Surprise: The patties and burgers were made with ground buffalo, also known as bison, from Empire Buffalo, in Madison County.
Empire Buffalo is a buffalo farm, home to a herd of 40 non-domesticated animals, near Chittenango Falls State Park.
Farm owners Aileen Randolph and Joe Lazarsky sell bison products direct from the farm and at area farmers markets, primarily in the Madison County area.
I met Aileen in March at the Circa Winter Farmer’s Market, featuring vendors that supply the local products on Circa's menu and in its market case. She offered an array of grass-fed bison products for sale: ground bison, bison breakfast sausage, Italian sausage, stew meat, steaks, tenderloin, etc.
Aileen is friendly and knowledgeable and an excellent saleswoman. I headed home to Syracuse with a pound of ground bison ($8) – something new and different for us.
Buffalo has become an increasingly well-known in food circles in recent years. It’s often marketed as a healthier alternative to beef.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a three-ounce serving of top sirloin buffalo meat contains 5 grams of fat, 73 mg of cholesterol and 145 calories. A three-ounce serving of top sirloin beef, trimmed of fat, contains 9 grams of fat, 76 mg of cholesterol and 186 calories.
Aileen says most folks who’ve never sampled bison start with ground bison and make burgers. She also suggests meatballs, like the Asian-Style Bison Meatballs on the Empire Buffalo website.
We added some salt, pepper and breadcrumbs to the ground bison, formed it into patties and double-wrapped the extras for the freezer. We pan-fried a couple for a Saturday supper, adding cheddar cheese and a top layer of caramelized onions to make a somewhat sloppy burger that took two hands to eat. Bison burgers are no doubt delicious grilled, but it was still too cold, at the time.
You’re probably wondering what ground bison tastes like. It’s a deep, red-brown in color, full-flavored like beef, but slightly softer in texture/consistency. Aileen said bison doesn’t taste gamey, and she’s right. It tastes, well, meaty.
Next time, I’ll be more adventurous – and try bison steak or sausage. We’re also looking forward to taking Aileen up on her invitation to “come out and see the herd!’’
Central New York: Where the buffalo roam!
Empire Buffalo is at 1351 Falls Road, Fenner. For more information, call 315-655-4429.
Photo courtesy of Empire Buffalo