Want fruit with that burger?
Mixing meat with cherries, blueberries, and other fruits is a growing culinary trend.
The burgers at the Cherry Hut restaurant in Beulah, Mich., are a hit with customers. But these aren't ordinary hamburgers. Every summer, when tourists come to sample the state's bumper crop of cherries, the restaurant's co-owner Andy Case starts taking orders for the restaurant's popular burger. After broiling the patties in the kitchen, he slides them onto a bun and tops them with fixings. It's in this moment, before the first bite, that customers stir with anticipation because the Cherry Hut is home to an unlikely specialty – the cherry burger.Skip to next paragraph
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The burgers are filled with tart, or sour, cherries grown in northern Michigan – the cherry capital of the world.
Although people come to the Cherry Hut for the restaurant's cherry pies, the cherry burger has become a popular seller and a conversation starter. Mr. Case says he probably sells more cherry burgers than regular burgers. "People want to be more health conscious," he says. The cherry burger is "tasty, juicy, healthier."
A burger fit for Oprah
Adding cherries to burgers may seem a bit odd, but mixing tangy or sweet fruit with ground beef or poultry to form patties is becoming more common.
Donald Trump's restaurants – the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., Sixteen in Chicago, and the Trump Bar and Grill at Trump Tower in New York – serve up the Mar-a-Lago turkey burger stuffed with diced Granny Smith apples and Major Grey's chutney and topped with an Anjou pear chutney that contains raisins or currants.
It's even turning the heads of celebrities. On her daytime talk show, Oprah said the Mar-a-Lago turkey burger "may be the best turkey burger in the entire world."
Ever since, the recipe has received praise on Internet message boards. For Jeff O'Neill, executive chef at the Mar-a-Lago Club and the creator of this acclaimed burger, it's been a "humbling" experience.
But his reason for creating this burger was simple. "I never had a turkey burger that was good," Mr. O'Neill says. Usually, "they are dry. They're plain. I wanted to have a burger that was juicy, flavorful, and refreshing all on its own."
So O'Neill turned to fruit. Inspired by a classic Thanksgiving combination – cranberries with turkey – and Palm Beach's warm weather, he created a club favorite. The apples provide a crisp, refreshing bite, and the chutney purée helps keep the patty moist, he says.
The benefits of adding fruit to burgers
Mixing fruit into burgers to add moisture is a big reason to do it, says James McNair, a cookbook author and head judge of the Sutter Home Family Vineyards Build a Better Burger (BBB) contest in St. Helena, Calif.
Since 1990, Mr. McNair has been tasting and testing thousands of burger recipes from aspiring cooks. Lately, he's been noticing how often fruit sneaks its way into contest entries. Last year, apples – diced and grated – as well as dried and fresh cherries and raisins were a common theme.
Tropical fruits also made an appearance. The 2008 grand-prize winner's burger featured papaya. The Hawaiian-themed burger was topped with papaya, avocado, and watercress, but the fresh papaya mixed in the ground-beef patty made all the difference.
"The papaya enzymes are supposedly enzymes for the meat," McNair says. "It sure made a juicy, delicious patty."
The art of creating a moist burger depends not only in the chosen ingredients, but the cooking time on the grill, he mentions. "A lot of people have a tendency to overcook burgers and dry them out." But adding "fruit helps with that. Plus, it adds nutrition."