BACKCOUNTRY CHEF – JUICY BISON BITES

Traveling back roads for locally sourced ingredients adds to the flavor.

If you haven’t been to Woodland, Utah, lately, you’re missing out on a foodie-forward adventure.
For years, stopping in nearby Kamas has been our family’s “must-do” tradition on the way back from a long weekend camping in the Uintas or early morning fly fishing off the Mirror Lake Highway. There’s nothing quite like a juicy burger and over-the-rim thick shake from Hi-Mountain Drug (40 N. Main, Kamas, 435-783-4466) to finish off a fantastic trip.

On Fridays, Hi-Mountain serves its famous Bison Burger special, made with meat from nearby Buffalo Run Ranch (4611 E. Bench Creek Road, Woodland, 435-200-9360). Ranch manager Wade Klingler tells me, “Absolutely, it’s the best bison burger in the world.”

Since the Klingler family has been raising bison since 2010 in Woodland, I’m not going to argue with his assessment. But I think my mini bison sliders may give Hi-Mountain a run for its money.

After stopping at the Buffalo Run Ranch to stock up on bison from their store freezers, we then drove down Bench Creek Road to nearby Gold Creek Farm (6297 E. Bench Creek Road, Woodland, 435-517-7670) and bought a selection of its award-winning artisan cheddar cheese to top our burgers (pro tip: if they have it in stock, the truffle cheddar is well worth the expense).

These adorable bison slider bites are made even better with some homemade pepper sauce—similar in texture to ketchup or steak sauce—that I can in bulk each harvest to enjoy all year ‘round. Whether grilled in camp or at home, these sliders are a satisfying treat.


Grilled bison sliders with charred pepper sauce

 


Grilled Bison Sliders
1 pound ground bison
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
6 slider buns
4 ounces shredded pimento cheddar cheese
Charred pepper sauce (recipe, below)
Toppings: lettuce, onion, pickles

Handling the meat gently (so it doesn’t get too dense and compacted), separate into six equal portions. Shape into small patties about 2 1/2 inches in diameter and no more than 3/4-inch thick, generously season both sides with salt and pepper. Drizzle each side with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking.

Grill interior surface of slider buns over indirect heat on the grill until toasted. Grill burgers over medium-high flames on one side for about 4 minutes, or until dark grill marks appear and the meat is sizzling.

Flip gently, top the cooked side of the burger with cheese, close grill lid, and grill for another 3-5 minutes (until the burgers reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees for medium-rare or 160 for well done).

Remove from heat, and let rest for 5 minutes before serving to retain juices. Serve loaded with all the fixin’s.

Charred Pepper Sauce

2 pounds tomatoes (dense fruits like Roma work best)
2 1/2 pounds red bell peppers (about 10)
6-7 red jalapeño peppers
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup molasses
1 pound dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

To prep the tomatoes and peppers: Heat grill to medium-high. Char tomatoes and peppers on all sides until skins blacken and split. Remove to a very large non-reactive bowl; cover steaming peppers and tomatoes with plastic wrap and set aside for about an hour, or until cool enough to handle (this will loosen skins). Wear gloves for this next part: peel off tomato and pepper skins, and remove tough stems and seeds. Don’t worry if you don’t get all of the charred skins removed, it’ll all go into the blender anyway.

To a large stockpot, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the onions are soft and translucent. Remove from the heat and purée with a stick blender (or if using a blender or food processor, do so in small batches so you don’t get a hot goo explosion all over yourself and your kitchen). Return purée to stovetop, simmer over low heat until thickened to desired consistency, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking; about 2 hours. Remove from heat.

Cool to room temperature, then store in clean jars in the refrigerator (use within 3 weeks.) Or, preserve in clean hot jars following standard directions for water-bath canning, 15 minutes baseline for sea level

Makes approximately 5 cups of sauce, so have five 8-ounce jars ready to fill.

 

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