Grandma’s Recipe of the Month: “BarBQ”

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When I was growing up, we never ate “Sloppy Joes”. We ate “BarBQ”, a family favorite that my mother learned to make from her mother. This recipe became one of my  first cooking efforts and I still turn to my family’s  “BarBQ” for a comfort food lunch or supper.

Recently, Larry and I were talking about old family recipe names and we discovered that his mother called it “BarBQ” as well. Since Irene grew up in Iowa and my grandmother in Kalamazoo, Michigan, we wondered it this is a Midwestern thing. What do you call this dish?

There aren’t too many family recipes that make me feel more sentimental than this one. Whenever Larry and I would come home from a trip, we would find that my mother had sneaked a batch of this into our fridge – along with milk, eggs and bread. I never open the door of that empty, post-vacation fridge without remembering Mama and her BarBQ.

I’ve never played much with the recipe. Sometimes, I throw in some chopped sweet peppers, just for some color. After all, sometimes a classic should remain a classic.

TIP: I always make this earlier in the day, since it tastes so much better reheated. A day ahead is even better for improving the flavors. And I always buy organic ketchup…

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Grandma's Recipe of the Month: "BarBQ"
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
"BarBQ" or "Sloppy Joes", this family recipe is a classic in my kitchen.
  • 1½ pounds lean ground beef
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped red, yellow and/or orange bell pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1½ cups ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup Meyer lemon juice, or any fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  1. Using a large skillet, cook the meat, onions and peppers over medium-high heat until the meat has browned. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add remaining ingredients, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 20 minutes.
  3. Serve over hamburger buns or grilled bread.

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24 Responses to Grandma’s Recipe of the Month: “BarBQ”

  1. Laura @ Family Spice April 12, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    Oh, I’d prefer this BarBQ over a sloppy joe any day of the week!!! Welcome home, my friend!

    • Liz April 12, 2013 at 9:54 am #

      Hey, I’m running to your house for some of those baby artichokes!

  2. Elizabeth April 12, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    Oh, we have always called them sloppy joes. My mom would cook them for the sitter to serve us when she and my dad would go out. I remember hearing her bracelets clink together as she stirred the pot of sloppy joes and made sure she was a couple steps away from the pan, so she wouldn’t get her party clothes dirty. It was always served on the soft buns, like you have, and I would put a big squirt of yellow mustard on the bun before the sloppy joe was piled on the bun. I tried to make them for my son and he doesn’t like them at all. He says that school’s sloppy joes ruined it for him. Fun memory. Thanks Liz.

    • Liz April 12, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

      Such a great family story – thanks for sharing, Elizabeth.

  3. Lynda - TasteFood April 12, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

    This raises the bar on sloppy joes for sure!

    • Liz April 12, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

      Thanks, Lynda, I’d love to make a batch for you and your family.

  4. Suzanne April 12, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    I love this, and love the memories it evokes. I like to keep classics classic and don’t really mess with them (well maybe just a little sometimes) Your BarBQ sounds great, I never had a sloppy joe or BarBQ growing up, I feel deprived. I have had them since I left home many many moons ago, and love them. I love the sauce on the meat, what a fantastic recipe.

    • Liz April 12, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

      Thanks so much – it’s a family fav for certain –

  5. TheWimpyVegetarian April 12, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    This looks so good, Liz. The perfect comfort dinner. I grew up with sloppy joes in the school cafeteria, and it was always my favorite day for lunch. But I love your version with brown sugar, apple cider, and mustard!!

    • Liz April 12, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

      I’m dreaming of your kale pesto, though, Susan –

  6. Jayne April 14, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    What a blast from the past! Although I haven’t eaten beef for years I did used to love sloppy Joe’s as a kid! I remember having them at summer camp! Such a coincidence that both you and Larry called them by the same name! Great post and thanks for the memories!

    • Liz April 14, 2013 at 8:35 am #

      Thanks Jayne – I was reading your message as it came in – great minds think alike!

  7. Beth (OMG! Yummy) April 17, 2013 at 10:38 am #

    I guess we would make it with chopped beef and call it sloppy joes or perhaps meatballs and call it fricasee – depends on whether we’re delving back to my mom’s mom or my mom’s kitchen :-). I love these kinds of dishes — horrible for you if you were to buy it packaged in the store but glorious and wonderful when cooked at home. And really so easy to make. Thanks for sharing.

    • Liz April 17, 2013 at 10:42 am #

      Hey, Beth, thanks for your comment. My mom would get a kick out all this, as would her mother.

  8. Wendy Read April 18, 2013 at 5:24 am #

    Oh Yes, My Mom made this with chopped sirloin and I think we had it at least two times a month when I was growing up! Of course, it is now a classic with my family too. It is so funny really, my memories are now my hubby walking in from work and “sniffing”, sloppy joes tonight?

    Love the story about you Mom and her filling your fridge ….so sweet.

    • Liz April 18, 2013 at 9:34 am #

      She was so sweet to always have food in the fridge for us – I still miss it!

  9. sippitysup April 18, 2013 at 10:00 am #

    Some people call it ‘loose meat’ sandwich, but I have to admit that name seems a bit repulsive to me. I like ‘BarBQ’ better. GREG

    • Liz April 18, 2013 at 10:47 am #

      How could I forget “loose meat”? Agree, pretty repulsive…

  10. Oui, Chef April 22, 2013 at 6:06 am #

    Oohhh….like a sloppy joe but even better! Love the sweet peppers and the cubed (as opposed to ground) meat…yum! You could put this in my fridge any day!

  11. Barbara February 3, 2014 at 9:23 am #

    This sounds amazing. So much better than sloppy joe. Chunks of meat and that savory sauce, I love it.

  12. Maggie Unzueta @ Mama Maggie's Kitchen January 26, 2015 at 10:10 am #

    Mouth watering… Looks delicious!!!

    • Liz January 26, 2015 at 10:35 am #

      Thanks for the visit, Maggie – just by coincidence, I made a batch of this to enjoy for our supper tonight.

  13. Lisa @ Whisk & Cleaver January 26, 2015 at 2:06 pm #

    I’ve never had a sandwich like this, if you can believe it! I’m not sure what my family would call it 🙂 I’ll ask my mom next time we’re together.

    • Liz January 26, 2015 at 2:36 pm #

      Really, never had a sloppy joe, Lisa?

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