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"Jazzed Up" County Fair Burgers

"Hamburgers, hamburgers, hamburgers hot; onions in the middle, pickle on top. Makes your lips go flippity flop."

According to legend, in 1885, 15 year old Charlie Nagreen invented the hamburger at the Outagamie County Fair in Seymour, Wisconsin. For 65 years, Charlie continued to sell his hamburgers and chant his jingle. Although much controversy surrounds the true birthplace of the hamburger, the Wisconsin legislature, on May 9, 2007, declared Seymour, Wisconsin the Original Home of the Hamburger.

I was lucky enough to have grown up in Seymour. The highlight of every summer was the Outagamie County Fair. To this day, the smell of onions, fried in butter, brings me back. My best friend's dad was the milkman, and my dad owned the bakery, so we would hitch a ride to the fair in the milk truck or in the bakery van whenever they made their deliveries. As you may have guessed, my father supplied the hamburger buns!

This burger was created as homage to Charlie Nagreen and to the Outagamie County Fair. It combines two of Wisconsin's favorite burger ingredients, butter and cheddar, along with some spices and a sauce to "jazz it up"!


1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup chili sauce
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish

1/4 cup butter
2 large, sweet onions, chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
2 pounds ground chuck
2 teaspoons coarse ground pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/3 cup chili sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
6 (1 oz) slices Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese

Vegetable oil for brushing on grill
6 good quality Kaiser rolls, split
3 tablespoons butter, softened
6 crisp iceberg lettuce leaves
6 (1/2") thick slices ripe beefsteak tomatoes


Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium-high.

Combine mayonnaise, 1/3 cup chili sauce, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder and pickle relish in small bowl. Cover and chill until needed for burger assembly.

Place large, flameproof pan on grill. Melt 1/4 cup butter in pan, and then add chopped onion. Sprinkle with sugar. Cook onions for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until caramelized. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place ground chuck in large bowl. Combine pepper, salt, chili powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, dry mustard, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and liquid smoke. Add to ground chuck, mixing lightly by hand, making sure to blend thoroughly. Divide meat into six portions.

Carefully form each portion of meat into a patty. Make an indentation in the middle of each patty. Place heaping tablespoons of caramelized onions in the indentation and then, gently, to avoid compacting, close the meat around the onions, keeping the meat in patty form.

Brush grill grates with oil. Place patties on the grill, cover and grill for 5-7 minutes on each side for medium. Top each patty with a cheese slice, cover grill and allow cheese to melt, about one minute. During the last few minutes of grilling, butter the Kaiser rolls and place them, cut side down, on the outer edges of the grill until toasted.

To assemble hamburgers, spread sauce on both halves of bun. Place one lettuce leaf on the bottom bun. Put the burger on top of the lettuce and top the burger with the tomato slice and the top bun. Serve the burgers with plenty of napkins to catch the butter that is sure to dribble down your chin!


There is a lot of, for lack of a better term, "meat manipulation" in order to blend the ingredients and to enclose the onions in the hamburger patty. It is important to remember to handle the meat as gently as possible to avoid making a tough hamburger.