Thursday, July 23, 2015

Comfort Food: Juicy Burgers

Most people call them "sloppy joes," but in our house growing up, they were always "juicy burgers." I'm not sure why. The original recipe in the 1971 Logan Methodist Church cookbook calls them "skillet burgers" but I'm not sure why my mom called them Juicy Burgers.

Whatever you call them, they are good. Really good. I mean Pavlov's slobbering dogs good. Whenever I make them and I start to smell everything coming together, I'm immediately taken back to about 1977. The kitchen in our house located on Main Street in Logan, Kansas. (That sentence has way too many prepositions for my liking, but I'm focusing on these juicy burgers right now.)

I remember growing up in the 1970s and 80s and seeing TV commercials for Manwich and wondered why my mom never bought it at the store. She knew better. This recipe for juicy burgers was way better than any canned sauce could do — and making these babies are just about as easy as opening a can of sauce.

Here's the cast of characters:
  • Hamburger
  • Onion
  • Green Pepper
  • Ketchup
  • Yellow Mustard
  • White Vinegar
  • Brown Sugar

I already had the hamburger/green pepper/onion in the skillet before I thought about blogging this recipe, so here are the rest of the characters.

This is a large batch of juicy burgers, so I started with three pounds of hamburger, one green bell pepper and a medium onion. Place the ground beef in the skillet (add salt and pepper) and then add the chopped onions and green pepper. Cook until the ground beef is browned. Drain.

After you've drained the grease off of the meat mixture, it's time to get the "juicy" going for these. I think the original recipe (I can't find my 1971 Logan UMW cookbook right now) calls for about 3/4 cup of ketchup and 1/4 cup of yellow mustard. I put about a cup of ketchup on this and about 1/4 cup of mustard - give or take. Then pour about 2 Tablespoons of white vinegar into the mixture and about 3 Tablespoons of brown sugar into the meat mixture.

Then start mixing it all together. This is when the art of cooking overtakes the science of cooking. You always have to give it a taste and see where you are at. Maybe it isn't "juicy" enough or it might be a little sour if there's too much vinegar. If you like them sweeter, add a little more brown sugar.

When you've got it all mixed together, it should look like this and smell like my mom's 1977 kitchen (with bright orange cabinets everywhere).

Once everything is incorporated, you are ready to eat. It's time to turn off the burner, open a bag of hamburger buns and a bag of potato chips. I like to take a chip and scoop some on that chip for my first bite. It is heavenly. My wife prefers to put shredded cheddar cheese on her juicy burger, but I'm pretty simple. Bun and meat. Sometimes I'll eat it with a fork, sometimes not. Sometimes open-faced with meat on both sides of the bun, sometimes not.

However you eat them, you will never want to open a can of Manwich again. These are the very best juicy burgers/sloppy joes you will ever eat.

Hands down.

They are great right out of the skillet or also work great in a crock pot for a football-watching gathering of friends. The meat reheats well for lunch the next day, too!


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