Puttin' on the dog: 'Grown up dogs' (and a little history) for National Hot Dog Month

July 11, 2018 10:49:39 AM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


July is National Hot Dog Month, and that sent me digging into the back story of one of America's favorite foods. What an entertaining side trip it was.


Ever since German immigrant Charles Feltman sold little thin sausages in milk buns from his stand at Coney Island in 1871, Americans have been wild for hot dogs.


The earliest origin of the "dachshund" or "little dog" -- sans bun -- is a topic of some tussle between frankfurter factions. Some wiener advocates assert it was developed in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1487. Another camp champions a butcher in Coburg, Germany, in the late 1600s, so says the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. Either version is proof of real staying power. While culinary historians battle it out, one thing seems sure: Immigrants brought the "little dogs" to America in the 1800s. And Feltman? Records show he sold 3,684 dashshund sausages in milk rolls in his first year in business.



I think we've been gobbling them up ever since, especially in summer when hot dogs are staples at picnics, poolsides and cookouts. According to Council statistics, we consume about seven billion between Memorial Day and Labor Day -- about 150 million on July 4 alone. And while there's not a thing wrong with ketchup, mustard and relish, National Hot Dog Month is a good time to remember hot dogs can go gourmet. Which is why today's food pages carry recipes for Mexican gourmet cheese dogs, French onion dogs and corn salsa and sour cream hot dogs.


The Mexican cheese hot dogs are dressed with cheddar and queso fresco cheese, serrano peppers, red onions, crumbled bacon and more. The French onion brings the essence of French onion soup to a summer dinner, with savory caramelized onions and gooey Gruyere cheese, all on a toasted bun brushed with garlic butter. Or, imagine serving up dogs topped with a salsa made with seasoned grilled corn and finely chopped onions and chilies, then crowned with a sour cream drizzle. These are "grown up" hot dogs.



Who coined 'hot dog'?


OK, back to a bit of interesting history. Who first called them hot dogs? Well, that's also up for interpretation. The myth goes that cartoonist Tad Dorgan with the New York Journal saw food vendor Harry Stevens shouting "Get your red-hot dachshund sausages!" at the New York Polo Grounds, circa 1890s. He allegedly illustrated the scene with a dachshund dog nestled in a bun with the caption "Get your hot dogs!" No one has been able to unearth the actual cartoon, however, as firm proof.


Prominent food historian and linguist Barry Popik says "hot dog" began appearing in college magazines in the 1890s. Yale University students referred to the wagons selling hot sausages in buns outside their dorms as "dog wagons." Popik found the first reference to "hot dogs" in an Oct. 19, 1895, article in the Yale Record which referred to people "contentedly munching on hot dogs."


You'll find more hot dog history at the "culture" link at the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, hot-dog.org.


Yes, hot dogs, high in fat and sodium, are best in moderation. Read up and make informed decisions. Sales of organic hot dogs, by the way, have risen sharply in recent years. You may want to give them a try this summer as you serve up an iconic American favorite. We loved them as kids; we can love them as adults.






Cheese sauce:


2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese


1/3 cup milk more or less, depending on desired consistency



Dogs and toppings:


8 hot dogs


8 hot dog buns


4 serrano peppers thinly sliced


1/4 medium red onion minced


Diced fresh tomatoes


Chopped cilantro


1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco cheese


Crumbled bacon



  • Place grated cheese in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in milk. Continue stirring, adding more milk as necessary, until cheese sauce is melted completely and you've reached desired consistency. (Sauce will thicken and harden as it cools.)


  • Grill hot dogs and buns until dogs are nicely charred on the outside and buns are golden brown. Place on buns and top as desired.


    (Source: thewickednoodle.com)






    Caramelized onions


    2 tablespoons unsalted butter


    6 all-natural hot dogs


    1 teaspoon freshly minced garlic


    4 tablespoons unsalted butter


    Kosher salt


    6 hot dog buns


    Shredded Gruyere cheese


    Fresh thyme leaves



  • Start by caramelizing the onions. (Look up instructions if unfamiliar with this.) This will take an hour, so give yourself plenty of time or make them up ahead of time and reheat.


  • To cook hot dogs, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Saute hot dogs in skillet until well browned on all sides and cooked through, about 7-10 minutes.


  • Prepare the garlic butter while hot dogs are cooking by combining 4 tablespoons butter with 1 teaspoon freshly minced garlic and a pinch of salt in a small microwave safe bowl. Microwave for about a minute to melt butter and soften garlic.


  • Spread each hot dog bun with melted garlic butter and toast under broiler until very lightly toasted. Remember to leave oven door ajar when broiling and watch them carefully so they don't burn.


  • Top each bun with a hot dog, and generous heaping of caramelized onions. Be sure to divide onions evenly among hot dogs. Pile on shredded Gruyere cheese. (I used about a tablespoon or two per dog.)


  • Place hot dogs on a foil lined baking sheet. Melt the cheese under the broiler. Again, remember to leave the oven door ajar and watch them closely. The cheese will melt quickly. Remove it from the oven before it burns. Sprinkle on fresh thyme and enjoy.


  • Sprinkle on some fresh thyme and enjoy!


    (Source: lifetastesgood.com)






    For the corn salsa:


    4 ears of corn grilled


    1 onion finely chopped


    1 chili finely chopped


    Small handful parsley finely chopped


    1 tablespoon olive oil


    Juice of 1/2 lemon


    Salt and pepper to taste



    For the sour cream drizzle:


    4 tablespoons sour cream


    1 teaspoon smoked paprika


    1 tablespoon lemon juice


    Salt to taste


    Hot dog buns, halved and toasted


    Sausages of your choice



  • To make corn salsa, cut kernels off of each cob and place in a bowl.


  • Add the onion, chili and parsley then drizzle over the lemon juice and olive oil and mix well. Season to taste then set aside.


  • To make the sour cream drizzle, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.


  • To serve, add a generous spoonful of the corn salsa to each hot dog and finish with a drizzle of the sour cream. Serve immediately.


    (Source: Alida Ryder, simply-delicious-food.com)


    Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.