Aug 8, 2012

Dog Days

The dog days of summer; just the right time to be cooking outside on a grill so your kitchen stays nice and cool.  Of all the foods prepared on a grill, frankfurters are without a doubt the easiest and most popular. Whether you call them franks, hot dogs, wieners or weenies, this all-American food wins hands-down for popularity at barbecues, picnics and sports events.  Hot dogs are among America's favorite foods. Every year, Americans consume on average 60 hot dogs! Hot dogs are primarily regarded as a fun, summertime food, and most are eaten between Memorial Day and Labor Day. 

This truly American food has a unique and interesting history.   Sausages were originally made at home from leftover bits of meat, seasonings and fillers and stuffed into the cleaned intestines of sheep.  They were tied into sections and roasted before being eaten.  The first mention of sausages in history can be found in Greek writings approximately 2500 years ago.  Another legend is that the popular sausage (known as "dachshund" or "little-dog" sausage) was created in the late 1600s by a butcher living in Germany. It is said that he later traveled to Frankfurt to promote his new product and took on the city’s name.  In 1987, the city of Frankfurt claimed it as its own and celebrated the 500th birthday of the frankfurter.  The term “wiener” is due to the fact that the Austrians claim to have invented this popular tidbit and named it for the city of Vienna or “Wien” in German.
hot dog with onion relishIn 1867 a street peddler by the name of Charles Feltman owned a pie-wagon that delivered his freshly baked pies to the inns that lined Coney Island's beaches. His clients also wanted hot sandwiches to serve to their customers. But his wagon was small and he knew that it would be hard to manage making a variety of sandwiches in a confined space. He thought that perhaps something simple like a hot sausage served on a roll might be the solution. He presented his problem to man who made his wagon.  The man saw no problem in building a tin-lined chest to keep the rolls fresh and rigging a small charcoal stove inside to boil sausages.
When the wagon was finished they fired up the stove for a test run. The wagon-maker thought that the sausage sandwich was a strange idea but he was willing to try it as Feltman boiled the sausage and placed it in a roll. The wagon-maker tasted it and liked it. Thus, the hot dog was born. In his first year in business he sold 3,684 sausages in a roll. He is also credited with the idea of the warm bun. The hard-working Feltman built a mini-empire with a hotel, restaurants, food stands, and various rides to amuse his customers. At his death in 1910, he left a business worth over one million dollars which all started with selling hot dogs. However, the Depression in the 1930's caused the decline of Feltman's business. Visitors to Coney Island could barely afford the subway ride yet alone a sit down meal at Feltman's. 

Other stories credit someone else with the invention of the hot dog. A sausage in St. Louis, Missouri would supply white gloves with each purchase so that his customers would not burn their hands while eating the sausage. He saw his profits going down because the customers kept taking the gloves and walking off with them. His wife suggested that he put the sausages in a split bun instead. He reportedly asked his brother-in-law, a baker, for help. The baker improvised long soft rolls that fit the meat, thus inventing the hot dog bun. When he did that, the hot dog was born. He called them “red hots.”

At the 1893 Chicago World's Fair thousands of visitors consumed large quantities of sausage sold by vendors. People liked this food that was easy to eat, convenient, and inexpensive.

In the same year, sausages became the standard fare at baseball parks. This tradition was begun by the owner of the St. Louis Browns, a major league baseball team. A large man who wore loud, checkered clothing, the owner sat in a special box behind third base with a whistle and binoculars. He used the whistle to get the attention of players, for someone to get him a beer or a hot dog.  Later, sausage vendors would sell their wares outside the student dormitories at major eastern universities, and their carts became known as "dog wagons." The name was a sarcastic comment on the source and quality of the meat.  It was said that dog meat was used to manufacture these popular sausages.  Still others credit the name “hot dog” to a cartoonist who drew pictures of a sausage with legs like a dachshund.  But because he could not spell “dachshund” he just called it a dog.  

Originally made of non-kosher meat, now most hot dogs are made of all beef.  A considerable number of hot dogs consumed in the USA are kosher.  Essentially, a hot dog is a cooked sausage that consists of a combination of beef or chicken and spices which is cured, smoked, and cooked. Frankfurters are fully cooked before being offered for sale in your grocers’ freezer but are usually served hot.   They can be boiled, broiled or grilled.  Whichever way you choose to cook yours, frankfurters are most often eaten tucked inside a bun.  Adding condiments like mustard, ketchup and pickles or relishes allows everyone the opportunity to be creative with this humble food.  Try yours topped with our tasty relish below.
 Anyway you enjoy them, remember to slice them into small pieces when feeding them to young children.  Hundreds of kids choke on hot dogs every year.  

Make this spicy onion relish for cookouts and barbecues.  It's quick, easy and excellent over hot frankfurters.
2 medium onions,  chopped
1 tablespoon paprika
2 ounces apple cider vinegar
Mix all ingredients and allow 3-4 hours for flavors to meld. Onions will turn the same color as the paprika.

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