Summertime is hot dog time. Even though I love hot dogs and eat them all year 'round, I have to admit that my favorite method of cooking them is outdoors over coals. With the weather getting nicer every day, and my grill getting fired up more and more often, I thought this would be an appropriate time of year to start a series about the different wiener varieties available around here.
I have some definite dog preferences that I'll be using as guidelines throughout the series:
- Natural-casing franks only - no "skinless" hot dogs; I find them fairly nasty. I may make exceptions for this if I buy a prepared hot dog out somewhere, like at Cumberland Farms or a local hot dog stand, but for cook-em-at-home hot dogs, this rule will always apply.
- No national brands. That means you won't find Oscar Mayer wieners here - just as well, because they've changed the recipe a few times since I was a kid and now taste like heavily-salted crap - or Hebrew Nationals or Nathan's. The best hot dogs are locally made; I have a bunch of hot dog makers in my area, and surrounding regions have them, too. Those are the ones I'll be focusing on.
- I prefer hot dogs grilled, but my second choice is steamed; I'll probably note in the review if one method makes the wieners actually taste better.
- I also prefer New England-style hot dog buns. They're the kind that are split on top, yielding two sides that can be toasted over the coals or buttered and browned on a hot griddle.
- Although you may certainly put whatever you want on your hotdog, the only acceptable condiments on mine are mustard and sometimes relish and/or minced raw onion and/or "hot dog sauce"/"chili sauce" (or whatever your local name for that stuff is.) I'll also eat 'em at a hot dog joint the way the house serves them - at least once - because that's usually the way the joint got famous, and trademarks deserve respect and a fair shake. More than once, I've been pleasantly surprised.
So, with the ground rules out of the way, let's start with an upstate New York specialty, Snappy Grillers. They're made in Syracuse by Hofmann, and they are nothing at all like the usual New England wiener. They are a natural casing frank hold a savory mixture of pork, veal, egg white, and nonfat dry milk along with spices which, judging by the flavor and aroma, probably include white pepper and allspice or mace and cayenne pepper.
Snappy Grillers have just a hint of firey spice as well - enough to be noticed, but not enough to be uncomfortable, even if you're eating two or three. I just recently found out about them, thanks to a post over at The Ridiculous Food Society of Upstate New York by fellow blogger Mr. Dave (no relation) but despite this recent revelation, they are already a favorite of mine. Normally, I would have to go on a road trip to the Albany area to find them, but my local Price Chopper carries many New York State specialties, including Snappy Grillers, making it easy for me to get my fix.
I've tried them both steamed and grilled, and true to their name, they are best grilled until nicely browned all around. Grilling really brings out the full flavor of the dogs, especially when served up on a fresh bun toasted over the coals with the wieners.
I can't wait for the next cookout I go to. I'm bringing a big ol' package of Snappy Grillers with me to introduce them to my friends. They'll be a nice contrast to our usual local brands.