Sweet & Smoky Lincoln’s Prairie Pride Burger

Pairs well with:


Bright and full-bodied, this Zinfandel wine is a curious contradiction in tastes.

We celebrate Abraham Lincoln here in the Heart of Illinois. I chose a theme of ingredients that were commonly grown by Illinois prairie farmers, perhaps more so during Lincoln’s era. The featured horseradish and sorghum in this recipe can still be found growing in the area, but it is not as common as it once was in the past. The horseradish provides a uniquely spicy hot complement to the smoky sweetness of the sorghum. I enjoy supporting our local farmers’ markets and used an organic basil cheddar cheese from right here in Central Illinois to top the burger off.

Of Springfield, Illinois, where I live, Lincoln said, “To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe every thing. Here I have lived for a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man.” This burger is in honor of him and to celebrate his contribution to our Country.


2 lb. beef ground chuck
3 tablespoons horseradish
3 tablespoons sorghum
1 tablespoon liquid smoke
¾ teaspoon minced garlic
½ cup panko bread crumbs
1 cup finely diced red onion
6 slices crispy fried peppered-bacon, crumbled or diced
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Vegetable oil for brushing the grill rack
6 hearty onion rolls or buns
6 slices of organic basil cheddar cheese
6 romaine lettuce leaves
6 slices vine-ripened garden tomato slices

Valley in the Prairie Mayonnaise Spread:

1/2 tub of whipped Philadelphia cream cheese
½ cup mayonnaise
1 package of powered ranch dressing mix
1 tablespoon horseradish


Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium-high.

To make the mayonnaise spread, combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, ranch dressing mix, and horseradish in a bowl. Mix well to incorporate flavors. Cover and refrigerate until serving.

To make the patties, fry the peppered bacon until crisp in a large, heavy nonstick fire-proof skillet on the grill. Drain on a paper towel, wiping all excess grease from the slices. Crumble or dice the bacon into small pieces. In a large bowl, combine the ground chuck, horseradish, sorghum, liquid smoke, minced garlic, bread crumbs, diced red onion, diced cooked bacon pieces, and salt. Gently incorporate the meat mixture using a meat fork. Divide into six equal servings and form into patties.

Brush the grill rack with vegetable oil. Place the patties on the rack, cover and cook turning once until done preference, about 6-7 minutes on each side for medium-well done. During the last few minutes of cooking, place the onion rolls cut-side down on the outer edges of the grill to toast lightly. Just before removing the burgers from the grill, add the slices of cheddar cheese to each one with just enough time to allow the cheese to melt slightly. Remove the burgers and rolls from grill.

To assemble the burgers, place each burger cheese side down on the bottom half of a roll. Top each one with lettuce and tomato. Generously spread the top half of each roll with the mayonnaise spread to top each burger, and serve.

Makes 6 burgers.