Slider Candles

Although the venerable hamburger sandwich got its start during the late 19th century, sliders did not make their debut until September 13, 1921 when the first White Castle opened its doors in Wichita, Kansas. Unlike conventional hamburgers which use patties that weigh an average of four to six ounces,. White Castle’s sliders featured patties that only weighed .88 ounces. One pound of ground beef could literally be used to make eighteen slider patties. In contrast, the average restaurant that produces sliders as appetizers makes patties that weigh 1-2 ounces which is about the size and weight of a breakfast sausage patty.

A real slider

White Castle opened during a tumultuous time during U.S. culinary history. Although Upton Sinclair’s novel, “The Jungle” had been published fifteen years earlier in 1906, the average U.S. citizen still had lingering doubts over the quality and safety of the U.S. meat industry. Mr. Sinclair’s novel highlighted the harsh conditions of immigrants in Chicago and emphasized the disgusting conditions of the meat industry. His description of diseased, rotted, and otherwise contaminated meat shocked the public and led to the passage of two Federal food safety laws. These laws included the Pure Food Act as well as the Meat Inspection Act. Both of these bills were quickly enacted under the Teddy Roosevelt administration in 1906.

Since ground beef had a particularly bad reputation given how this meat literally came from the ground leftover pieces of hundreds of different cows,  E.W. “Billy” Ingram impressed the public by emphasizing the cleanliness of his restaurant. He did this by making his establishment absolutely pristine. The tables and counters were made with stainless steel that were always kept spotless. The cooks dressed in clean white uniforms. The building itself was painted white. Even the name “White Castle” was carefully chosen. The white color conveyed purity and cleanliness. The use of the word “castle” conveyed a sense of strength while also invoking the image of chivalrous and honorable knights.

White Castle slider patties

Since White Castle’s sliders were very small, the patties were cooked really quickly. The patties were first steamed on a bed of onions and were then seared on both sides. To facilitate cooking them, they were formed into perforated squares. The squares allowed more patties to be cooked at a time than if he had used round patties. The holes allowed steam to vent through the patties without creating air pockets that would have disrupted their shape.

As one can see in the picture below, White Castle initially referred to their sandwiches as hamburgers rather than sliders. The term “slider” did not come into use until the 1940’s when these small hamburger sandwiches were made by U.S. Navy cooks. Since these patties had a tendency to “slide’ on flattop grills while the ship was rocked by the ocean’s waves, sailors began referring to these patties as “sliders.”

In addition to serving a thoroughly delicious product, White Castle was also the first fast food chain to ever open in the United States. Jack in the Box didn’t open until 1951. Burger King followed in 1954. McDonald’s opened one year later in 1955. Hardee’s got its start in 1960 and Wendy’s opened nearly a decade later in 1969.

Over the past one hundred years, there have been a great many other burger chains that have not survived the competitiveness of the food service industry. Burger Chef which opened in 1954 and expanded to have 1,200 stores went out of business in 1981. Burger Queen which was first opened in 1956 was closed in 1981. Beefsteak Charlie’s was opened in 1910 but didn’t become a chain until 1976. It closed in 2009. Dee’s Hamburgers which got their start by selling burgers to University of Utah students during the 1920’s wound up selling all of their locations to Hardee’s.

Other defunct burger chains include Gino’s Burgers, Henry’s Hamburgers, Red Barn, Wetson’s, Wimpy’s, White Tower (a blatant White Castle knockoff), and Yankee Doodle Dandy.

Although I created my first slider candle last summer, it wasn’t until recently that I standardized the production and assembly of these candles. Pictured below right is my first production test model. It’s sitting next to a prototype for a full sized burger candle.

Part of the reason for the delay was because I initially couldn’t decide whether I wanted to include lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles with the slider. I eventually decided to omit these ingredients. Although White Castle sliders are served with nothing more than a pickle, I decided to omit the pickle and to add ketchup and mustard to give the slider some color.

Although I thought about making a square burger patty, I opted for using a small burger patty that was made from a silicone mold that was created using a breakfast sausage.

Top left: The first slider I ever made (summer of 2020)

Pictured below is my first production run of slider candles. These candles smell of beef, bacon, garlic, and freshly baked bread. Since sliders are steamed or pan fried, I didn’t make the patties as dark as they would have been if they had been charcoal grilled. The use of candle gel gave the simulated ketchup, mustard, and patties a deliciously moist appearance.

Instead of listing these with my Made in Nevada virtual shop, I’m thinking of saving them for an Etsy store. In addition to drawing down the current inventory for Made in Nevada, I have some candles that I never uploaded to my current virtual store that I could add to the Etsy inventory.

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