The Badger State, otherwise known as Wisconsin, is rich in copper, forest and unending fertile farmlands. A mining boom, not fur trade, gave this state its nickname. According to oral history, the miners burrowed into the hillsides like a bunch of badgers for shelter against the elements instead of building more permanent homesteads. Guess they weren’t planning to stick around.
In 1634, French explorer Jean Nicolet was the first European to reach Wisconsin. Some say he was secretly seeking a Northwest passage to China. Boy, if that’s the case was he ever wrong! That’s okay, under the authority of the king of New France, he was able to contact the Ho-Chuck people, and negotiate peace between them and the Huron. Peace expanded the fur trades. By 1665, the Jesuits had arrived on Lake Superior, only to abandon their mission five years later. The newly formed United States acquired Wisconsin in the Treaty of Paris in 1783. But it wasn’t until the Wisconsin Territory act of 1836 that things really began to happen. By the fall of that year, the best prairie groves surrounding Milwaukee were occupied by New England farmers. An influx of German immigrants followed in the 1850s and brought a new brand of dreamers. The Germans gave folks a new form of education by creating Kindergarten. They also loved their beer. Brewers began to spring up. Wisconsin was overrun with dairies, pasture lands and a lot of beer.
It’s said that the Republican Party was formed in Wisconsin, although that’s a claim still up for debate. Some say a man known as “Hamburger Charlie” Nagreen gave the world their first Hamburger. As the story goes, in 1885 he decided that it’d be much easier for people attending the Seymour Fair to eat his meatballs if he smashed them between two slices of bread. Mr. Nagreen even came up with a catchy jingle to promote his Burgers: “Fried in Butter, listen to it sputter”. But it wasn’t until 1936 that Kroll’s Hamburgers in Green Bay began to feature burgers with a pat of butter on top. Around that same time, Solly Salmon opened his coffee shop in Milwaukee. Seems Solly was partial to buttery burgers, too. Unlike Kroll’s with just a pat of butter, his buttery burgers were over the top. It wasn’t long before Butter Burgers really took off, and became famous.
So from Wisconsin we get Republicans, Kindergarten, grass-fed everything and a heart attack on a bun.
Wisconsin Butter Onion Burgers
1 medium Yellow Onion
14 tablespoons soft Butter, divided
1/3 cup Water
Kosher salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
1 lb Ground Beef Sirloin
4 soft Hamburger Buns, split
Heat the broiler.
Peel and chop the onions. Set aside. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, 6 to 8 minutes. Add water, cover and continue cooking until the onions are golden brown, about 15 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the onions to a bowl and wipe out the skillet.
Divide the meat into 4 loose balls, then gently flatten into thin patties. Heat the skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter, then immediately add the patties to the hot skillet, smash them flat with a spatula to sear. Season the patties with salt and pepper. Cook, basting with butter until well done, about 4 minutes per side, flipping once.
Meanwhile, toast the buns under the broiler. Put the patties on the bottom buns and top each with a quarter of the sauteed onions. Smear 2 tablespoons butter on the cut side of each top bun, then put on top of the burgers. Slice in half to release the butter and serve immediately.