Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, March 18, 2004


Page 15



No More Franks on Burger Buns; Beans, Kraut Are Rarities




Not long ago I was in a small cafe in Colorado and ordered a hot dog. The frank was OK but the bun was stale.

The place apparently sold more hamburgers than hot dogs, so it didn’t quickly use the hot dog buns.

It seems not to have occurred to the proprietors to put the hot dog on a hamburger bun. Back in the 1950s, that was quite common.

The frank was split lengthwise and grilled on each side. Then it was cut crosswise. The two butterflied halves were placed next to each other on the bottom half of the grilled or toasted bun, mustard or whatever was added, and the top part of the bun was plunked on.

It’s been many years since I’ve seen that.

It would probably be considered too labor intensive nowadays. It takes time to split the hot dog, put it on the grill, flip it over, and divide it. It’s easier to just take a wiener out of a pot of hot water or a steamer.

A common accompaniment for hot dogs used to be baked beans. Hamburger Hamlet used to serve two franks in a long casserole dish on bed of Boston baked beans, with barbecue sauce drizzled on top.

But beans are out of fashion, it seems. I can’t name a single place that still serves franks and beans, let alone a hot dog with baked beans as a topping.

There are a few restaurants, such as Bear Pit Bar-B-Que Restaurant in Mission Hills, where you can still order baked beans as a side dish, and then pour them on the hot dog, yourself.

Will baked beans make a comeback? (Surely you admire my courage in tackling a subject so controversial.) Possibly The Return of the Bean is imminent. There is a marked increase in the varieties of baked beans being sold in markets of late, which is apt to gain consumers’ attention. The cause of baked beans is bound to be aided by the excellence of a relatively new brand (new to this region, that is), Bush’s Best, which is even advertised on television.

Sauerkraut, too, is seldom offered as a hot dog topping these days, at least hereabouts. It used to be a common accompaniment.

Indeed, Birds-Eye stopped manufacturing sauerkraut last year.

It is said to have little appeal to the youth.

It’s a shame. Sauerkraut, a dish that originated in China at least 200 years before Christ, has been found in recent studies, both in Illinois and in Finland, to be a cancer-inhibitor.

Another thing that’s changed about hot dogs over the years is the outer layer. Originally, the meat was stuffed into animal intestines. Such “natural casings” remain in use, but some manufacturers opt for collagen, which comes from beef hides, or cellulose, a synthetic made from cotton.

Cellulose was devised by one Erwin O. Freund in the 1920s. Freund also invented, unwittingly, the skinless frank. He found that when the cellulose was peeled away, the frank remained intact.

Peeling isn’t easily accomplished. Here is the story of how how franks are rendered skinless, as told by the late Justice Marshall F. McComb, in a 1950 Court of Appeal opinion:

Previously prepared meat emulsion is stuffed into cellulose sausage casings to the full capacity thereof by the use of standard pressure stuffers….The stuffed tubular casings are then linked to provide frankfurters of the proper length.

The linked frankfurters are spread out on smoke sticks which in turn are racked on smokehouse cages. When the frankfurters have been subjected to the smoking operation for the desired length of time the cages are removed from the smokehouse….At the end of the smoking operation neither the animal casing nor the cellulose casing can be peeled from the frankfurter without disrupting or carrying with it the meat mass of the frankfurter.

The loaded cages after removal from the smokehouse are introduced into a water-cooking apparatus (a Jourdan Cooker) wherein water of a temperature of about 160 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit is continually recirculated and showered on the frankfurters from approximately six to twelve minutes.

Next, the frankfurters, after removal of the cages from the Jourdan Cooker, are quickly cooled by showering with tap water. The frankfurters are then placed in a cooler for a sufficient time to thoroughly child them and dry the surfaces thereof.Finally the cellulose casings are peeled from the frankfurter leaving a skinless frankfurter or wiener.

Modernly, ice is frequently used in the process.

Leaving the casings on the hot dogs has recently become a shrewd marketing device, with the franks denominated “old fashioned.”


Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company


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