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Bluegrass Burgers with Sweet Roasted Corn Chow-Chow and Country Ham Spread

It's chow time! When I moved from California to Kentucky, I was curious about how my new home state would influence my style of cooking. I quickly found an undiscovered world of old Southern traditions, family specialties, and regional products. Chow-chow and country ham are two of those best-kept secrets. When I first tasted chow-chow, I wondered where it had been all my life! This version of the traditional Southern relish uses sweet corn roasted on the grill, which imparts a wonderful smokiness. When this city girl moved out to the country, all she knew was city ham! Country ham was a pleasantly salty surprise, and now I can't get enough of it. When paired with cream cheese & green onions, it makes a wonderful ham salad topping for sandwiches, crackers, and another local favorite, fried green tomatoes. This is a great local American burger because it brings deep-rooted regional classics to light with a fresh and innovative update.

Ingredients 

Sweet Roasted Corn Chow-Chow
3 ears of yellow corn, shucked
1 tablespoon Colavita olive oil
1 cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup water
¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 ½ teaspoons celery seed
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ green bell pepper, diced
½ red bell pepper, diced
½ red onion, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
½ teaspoon salt

Country Ham Salad
1 cup diced country ham
¾ cup cream cheese, softened
¼ cup green onions, sliced
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon hot sauce

Patties
2 lbs ground chuck
2 tablespoons Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Vegetable oil, for brushing on grill rack
6 good-quality hamburger buns
6 tablespoons salted butter, softened
12 Bibb lettuce leaves

Instructions 

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill to medium-high heat.

To make roasted corn chow-chow, rub shucked ears of corn with olive oil. Place on grill and cook for 5-7 minutes, turning often, until corn is slightly charred and still crisp. Remove from heat and cool. Meanwhile, combine vinegar, water, sugar, dry mustard, celery seed, and turmeric in a medium saucepan and set on grill. Bring to a simmer to dissolve sugar. Working with the cooled ears of corn, cut kernels off and place into a bowl with diced green bell pepper, red bell pepper, red onion, and celery. Pour vinegar and spice mixture over vegetables, add salt to season, and set aside to pickle.

To make country ham salad, combine country ham, cream cheese, green onions, salt, pepper, and hot sauce in a bowl and work with a wooden spoon to combine. Alternatively, all ingredients can be put in the bowl of a stand up electric mixer and gently combined using the paddle attachment.

To make patties, combine ground chuck, Worcestershire sauce, garlic salt, and pepper in a bowl. Divide mixture into 6 portions and gently form burger patties. Brush grill rack with vegetable oil. Place patties on grill and cook, turning once, approximately 5-7 minutes per side for medium, or until desired doneness.

Spread the cut side of each bun half with ½ tablespoon butter and grill 1-2 minutes, until golden brown.

To assemble, spread the bottom half of each bun with a generous helping of ham salad. Top with 2 Bibb lettuce leaves each, burger patties, and, using a slotted spoon, drain a scoop of chow-chow to place over patties. Add bun tops and enjoy!