and we just called it ham salad when I was a kid. St. Louis here eating it for over 75 years.

  6. My mom (in St. PAul) made it in a meat grinder that she screwed on to the kitchen table. I think I’ll make some – doing keto.

  7. We have funeral hotdish here in North Dakota. That’s hamburger/macaroni/tomato sauce hotdish. I love ham salad, too. You can also make it with bologna.

  8. I never called it funeral meat. In the area around Mpls where I grew up – it was part of a trifecta. The bread would be sliced the long way. One layer of ham salad, one layer of egg salad and one of beef or tunas salad. It might be at a family “tea party”, a funeral, a shower, or any special occasion. Usually accompanied by what in my family is called “Funeral Salad” – which means some sort of jello concoction, and cookies, bars or cake. Anyway it’s served, I like it.

  9. My people are from Oklahoma and Arkansas, gone west to California in 1943 at the end of the dust bowl. I guess ham salad was not a thing, as I have never had it. Never had the bologna version either. With our family, 6 kids.. there was rarely leftovers to worry about using up. I have seen it in the store but it didn’t look very appetizing. lol

  10. We have ham salad here in WI, but have never heard it called funeral meat. It’s funny how things get their names. My neighbor was transplanting some wild day lilies in his front bed a few years ago and but he just called them “graveyard flowers.”

  11. My mom made ham salad and “ham salad” that was actually made with bologna. She always put ground up hard boiled eggs in hers and had one of the hand cranked meat grinders that did most of the work. My mother-in-law made the bologna version with hotdogs when my husband was growing up.

  12. I live in Georgia, and I remember my mom making ham salad in the 70s and 80s. I made some a couple of years ago, and my husband had never heard of it. He loved it though. I don’t think it is as common here in the south as pimento cheese! Every picnic, funeral, and family reunion has it.

  13. I love ham salad, but it’s not a funeral thing here. Most funerals have either cold sliced ham for sandwiches, and sometimes in winter, hot ham slices. I use sweet pickles in mine, and also like to put in celery.
    How do you feel about Ham Balls?

  14. I grew up with ham salad made with bologna, sweet pickles and homemade mayo. Ground up the bologna and pickles in an old fashion grinder that screwed to a table. That is the way I make it today.

  15. Around southeastern Idaho and parts of Utah, funeral food includes funeral potatoes which is potatoes, sour cream and cheese, I think. The meat can be ham or beef. I have never heard of ham salad sandwiches for a funeral before. This area calls ham salad deviled ham.

  16. Oh, my, what memories. My mom made it with bologna, Miracle Whip, & pickles, with the meat grinder.
    When our class was in jr high, we were in school half days. There was always a snack Provided during the afternoon. Yup, you guessed it, ham salad sandwiches. The boys of the class (7th graders) referred to them as “Horsemeat sandwiches!!”

  17. MN Lutheran here. In my church it is funeral spread made with ground bologna, pickle relish, miracle whip and sometimes cheese. My husband loves it, I can pass.

  18. Here in Ohio, my mom used a meat grinder and ground up bologna, cheese, sweet pickles and mayo and sometimes hard boiled eggs for our ham salad. I never heard it called funeral salad. At our funerals, we usually had a cold cut and cheese plate to make sandwiches. As for ham ends, my mom knew a lady that worked in the butcher dept. at the grocery store who would save ham ends for mom. She would make ham and bean soup with them. Thanks for sharing and stirring up memories. I’ll have to go to Amish country and get some ham salad, since I don’t have a meat grinder or a processor.

  19. I had seen it over the years here and there but never really knew what it was. Reading your blog it brings to mind Deviled Ham Spread in a can. I grew up with that. My Dad would spread it on crackers. A family friend would mixed it with sweet relish and mayo and put it on sandwiches. I’ve done that too and one of my sons loves it. My husband won’t eat it and calls it “cat food”…lol….that’s okay, more for me! Now I’ll have to try your recipe the next time my son visits.

  20. Here in West Michigan they usually serve ham on buns, cole slaw and potato salad at funerals. We do make ham salad and can buy prepared bologna sandwich spread similar to the ham salad at the deli. It is interesting what foods are popular in different parts of the country.

    1. Also from West Michigan and I never actually learned the name for Ham Salad until I started seeing it talked about on the internet. We just called it funeral meat, and it is polarizing. My mother is insistent that it be served at her wake and I’m like…”Bob Seger AND funeral meat? You’re killing me here.”

  21. we call it ham salad. When my mom was the head of the Red Cross blood mobiles here she always made ham salad and they made sandwiches for in the canteen for after you gave blood. I love it but I don’t buy it often.

  22. In upstate NY my grandmother made ham salad with ground ham, Hellman’s mayo and pimento stuffed green olives. We never used pickles. My son now has my hand cranked meat grinder so I do use the food processor when I make it now.

  23. Around here, it was always ground bologna and sandwich spread. And a few of the older generation called it funeral meat, but most of the folks call it ham salad. Now I’m hungry for it. I’m in north central Iowa.

  24. Hi Jo!
    We never knew it as funeral meat, but its a well loved staple in this household. When I was a cook in a nursing home, the residents loved it as well. A good, old fashioned favorite!

  25. Grew up in central WI and my mom would make the meat spread with left over beef roast and it was great on white bread. Today I make it with venison summer sausage. Great stuff!

  26. What I know as ham salad was made with ground up bologna, minced sweet pickles, mayonnaise, pepper. Good. My mom always called bologna minced ham. I remember it was what was served in sandwiches when my grandma’s extension club (old timey ladies club) met at our house. Had never heard it called “funeral meat”.

  27. In NYS, we have Ham Salad and Amish communities. Maybe the two go together. My mom did not serve it when I was a kid. I have not as an adult. What my mom did when I was kid was make a roast beef spread. She would grind leftover roast beef in a blender, mix with mustard for my dad who was allergic to egg then mix some with mayo and mustard for the rest of the family. Not sure about salt and pepper. Most of my friends did not like it. I also remember Deviled Ham Spread and Potted Ham.

  28. I grew up in a Minnesota Lutheran community. Married a Catholic guy. So when we went to confirmations, graduations, and funerals in my community, my husband noticed this sandwich spread was always served – thus he named it “Lutheran Spread” and the name caught on! It was made with either ham, Bologna, spam – and one time an aunt made it with antelope sausage! I love the spread and make mine, using one of those screw on grinders, with Spam, ground up raw carrots, a tad bit of sweet pickle relish, hard boiled eggs and Miracle Whip. Not many young folks in the family care for it but I love it!

  29. I grew up in a Minnesota Lutheran community. I married a Catholic guy. When we went to confirmations, graduations and funerals in my community, he noticed that this sandwich spread was always served – therefore the name “Lutheran Spread” was what it became. It could be made from ham, bologna, Spam – one time my aunt even made it from antelope sausage! I make mine, using one of those screw on grinders, with Spam, ground raw carrots, hard boiled eggs, a dab of sweet pickle relish and Miracle Whip. Not many of the younger folks care for it, but I love it!

  30. Here in Utah we have Funeral Potatoes. They’re made with frozen hash browns , sour cream. cream of chicken soup, and topped with shredded cheese.

  31. I live in Kentucky and I actually made some ham salad today. Never heard it called funeral meat. I leave out the onion and add hard boiled eggs and celery.

  32. Never heard of ham salad being made with bologna. That makes it bologna salad ;) I grew up in west central Illinois and most of the funeral luncheons were more of a carry in than featuring a specific menu. At theLutheran church I now attend, we offer the family a choice of ham/roast beef/turkey sandwiches or three different casseroles. Salads and desserts are carry in style. I grew up with ham salad being made from Spam. My mother always had ham salad and potato soup for Christmas Eve supper.

  33. I grew up in small town Iowa (Nora Springs). We had ham salad sandwiches at church functions not just at funerals. My husband and I were married in the era of receptions in the church basement (49 years ago). My mother made ham salad sandwiches as part of the reception lunch. When my husband and I moved to Pittsburgh, PA soon after getting married, I could not believe the elaborate wedding receptions here. As an aside note, Pittsburgh weddings have a tradition of a cookie table. All the friends and relatives bake cookies that are heaped on a table. Guests eat them at the reception and take small bags of them home. This is in addition to the wedding cake. Our family has ham for both Christmas and Easter dinner. My favorite part of the ham is the ham salad and the navy bean soup I make with the leftovers.

  34. Jeanie S, Central Illinois

    I live a half hour west of Peoria IL. At our funeral lunches, there is usually baked ham, casseroles of mac & cheese and/or cheesy potatoes, and 9 x 13 donated jello salads.
    We love ham salad made with sweet pickle relish, mayo and a small amount of horseradish. I do have a food grinder, but mostly use a little food processor now. My husband calls it the whacker.
    My mom made it with bologna and and occasionally threw in hot dogs.
    Now I am hungry for ham salad.

  35. Ok I feel so deprived!!! My mom never made ham salad or any salad with bologna!!! We always ate our bologna on white bread!!!

  36. I grew up in Delaware and can honestly say I dont remember going to any funerals as a teen. So no funeral meat here. ANd dont think it is something that I ever heard of either. WE did not attend church regularly then and here in Florida, its more of an egg salad sort of thing. I think I would like ham salad but we dont see it very much, if at all.

  37. Janelle Merillat

    Ham salad, Bologna salad, and Deviled Ham! All the same here in Mid Michigan! We never called it Funeral meat, and most Funerals I have attended, just used a meat tray for sandwiches (hot or cold). My kids weren’t fans of Ham salad, but they got it anyway! Lol!

  38. In CT I don’t remember having ham salad till a coworker bought some at a deli. Deviled ham in the little can was a lunch bag staple,tho. My kids always begged for ham salad from the leftover ham. My middle son recently processed a pig and did his own smoking informing me he put bags in freezer specifically for ham salad,hint,hint mom,lol. We are Greek Orthodox so fish is our funeral meat. ;), Off to grab a bag of ham!

  39. Oh my this is fun to read! My husband and I grew up in Nebraska and neither of us remember ham salad or bologna salad. Thanks to everybody writing in!

  40. I’m originally from northern NJ, no funeral meat there either. My mom made ham salad occasionally but never from bologna.

  41. In west central WI we do eat ham salad but what we call “funeral sandwiches” are a piece of bread with cheese whiz & crushed potato chips.

  42. I’m from Northern Minnesota. My parents would take leftover beef, pork, ham, or turkey and turn it into the meat salads for sandwiches using a hand grinder. Love it! I’ve also made it with Spam. Yum.

  43. Cheryl F Wittmayer

    Grew up in St.Paul. Folks used hand Frank grinder fastened to kitchen table. Leftover ham or roast beef, miracle whip, celery, onion, no pickles. Wasn’t called funeral meat. Didn’t go to a funeral until I was nineteen and had moved to montana. Bought some bologna this week try as sandwich spread.

  44. A friend introduced me to ham salad years ago…..1# bologna, 1/2# ham, eggs, sweet pickles and Miracle Whip. YUM. Have to try your way.

  45. Fifty years ago inCentral Pennsylvania, ham salad and chicken salad sandwiches were the preferred sandwiches for weddings and funerals. Celery and carrot sticks, potato chips, punch, coffee and cake joined the basic menu that the church ladies catered. This was before weddings became showy extravaganzas that had to be held at a “venue”. Occasionally the was a beef salad, but I never heard of the other meat spreads. I think the meat salads were popular because they were relatively cheap, could easily and quickly feed crowds, and could be easily portion controlled.

  46. I grew up in southeast Nebraska–we were teachers and my husband was football coach. We made ham salad out of bologna, sweet pickle a little onion, grated cheese and maybe sometimes hard boiled eggs. We spread it thickly on hot dog buns wrapped them in foil and put them in the oven for a while till the cheese melted. We would gather at someones house after the game and we ALWAYS HAD THOSE FRESH OUT OF THE OVEN TO GO WITH PLENTY OF COFFEE!!! good times.

  47. Southern MN gal here (Spring Valley). Ham salad was indeed served at funerals. Could we even imagine a funeral without the main course???? I too still make the salad and my 3 boys indeed love it. Miss those Spring Valley rolls to showcase the ham salad!

  48. My Grandpa had a meat market when I was a small girl and he made it then! Some call it ham spread, but whatever, we loved it. I haven’t had it in years. You’ve awaken the sleeping ham spread in my mind! Now I’m going to have to get some! Thanks for the memories!

  49. I grew up in Michigan and our “ham” salad was made with Bologna and showed up at every potluck or luncheon, along with jello salads. I now live in Alaska, can’t get ring Bologna, have never had ham or Bologna salad at any event but smoked salmon in various forms is always abundant.

  50. I grew up with the bologna version of the sandwiches & when I make them I use my grandmothers iron clamp on the counter grinder. However here in Western Wisconsin “funeral sandwiches” are the cheese whiz spread on rye bread topped with sliced olives or crushed potato chips. We also generally serve scalloped potatoes & open face ham sandwiches, salads, bars & cookies.

  51. I am born and raised in Nebraska, a Missouri Synod Lutheran – and we always had ham salad OR Beef salad (using the left over roast beef from Sunday dinner) too at Church events. As well as, Church Eggs (funeral eggs) aka Deviled Eggs, because no matter what Church event you went to where food was served, there was (and is) Deviled Eggs! I am the one who makes them and takes them to all our family get togethers. Now, my grandkids always request Gramma to bring the deviled eggs. (They don’t call them church eggs yet.) Thanks for the memories. HUGS… and stitches

  52. These comments are so interesting to read. I’m from Chicago and Mom made ham salad from leftover ham using a hand crank meat grinder attached to my wood kids table chair (painted many times with chair back broken off). I still have the meat grinder and chair even though my Mom passed years ago. I just took some leftover ham out to make split pea soup (another often repeated recipe of my Mom). Looks like now I’ll be making both. Never heard of funeral meat or Mayonesa.

  53. I think of ham salad for bridal and baby shower fare. My mom would cut the crusts of a loaf of unsliced bread, make two horizontal slices and layer with ham salad, like a layer cake. Them she would frost it with whipped cream cheese. The slices of the loaf were very pretty.

  54. Ham salad is not something we seem to have here in Oregon, I do remember once in 4-H cooking we made a version with bologna and I liked it but haven’t had it since. Now it makes me wonder if the 4-H leader was from another part of the country. I guess I will never know as I can’t even remember who she was.

  55. My mom also made ham salad by grinding the ham up using the grinder screwed to the end of the table. I used to love turning the handle. She would add Hellman’s Mayo and a jar of “garden relish”. I was not too fond of the ham salad, but I hold fond memories of my mom making it. Oh, btw, I grew up in Brooklyn, New York.

  56. My mother would roast a chuck roast then run it through the meat grinder with dill pickles then mix that with mayonnaise and mustard for sandwich fillings.

  57. Deborah A Stevens

    I grew up in Michigan North of the tri- cities ( Mikado!) called ham salad. But I do know funeral potatoes! hash browns, sourcream and cheese!

  58. From SE WI originally–never heard it called funeral meat–we called it ham salad. ingrediants seem to be the same. Your Mayonesa is now available in Fred Meyer stores (Kroger). It’s OK but will never replace Best Foods–known as Helleman east of the Mississippi River

  59. Oh my…I’m from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and while we weren’t Amish or Mennonite, we are Pennsylvania German, and ham salad was definitely a thing at family gatherings. My father was always the one who made it in our family, and so of course we had some at the house after his funeral: a big, big bowl of it. As we ate, and drank, and reminisced, my aunts and uncles got to talking so much, and so fast, that we younger ones (relatively younger; I was 53 at the time) found it funny. “There must be meth in the ham salad,” someone said…and that has stuck with us. Anytime we see ham salad on a buffet, or at a funeral, someone will whisper in someone else’s ear, “There’s meth in the ham salad,” and we have to stifle roars of laughter.
    Thanks for the memory!

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