© Denzil Green
Spam™ is a tinned, cooked meat product made by the Hormel company in many plants around the world. In case you think no one eats it any more, consider that 1 billion tins were sold between 1980 and 1986, and another billion by 1993. Someone is eating it.
Spam consists of:
- Chopped pork shoulder and ham;
- Salt (for flavour; low salt versions are now available);
- Sugar (for flavour);
- Sodium Nitrate (preserves it and gives it its pink colour; without it, it would be grey like meatloaf.)
Three-quarters of the meat is coarsely-ground, and the remainder is ground very finely. The meat is then mixed with the other ingredients above, and allowed to cure overnight, refrigerated. The next day, it is mixed again, then canned, sealed, cooked and sterilized right in the can for about 70 minutes.
Most Spam sold in Europe is made in Denmark. As of 2004, it was bought by 2 million British households.
Spam is very popular in Hawaii, where the fast-food restaurants McDonald’s and Burger King have it on their menus. McDonald’s offers a breakfast Spam, Eggs and Rice plate for $3.39; Burger King calls theirs a “Spam Platter” and sells it for $3.49 (2007 prices.) McDonald’s has offered spam since 2002; Burger King began in 2007. Spam sushi called “musubi” is offered at many corner stores, and restaurants make spam fried rice. Hawaiians have access to spam varieties not sold elsewhere in the US: Spam Garlic, Spam Bacon, Spam with Cheese, Spam with Tabasco, Spam Turkey and Spam Lite. Hawaiians eat an average of six cans each of spam a year.
A large tin of Spam holds 6 x 2 oz (110g) servings; a small tin holds 3 x 2 oz servings.
Spam tins don’t really have the best dating system on them. At the bottom of the can, you’ll see a five digit number, say G05212. The letter, G, is for the plant it was made in. The first two digits (05) tell you what month (May); the next two are the day of the month (21); and the final digit is the year. The year is supposed to be basically the closest year to you that optimistically makes sense, so in 2003 a “2” at the end should mean 2002. But you’ve no way, really, of knowing if it was 1992, or even any year ending in 2 in which the current monarch was on the throne. Another example of a dating system on tinned goods which is there for the convenience of the producer, not the safety of the consumer.
Hormel recommends eating Spam within two years.
Jay Hormel began planning the product in 1936. A guest at a New Year’s Eve party that year came up with the name “Spam”, short for “spiced ham”. The product went into production and sale the next year, 1937, at the height of the Depression, and it was a huge success right away as an affordable meat. The Second World War really sealed its fate as a commercial best seller: it was a meat product that was easily transported and had a long shelf life. It became part of the meat rations for all the Allied armies, including the Canadian, British and Soviet armies.
When American supplies started to arrive in Britain during World Ward II, Spam was amongst the shipments. British housewives considered it a godsend, coming at a time when the last tins of salmon had disappeared.
Literature & Lore
There is a Spam museum in Austin, Minnesota. The Spam fan club was launched in 1998.
Poole, Oliver. Britons urged to eat more Spam. The Daily Telegraph, 1 November 2004.
Song, Jaymes. Burger giants wage Spam war. Toronto Star. 11 June 2007.