Papa’s Favorite Wild West Hamburger

Go all-out with Hemingway’s spare-nothing, blazing burger.

  • Serves

    serves 4

  • Cook

    1 hour


By Helen Rosner

Updated on August 5, 2021

In 2013, this hamburger recipe resurfaced at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. After Hemingway’s death in 1961, in spite of chilly diplomatic relations, JFK and Fidel Castro put aside their differences long enough to help get many of the author’s possessions back to his family. Many documents eventually landed at the president’s library. The maximalist formula calls for minced fruits and vegetables, spices, cheese, ham, capers, and zippy India relish (the sweet, slightly piquant cucumber condiment invented by H.J. Heinz in 1889) all mixed directly into the beef. The result is juicy and vibrant, its many constituent parts melding into a single, intensely savory whole. Make your own Beau Monde seasoning—a blend of salt, onion powder, and celery seed—or get it from the Spice Islands brand, as Hemingway did.


  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 2 oz. sliced ham, finely chopped
  • ⅓ cups dry red or white wine
  • ¼ cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 tbsp. capers, drained
  • 2 tbsp. grated tart apple
  • 1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1½ tsp. ground sage
  • 1½ tsp. India relish
  • ½ tsp. Beau Monde seasoning
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 small scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 plum tomato, cored, peeled, and grated
  • ½ small carrot, grated
  • ½ small yellow onion, grated
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp. canola oil
  • Hamburger buns, lettuce, sliced tomato and onion, ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise, for serving


Step 1

To a large bowl, add the beef, ham, wine, cheese, capers, apple, parsley, soy sauce, sage, India relish, Beau Monde, garlic, scallions, egg, tomato, carrot, and onion. Season with salt and black pepper, then form the mixture into four equal-sized patties.

Step 2

To a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil. When hot, add the patties and cook, flipping once, to the desired doneness, 8–10 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer to hamburger buns and serve with lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise on the side

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