Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, January 29, 2004


Page 15



Salt Pork, Ice Water, Cooked Cereal: Ingredients for Hamburgers




Prowling through cookbooks collected by my wife, Jo-Ann, I’ve found some vintage recipes for hamburger. The ones offered this week are more recent than last week’s batch which spanned 1908-1920.

By the 1920s, the term “hamburger” was in wide usage, though some recipe books (and menus) continued to refer to “Hamburg steak.”

Today, that which is denominated a hamburger is a cooked patty of ground beef on a bun. But in those days, a hamburger consumed at home or in restaurants was apt to be made from meat that had been chopped, rather than ground, and served sans bun.

A 1927 booklet, “101 Meat Recipes Olde and New,” was published by the National Live Stock and Meat Board, headquartered in Chicago. (Jo-Ann’s copy was imprinted with the name of Leonard’s Market and Grocery at 49 Pier Ave. in Hermosa Beach, Calif.)

There’s a recipe for “Planked Hamburger.” It prescribes combining two pounds of hamburger with “salt, pepper, minced onion, and Worcestershire sauce,” then mixing in “1 egg beaten into 1/2 cup of milk,” and adding, if desired, “[b]read or cracker crumbs or cooked cereal.” A patty is formed in the shape of a steak and fried for 15 minutes, then placed on a hot plank.

The booklet next instructs:

“Pipe a border of mashed potatoes around the plank. Arrange rather thick slices of tomatoes sprinked with cheese and small cooked carrots around the steak. Season all with salt, pepper, and butter and put in the oven for ten or fifteen minutes until the steak is cooked and the potatoes are nicely browned.”

This presentation is not employed at Burger King.

Fannie Farmer’s “The Boston Cooking School Cookbook,” 1942 edition, offers this recipe for “Hamburg steak or patties,” starting with a pound of chopped beef:

“Shape beef in a large cake or in small, flat cakes. Handle as little as possible and avoid pressing meat firmly together. If liked, moisten slightly with tomato juice. Broil or pan-broil. Do not overcook as chopped meat dries out. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and spread with softened butter or serve with any sauce suggested for Broiled Steak….A slice of fat salt pork may be chopped with beef to give additional flavor. Serves 3.”

Farmer’s alternative recipe for broiled Hamburg steak starts with a pound of lean chopped beef, to which a fourth of a cup of suet is added, with each patty wrapped with a strip of bacon.

Those burgers, given the added fat, were undoubtedly juicier than the patties served to today’s cholesterol-conscious populace.

Directions for preparing “Creamed Hamburg Steak” are provided in Mills, “Cooking on a Ration,” 1943. Ingredients are three tablespoons fat, a half pound of “hamburg steak,” four tablespoons of flour, a half teaspoon of salt, a “few grains of pepper,” two cups of milk, two “beef cubes,” a dash of Worcestershire sauce, and minced onion, the latter ingredient labelled “optional.”

Here’s the recipe:

“Melt fat and cook hamburg steak in it 1/2 minute. Stir in flour, salt, and pepper. Add milk and dissolved beef cubes slowly. Let boil 1 minute and season with Worcestershire sauce. Add minced onion. Serves 4. May be served over hot buttered toast or baked potatoes.”

Also in Jo-Ann’s collection, I find the 1936 edition of “The Settlement Cook Book.” It provides a recipe for “Chopped Steak (Hamburger),” fashioned from one pound of chopped round steak, an eighth pound of ground suet, a teaspoon of salt, and a fourth teaspoon of pepper. The book instructs:

“Mix lightly and shape in small cakes, about 3/4 inch thick. Grease pan or broiler with fat scraps. Brown meat and cook from 2 to 5 minutes on one side and then on the other side. Serve with melted butter.”

Jo-Ann also has the 1954 edition of that book. It furnishes a recipe for “hamburgers.” The ingredients now were a pound of ground (not chopped) round, three teaspoons of ice water, and, as in 1936, a teaspoon of salt, and a fourth teaspoon of pepper.

The directions were basically the same but, with Crisco in wide use, they eliminated reference to using fat scraps to grease the pan.

A separate recipe for “Hot Hamburger Sandwich” advises placing “flat hamburgers…between toast or hamburger buns.”

If there were a 2004 edition of the book, it would probably instruct: “Take beef patty from freezer; microwave.”

Next week, I’ll take a look at the close kin of hamburger: steak tartare, which sired it, and salisbury steak, its sibling.


Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company


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