From New York to Chicago to New Orleans and way out West, hot dogs are a part of our food history.
Coney Island hosts the annual hot dog eating contest every Fourth of July. Celebrities can be spotted driving through Pink's in Hollywood to get one of their famous dogs. Lines wrap round the block in Chicago at Hot Doug's. And lest we forget, New Orleans and its infamous Lucky Dogs, immortalized in "Confederacy of Dunces."
Simply put, hot dogs symbolize some very key food part of being American. They symbolize summer, with memories of drive-ins, ballparks and cookouts.
Jude Hemmins enjoys a hot dog on the beach. (Via Cristen Hemmins)
Although some hot dogs are still made with somewhat mysterious ingredients, many companies have changed their products to offer lower fat alternatives and healthier ingredients, not mention the wealth of vegetarian and vegan options as well.
And there is a growing wealth of local farmers and artisans creating hot dogs, sausages and the like with local ingredients and without all of the preservatives and chemicals.
But getting down to the nitty-gritty is the wealth of hot dog toppings. Although some may argue, there really is no right way to top off your dog. My favorite hot dog topping is relish. I won't eat a hot dog without it.
I like to make a sweet and spicy relish based on a family recipe. I don't use as much sugar as most recipes call for, but it is still chock full of sweetness, with a twang of heat that just works perfect as a finishing touch on any dog.
This is a canning project, so you'll need to make this recipe at least a day ahead. It is perfect for making in large batches with your summer harvest or haul from the farmers market. And it is definitely worth the effort for making the perfect hot dog.
Twinkle's Sweet Lil' Devil Relish
Makes approx. 4 pints
- 8 large unpeeled cucumbers (about 4 cups), diced
- 2 large cayenne pepper (about 1 1/2 cups), diced
- 1 fresh jalapeño, diced
- 4 ribs celery (about 3 cups), diced
- 1/4 cup sea salt
- 1 1/2 cups Demerara sugar (adjust for your sweetness preference.
- 2 cups distilled white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon celery seed
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon mustard seed
– Finely chop the vegetables, or pulse in a food processor until chunky and approximately all the same size.
– Place in a bowl and toss them with the salt.
– Cover with water and ice and let sit for several hours.
– Drain all the liquid.
– Combine the remaining ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a rolling boil, continuously stirring.
– When the sugar has dissolved, add the vegetable mix and simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
– Place into sterilized canning jars, leaving about a fingertip of space at the top. Seal and store in the fridge.
These will store for 4-6 weeks in the fridge without processing.
If you want to process them for longer shelf storage, process in a water bath canner for at least 10 minutes.
For more on food and for more recipes check out twinklevanwinkle.com.
Twinkle VanWinkle was born in a small town in Mississippi. A life-long lover of music, media and food, she grew up following those three things along her path. She has almost 20 years of professional cooking under her apron strings, feeding thousands of friends, family and other folks while working in restaurants and bakeries in Oxford, Miss. She baked 300 apple pies for the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and appeared on "The Best Of..." in the same year. Along with producing dynamic entertainment content for LIN Media, she is a mother, musician and social media fanatic.
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