Referring to ground beef as hamburger dates to the invention of the mechanical meat choppers during the 1800s. It wasn’t until the early nineteenth century that wood, tin, and pewter cylinders with wooden plunger pushers became common. Steve Church of Ridgecrest, California uncovered some long forgotten U. S. patents on Meat Cutters:
E. Wade received Patent Number x5348 on January 26, 1829 for what may be the first patented “Meat Cutter.” The patent shows choppers moving up and down onto a rotating block.
G. A. Coffman of Virginia received Patent Number 3935 on February 28, 1845 for an “Improvement in Machines for Cutting Sausage-Meat” using a spiral feeder and rotating knives something like a modern food grinder.
Many historians claim the first printed American menu was in 1826 on New York’s Delmonico’s Restaurant. Ellen Steinberg, Ph.D, of Illinois sent me the following information from the Nutrition Today Magazine, Volume 39, January/February 2004, pp 18-25:
Food in American History, Part 6 – Beef (Part 1): Reconstruction and Growth Into the 20th Century (1865-1910), by Louis E. Grivetti, PhD, Jan L. Corlett, PhD, Bertram M. Gordon, PhD, and Cassius T. Lockett, PhD:
Others have written the first hamburger – specifically hamburger steak – was served in 1834 at Delmonico’s Restaurant, New York City, for $.10. However, this oft-quoted origin is not based on the original Delmonico menu but rather a facsimile, and it can be demonstrated through careful scholarship that the published facsimile could not be correct, because the printer of the purported original menu was not in business in 1834!
According to the Los Angeles, CA Metropolitan New-Enterprise newspaper article, Old Menus Tell the History of Hamburgers in L.A., by Roger M. Grace:
From 1871-1884, “Hamburg Beefsteak” was on the “Breakfast and Supper Menu” of the Clipper Restaurant at 311/313 Pacific Street in San Fernando. It cost 10 cents—the same price as mutton chops, pig’s feet in batter, and stewed veal. It was not, however, on the dinner menu; “Pig’s Head” “Calf Tongue” and “Stewed Kidneys” were.
Hamburger Steak, Plain and Hamburger Steak with Onions, was served at the Tyrolean Alps Restaurant at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.Old Cookbooks
1758 – By the mid-18th century, German immigrants also begin arriving in England. One recipe, titled “Hamburgh Sausage,” appeared in Hannah Glasse’s 1758 English cookbook called The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy. It consisted of chopped beef, suet, and spices. The author recommended that this sausage be served with toasted bread. Hannah Glasse’s cookbook was also very popular in Colonial America, although it was not published in the United States until 1805. This American edition also contained the “Hamburgh Sausage” recipe with slight revisions.
1844 – The original Boston Cooking School Cook Book, by Mrs. D.A. Lincoln (Mary Bailey), 1844 had a recipe for Broiled Meat Cakes and also Hamburgh Steak:
Broiled Meat Cakes – Chop lean, raw beef quite fine. Season with salt, pepper, and a little chopped onion, or onion juice. Make it into small flat cakes, and broil on a well-greased gridiron or on a hot fring pan. Serve very hot with butter or Maitre de’ Hotel sauce.
Hamburgh Steak – Pound a slice of round steak enough to break the fibre. Fry two or three onions, minced fine, in butter until slightly browned. Spread the onions over the meat, fold the ends of the meat together, and pound again, to keep the onions in the middle. Broil two or three minutes. Spread with butter, salt, and pepper.
1894 – In the 1894 edition of the book The Epicurean: A Complete Treatise of Analytical & Practical Studies, by Charles Ranhofer (1836-1899), chef at the famous Delmonico’s restaurant in New York, there is a listing for Beef Steak Hamburg Style. The dish is also listed in French as Bifteck à Hambourgeoise. What made his version unique was that the recipe called for the ground beef to be mixed with kidney and bone marrow:
One pound of tenderloin beef free of sinews and fat; chop it up on a chopping block with four ounces of beef kidney suet, free of nerves and skin or else the same quantity of marrow; add one ounce of chopped onions fried in butter without attaining color; season all with salt, pepper and nutmeg, and divide the preparation into balls, each one weighing four ounces; flatten them down, roll them in bread-crumbs and fry them in a sauté pan in butter. When of a fine color on both sides, dish them up pouring a good thickened gravy . . . over.”
1906 – Upton Sinclair (1878-1968), American novelist, wrote in his book called The Jungle, which told of the horrors of Chicago meat packing plants. This book caused much distrust in the United States regarding chopped meat. Sinclair was surprised that the public missed the main point of his impressionistic fiction and took it to be an indictment of unhygienic conditions of the meat packing industry. This caused people to not trust chopped meat for several years.
Bronco’s East: 4540 Leavenworth Street, Omaha, NE.
Bronco’s West: 1123 South 120th Street, Omaha, NE.
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