By Deborah Eisenhut

The “hotdog” does signify summer food at its best. It’s cheap, tasty, easily grilled outdoors or boiled indoors, and very forgiving for new cooks. A popular food choice for picnics, ballparks, outdoor BBQ’s, street vendor carts and especially festival eating, hotdogs have been America’s favorite for many generations. In recent years, there has been a gourmet surge with not only better quality hotdogs, but with the buns and toppings that adorn the dog.

Hotdogs were originally sausages, mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey in the 9th century, making them one of the oldest processed foods. They are reported to have been around since Roman Emperor Nero’s personal chef discovered pig intestines and started stuffing them with meats and spices. While the precise history of the hotdog may never be known, the sausage culture owes Germany for perfecting this culinary specialty. After sausages gained popularity across Europe, they really became famous when German cooks took them on as their own, pairing them with bread, beer and sauerkraut. Two German cities Frankfort and Vienna remain original homes of the modern hotdog.

By the late 1800’s, both the name “hotdog” and the popularity of dogs grew quickly in America. After the turn of the century, due to a hard working Jewish-Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker, who started a push cart business on Coney Island, NY called “Nathan’s Famous”, hotdogs really came into their own and by the Depression, Nathan dogs were all over the US, becoming a forever beloved American meal.

The best cooking method for hotdogs or bratwurst sausages is one of two ways. Either grilled on a charcoal or gas grill or on the stove in boiling water or beer. Some think the best part of the dog is the warm bun and toppings. Try chili, sauerkraut, pickle relish, mustard, ketchup, onions, peppers, slaw, chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, cheese (all types), dill pickles…..see what your imagination comes up with. Wrap the hotdog with bacon, grill and forgoing the bun for a tortilla, add salsa, guacamole and black beans for a great ethnic treat.

Try a Chicago Dog which is a boiled dog on a poppy seed bun. Cover dog with dill pickles, cucumber spears, sliced tomatoes, sweet pickle relish, pickled peppers, diced onions and yellow mustard. Sprinkle with celery salt. Try a California Dog which is a boiled tofu dog on whole wheat bun with diced avocado and cucumber and shredded carrot. Drizzle with green goddess salad dressing. And for those diehard Southern dog lovers, the Low Country Dog is awesome. Boil 1 cup diced potatoes in a pot of water with ¼ cup Old Bay Seasoning until tender. Add 1 pkg of quality hotdogs and cook for 5 minutes, add 1 cup sweet corn kernels, cook two more minutes and drain. Separate mini potato buns into rows of three, split open, fill with mixture. Yum!

Hotdog Bourbon Appetizers

16 ounce pkg quality hotdogs cut into 1 inch pieces

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup Heinz Ketchup

¼ cup quality spicy mustard

½ cup bourbon

Mix above ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until dogs are cooked through and coated well, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a Crockpot or slow cooker to keep warm until serving.

Hotdog Hawaiian Surprise

16 ounce pkg quality hotdogs (cut if desired)

1- 8ounce can of pineapple chunks, undrained

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup Heinz Ketchup

1-16 ounce can Bush’s original baked beans

Add all ingredients into a slow cooker on high for 15 minutes. Reduce to low and keep warm until serving. Can be served with fluffy white rice.