Four cheeseburger cookbooks sit on the top of the bookshelf in our kitchen, each with a slew of burger recipes. Several years ago, we found a section on burgers from different states. We zeroed in on Mississippi, fascinated by the name “slugburger.”
Of course that prompted us, like so many people before and since, to ask: Are there slugs in slugburgers?
Slugburgers got their ear-catching name because they were originally sold for a nickel, and folks referred to a nickel as a “slug.” We can’t imagine getting a burger of any kind for five cents nowadays. But prices were different nearly a century ago, and times were tight then, too.
Slugburgers have ties to the Depression-era practice of saving a little money by stretching out meat by adding in other ingredients. When we learned that history, it reminded Molly of her grandmother, Loma “Banny” Watts, who used to make what she called “breadie burgers,” a combination of burger, egg and bread.
Banny was born in 1910, grew up in Alabama and was well-acquainted with the need to cook on a dime. So, with family history in mind and a new recipe in hand, we decided to try out the slugburger from Alabama’s neighbor, Mississippi.
Check out this video for more on the slugburger and its history.
Here’s the recipe. We hope you enjoy!
What You Need:
1 pound ground meat (We’ve used ground beef and ground turkey. Some cooks use ground pork.)
1/2 cup cornmeal (We’ve also used grits. You can substitute soy meal or another filler.)
Flour to coat burgers
Desired burger toppings
What You Do:
1. Thoroughly mix meat with cornmeal or other filler substance and a pinch of salt.
2. Patty out burgers and coat with flour for frying.
3. Place burgers in the pan and fry until meat is brown and crispy on the outside. Because of the consistency, the meat will still be softer on the inside when done.
4. Drain grease from burgers, place on buns and top with onions, pickles and mustard. The original slugburgers included those toppings, but you can modify the recipe to fit your taste.
Recipe yields about 8 slugburgers.
Our thoughts after trying our first slugburgers at home
Matthew’s Take: The slugburger’s connection to our family and the Depression era made it an attractive recipe from the start for me. My grandpa Lee worked in a local diner owned by Windy Powell as a young man, and I imagine they employed some of the same tactics to get the most food out of the cheapest amount of ingredients. When we found this recipe, I searched the Internet for specific takes on it and found what appeared to be the most authentic version in Corinth, Miss. After making the slugburger, I was amazed at how similar it is to a livermush sandwich, a delicacy in the county where we live. Livermush is a meat-cornmeal mixture that crisps as it fries. The resemblance of the two concoctions is striking. I give the slugburger an A for taste and an A for price. But I give it a C for presentation because, let’s face it, fried meat isn’t pretty, even when topped with onions and colorful green pickles.
Molly’s Take: The slugburger reminded me of a livermush sandwich, too, most notably because of its consistency. It’s a very different kind of burger, because it’s flatter and crispier than a typical burger. But I loved that combination on a soft bun with mustard, pickle and onion. Those ingredients seemed to just fit. I’d definitely love for us to make it again, although Banny’s original recipe for breadie burgers (which we hope to post soon!) is still my favorite alternative burger. Making something like this in the same way people did almost a hundred years ago was awesome, because we weren’t just making a burger; we were making a connection to history and those people who had to work so hard to live. We’re blessed today that getting a burger is as easy as going to McDonald’s. I can’t imagine it being so difficult to find meat that you had to stretch it out with other things you had at home. So I loved trying out this burger, because traditions like this, and the history behind them, ought to be remembered. And in the South, food is definitely one of our biggest traditions.