For many years I made our kids sloppy joes using just ground beef and a can of Manwich sauce.  No more!  This copycat recipe has much of the best parts of the flavor of the old canned sauce but much fresher.  It’s still a bit sweet and salty like the can so you must control or even limit the added salt & sugar.  I’ve also included an alternate with no added sugar so you can take your pick.  Both versions serve well on buttered burger rolls which have been browned on an electric griddle. Both versions also freeze well (ice cube trays?) so make some extra; perhaps a double batch. Add some separate sautéed onions and peppers for an extra special topping, Philadelphia Style. Canned Copycat Version Ingredients For the beef: 1-2 teaspoons olive oil 1 pound 80% lean ground beef To start the sauce: ⅓ – ½ of a green bell pepper 1 large onion, peeled and diced 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine Final sauce ingredients: 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste ⅔ cup ketchup ⅓ cup water 1 tablespoon brown sugar, or to taste 1 teaspoon plain yellow mustard ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce ½ teaspoon salt – or to taste – I omit this ½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or to taste ¼ teaspoon black pepper, or to taste 1 teaspoon of your favorite hot sauce, or to taste There is plenty of vinegar in the ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce for sharpness.  Plus there’s sugar in the ketchup so you may not want to add much brown sugar at all. Heat the olive oil in a good heavy large skillet nearly to smoking on medium heat. Brown the ground beef while breaking it into crumbles.  When there’s no more red color in the beef, remove it, drain and reserve. Return the skillet to medium heat. In that same skillet, add the bell pepper and onion and sauté in the beef juices for just a few minutes until the mixture softens. Add the garlic and cook for less than a minute.  Then add back the beef. Add all the other final sauce ingredients and cook 10 minutes or so until flavors blend and you get the sauce thickness you prefer.  Add some more water, slowly and carefully, if it gets too thick. Much Less Sweet Version This version gets its (low energy) sweetness from the carrot and caramelized onions. No added sugar. Add some brown sugar at the last minute if the taste is too Spartan for you. Ingredients: For the blender: 1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped into 1 inch chunks 14 ounces (one small can) of diced, chopped or whole tomatoes 1 cup water For the skillet: 1-2 tablespoons olive oil 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine 1-2 medium yellow onions1 pound ground beef 1 ½  teaspoons ground cumin 1 teaspoon smoked paprika 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar Place the tomatoes, carrot and water in a blender and pulse until fairly smooth and reserve. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet on medium heat, to nearly smoking.  Sauté the garlic for about 30 seconds or so. Add the ground beef and brown until all the red color is gone, breaking up the beef into crumbles as it cooks.  When done, drain and reserve. Return the skillet to the medium heat and add the onion and sauté until caramelized.  Just sauté until the onion turns thoroughly brown but does not crisp or char. Return the reserved beef to the onions in the pan and add the tomato slurry and all the other ingredients.  Cook 10-15 minutes until the flavors blend, watching for thickening of the sauce.  If too thick, add a bit more water.  If too thin, cook uncovered a while longer.  Devour.
Sloppy Joe Sandwiches
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