Today is National Montana Day. There is much to be said about Montana. Big Sky Country. The 41st state to join the Union, Montana offers explorers both a rich history and exciting adventures. From the beauty of Glacier National Park, Yellowstone and the Little Big Horn, there is much to see and do.
When it came to celebrating Montana, I had so many ideas floating about in my head. One of our favorite places to explore is Yellowstone. Of Yellowstone’s five gates the West, North and North East gates are all in Montana despite the fact that nearly all of the park itself is in Wyoming. Only the Southern Gate, 80 miles north of Jackson Hole, Wyoming and the East Entrance, 85 miles west of Cody, Wyoming are not in Montana. Interestingly enough, Gardiner, Montana; West Yellowstone, Montana and Silver Gate-Cooke City; Montana are all so close to the entrance gates that they feel almost inside the park itself.
Glacier National Park is on our bucket list. One of these days we’ll get there. Glacier National Park, like the name suggests, in home to a glacier near the Montana-Canadian border. The landscape is breathtaking, and the wildlife impressive.
In researching Montana, I came across something that I knew I needed to explore – the Montana Catholic Burger. Catholic what? Catholic Burger. Yep. As it turns out, since July 1915 Wolf Point, Montana has hosted Montana’s oldest rodeo, the Wild Horse Stampede. In nearby Fort Peck, you will find the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. Way back in 1947 the church came upon the idea of using the Wolf Point Stampede as a fundraiser, and began selling their amazing burgers made with local beef and piled high with onions cooked in pickle juice. For 24 hours a day over the course of four days in July, the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church serves up about a ton of meat and a few hundred pounds of onions. The line begins to form on Thursday just after the parade down main street, and doesn’t stop until the end of the rodeo on Sunday. The pop-up burger stand started out as a small concession stand along one of Wolf Point’s side street. It wasn’t long before the popularity grew, and now rodeo goes can find the Catholic Burger right on Main Street during the Stampede.
With only photos and an article to go by, I’ve created my own take on the Montana Catholic Burger. If this is even half as good as the real deal, I understand why the lines are long and the burgers are sold non-stop for four days. My guys loved them. I’m not usually a ketchup-condiment fan when it comes to burgers, but the combination of ketchup and mustard on the bottom bun, with a healthy slathering of mayo on the top was really delicious.
If you can’t make it to Wolf Point, Montana, for the Wild Horse Stampede, then you’ve got to try these burgers at home. Wow.
Oh, and one more thing before we get to cooking – the Fort Peck Reservation has been accepting Bison from Yellowstone to reintroduce a pure herd to Montana. It is there goal to have about 1,000 head, with plans to breed and share the Bison with other Reservations.
Montana Catholic Burger
1-1/2 lb Ground Beef
1 large Yellow Onion
Olive Oil as needed
Pickle Juice as needed
3 American Cheese
3 Green Leaf Lettuce
1 Beefsteak Tomato, sliced
3 Plain Hamburger Buns
Ketchup if desired
Mustard if desired
Hamburger Pickle Chips
Form ground beef into 6 quarter-pound patties. Season generously with salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to grill.
Peel and slice onion into thin rings. Break apart the rings. On a flat griddle or cast iron pan over medium heat, drizzle just a little olive oil to prime the cooking surface.
Spread onions out, begin to cook. Once the onions start to soften and brown, add pickle juice a little at a time and continue to cook until beautifully browned. Keep warm.
Cook hamburger patties on a griddle for 5 minutes per side or until cooked through, flipping once. Add cheese, if desired, to half of the patties just before pulling burgers from the griddle.
While the burgers cook, break a few lettuce leaves from a head of lettuce. Rinse leaves and pat dry, set aside. Slice tomato, set aside. Garnish bottom bun with Ketchup and mustard as desired. Top each garnished bun with a lettuce leaves and a slice of tomato.
Stack 2 patties on each hamburger bun, cheeseburger patty first, plain burger next. Top each burger with a handful of pickle-fried onions, pickle chips and the top bun slathered in mayonnaise. Or just build the burger as you like.
Serve with your favorite sides such as Steak Fries or Tater Tots.