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June 30, 2018 Skeen Burgers for the 4th of July
Post by John Rancke
Looking for a backyard burger that doesn’t dry out when it’s cooked. Nice and moist and full of flavor. Simple recipe! My mom Bunky Rancke made these for 40 plus years and now you google the name and some variations of the recipe are on the internet.
To make a Skeen Burger, start with 5 pounds of fresh ground chuck. The fresher the better, and make sure it has some fat in it–none of that 95-5 stuff. Crush enough Ritz Crackers to make 1 cup of cracker crumbs. Have on hand 1 cup of good apple sauce, 3 tsp. of Tabasco sauce, 5 tbsp. of Worcester sauce (spring for the good stuff of your choice; leave the French’s for the kiddies), 1 envelope of dry onion soup mix, 1/2 tsp garlic powder and salt if you wish–sea salt works best.
Mix it all up in whatever order you wish, in one big bowl using your hands. Machines destroy the texture of the meat. Pat out into generous burgers–we usually get 13-15 or so from this recipe. Be careful about getting them too thick as they tend to plump up as you grill them.
Yes, grill them–over charcoal. Preferably. Be sure it is fairly hot, and sear the first side–some black does not hurt the taste–I think it enhances it. Flip them over and sear the other side. Flip again for 2-3 minutes, then flip for another 2-3. Use your turner to press them down on the grill and watch how much juice comes out. When it stops coming out in a stream, but the outside of the burgers are still moist, they’re done. Cooked like this they are usually medium to medium well.
I put the burgers in a mesh clamp like you cook fish in so the burgers don’t fall apart when you turn them on the grill.
Great story about Skeen Burgers from the Greensboro News and Record from 1990
BURGER BATTLE EMBROILS THOMASVILLE
The causes of most wars are shrouded in mystery, open to endless revision and debate.
Did slavery cause the Civil War? Did Axis aggression force us into World War II? Did the domino theory drag us into the quagmire of Vietnam?Well, today I have some good news for all you history buffs and beefeaters. I have, at long last, discovered a war whose cause is not open to discussion, a war that has raged unchecked for the past year with no possibility of a truce in sight.
It’s The Great Thomasville Hamburger War.
And everyone, absolutely everyone, agrees it was caused by the legendary Skeen Burger.
Dewey Skeen is retired now, but when he opened the Morning Glory restaurant on Main Street here in 1947, he fired a shot that’s still echoing today.
The Skeen Burger,’ as it has come to be known in these parts, was an unforgettable confection of prime beef dressed up with mustard, chili, onions, slaw – or whatever your heart desired.
Skeen, a methodical, no-nonsense man, was known for doing things his own way. After cooking every burger he scraped the grill with a razor blade held in a pair of pliers, even if customers were waiting. Skeen let them wait. And they waited, willingly. Of course the place was spotless, the white floor every bit as immaculate as the white counter top.
And closing time – 7 p.m. – was closing time. After a meeting adjourned one night, members of the city council piled down to the Morning Glory for a late burger, only to learn they had arrived at one minute past 7 o’clock. Skeen wouldn’t let them in.
That place was on my paper route, so I was in there all the time,’ recalled Jerry Bledsoe, my predecessor in this job who grew up in Thomasville and is now a best-selling author. Of course the burgers only cost a quarter back then. I always thought Skeen’s was the best hamburger I ever ate. The only thing I know of that’s close to it is Johnson’s restaurant in Siler City. All food takes on the character of its cook. What made Skeen Burgers good was Mr. Skeen.
Did you have a particular favorite Skeen Burger?’ I asked.
A number two,’ Bledsoe said without hesitating. “Mustard, chili and onions.’
I don’t guess you kissed a lot of girls.’
No, I didn’t kiss a lot of girls then – or now. I never had to worry about that.’
After Skeen’s retirement, the old Morning Glory passed through several owners. For the past year – under the sign “The Sandwich Shop – Featuring Hometown Hamburgers’ – it has been run by Gary Newsom, a jovial 30-year-old native of Kentucky who started flipping hamburgers professionally when he was 17 and came here with the Bojangles restaurant chain two years ago.
There’s a heritage here I’m trying to continue,’ Newsom said, quickly adding that he does not lay claim to knowing the elusive recipe of the original Skeen Burger. But I do have the type of hamburger this place is known for. I’ve developed my own recipe. It’s got a unique flavor, a mixture of seasonings I’d rather not disclose.
Understandable. After all, this is war.
Now for testimonials from satisfied customers. A traveling salesman, who started coming to the Morning Glory 25 years ago and asked to remain nameless, offered this assessment: “The competition’s burger is good, but there’s no comparison.’
Added Nicole Crews, a 23-year-old Thomasville native: “The burgers are still better here. They still taste like the original recipe.”
We take you now to the western front of this war, where all is far from quiet.
As the lunch rush winds down at Leonard’s Sandwich Shop on Lexington Street, Alvin Rockett balls up the waxed paper that once contained an “E’ burger – mustard, chili and onions. There’s a different burger for every letter of the name Leonard’s, but Rockett, who drives a potato chip truck, is an E’ burger kind of guy.
“It’s just the best tasting hamburger,’ he said. `”It’s old-timey, the kind you used to get in a beer joint.”
Seated at a nearby booth, Ann Hale said, “I’ve been eating these since 1946. It’s exactly like (the Skeen Burger). It’s real beef – not the Heinz 57 variety of hamburger meat. I think the secret’s the chili.’
Has she tried the enemy’s burger?
“It’s almost there,’ she said, `”but not quite. The flavor wasn’t there in the chili.’
Vickie Leonard opened this restaurant with her husband, Mike, in the summer of 1989 after spending 11 years as a waitress and cook at the Morning Glory. One of her first moves was to hire veteran Morning Glory cook Jennings “Toot’ Newsome.
“We have a secret recipe,’ she said. “It’s Toot’s recipe.’
I asked her if Thomasville, a friendly hamlet of 17,000 souls known as “the Chair City,’ is big enough for a pair of dueling hamburger stands.
`”The town,’ she said flatly, `”is supporting my hamburger. We have an excellent, old-fashioned hamburger. We have the best.’
Even as the war rages on, rumors continue to circulate about just exactly what was in the original Skeen Burger. Dewey Skeen isn’t saying. Some say it was onion salt. Others say Tabasco sauce. Still others claim it was applesauce and Ritz crackers.
But one thing is certain. Nobody’s taking any prisoners in The Great Thomasville Hamburger War. On Friday, fresh potshots were exchanged. A new sign went up in front of the Sandwich Shop. It read: `”We won Thomasville’s Burger War.’
Instead of running up a white flag, Vickie Leonard promptly called the radio station where she advertises. Her new ad reads: “Some hamburger shops make claims to victory. However, all real winners eat the world’s famous burger recipe at Leonard’s Sandwich Shop. And you’re the winner at Leonard’s.’
But just because no one’s taking any prisoners and there’s no truce in sight, don’t get the idea that The Great Thomasville Hamburger War is hell.
`”This,’ as Vickie Leonard so eloquently put it, “is what makes America great.’