Sunday, December 09, 2007

My Favorite Snack








It is amazing the little things I missed most about Maine all the years I was away. Simple things such as red hot dogs, or Oxford relish, which became Cains, and is now made to the old relish specifications by a new third company, but marketed still as Cains. And, as you can see by the 'dog' ad above, I wasn't alone. They actually charge something like $80 for two packs of them shipped to you! A hot dog bun fairly unique to New England is another. Top sliced with flat sides begging to be buttered and grilled, that holds the dog firmly so it doesn't fall apart like some side cut buns. This same style of bun is also served steamed lightly in Maine, which results in a soft, warm, feels great in your mouth sensation. The buns, grilled or steamed, get relish and onions that are grilled, steamed, or even fine chopped and raw on bottom and mustard on top, making for an easily held and almost spill proof treat. Some add a light amount of celery salt as well.
The most popular variety of hot dog in Maine is one made with a natural casing. The casing is colored red, and they're commonly referred to as 'red dogs'. Red hot dogs, also called "red snappers," get their red color from a natural food coloring in the form of FD&C reds that don't sound too natural to me, but I eat a ton of'em yearly and I'm still here, and old to boot. And why are they called red snappers? Because the casing has a firmness to it that makes the dog snap when you bite it. They're not to be confused with 'red hots', which is a spicy sausage also popular in places here. They're brighter red than the photos. You have to have red hot dogs when you are in Maine! It's part of the experience. Might even be a law here, although I've never met anyone who hasn't tried them and few who don't want more. They claim you should never order 'one' dog at a stand here as it'll mark you automatically as 'from away' and likely a tourist who'll just have to order a second time in a minute. It happens time after time at every 'dog stand' every summer.
Although many purists, myself not among them, will swear that unless the dogs are steamed they're not properly prepared. I myself like them either steamed or with a nice grill mark adorning two opposite sides. They should NEVER be cooked until they split open and it's sacrilege to boil or 'nuke' a 'snap dog'. Ketchup is pretty much sure to get you amazed looks accompanied by rolling eyes and shaking heads. They're actually a bit closer to an old-fashioned hot dog in that they have a consistency closer to a sausage than to the mass-produced cereal and chicken bit filled dogs available anywhere. Having 'red dogs' in your refrigerator is better than having money in the bank and clean socks in the drawer. You get to decide whether to share them, or keep them secret and just sneak down in the middle of the night to steam one up, load it with your favorite 'gahnishes', and savor every crispy-skinned bite. This, if you're from Maine, will revive memories of years past and GREAT lunches of two Jordan's red dye hot-dogs, a bag of Humpty Dumpty potato chips, and a can of Moxie soda with a whoopie pie for desert. It doesn't get much better than that!
Until next we meet, happy snacking and take care. Thanks for letting me share my mixed up recollections with you.

17 comments:

The Guy Who Writes This said...

That brings back the fond memories of Texas Red Hots I used to get in Plattsburgh, N.Y.

I'm on the road on a speaking tour right now, Mike, and I'll send you the photos when I return home.

tshsmom said...

Very descriptive! Now I'm hungry. ;)
Here in MN, we have Polish sausage; slightly spicy, natural casing yumminess.
I agree that natural skinned dogs should never be boiled. I prefer mine grilled or fire roasted.

George said...

I still remember getting natural skinned dogs at the store in Helmer, ID, population 14, on my way to our old swimming hole. We would cook them on a willow stick over the coals. I've searched for them for years since & never found anything even close. I've never seen the red cased ones here in the N/W. We also used to get relish made from bread & butter pickles which I can't find anymore. Thanks Mike for making me hungry for them again.

Cecily said...

Really... they'll look at you strange if you ask for ketchup (tomato sauce in Australia!)??? Then I'm stuck, cause I don't like mustard much and I'd have to ask for tomato sauce instead... they'd pick me as a foreigner from miles away! That and the accent. ;)

Mike S said...

Cecily, Flo's hot dogs offers a really great 'special' relish you'd like. As for the accent, no worries, the local University has a huge foreign student enrollment and nobody pays much attention as you could be staff there. You'd be welcome anytime though:)

Patricia said...

Hey, Mike, that sounds good, though I'm not too crazy about hot dogs. The top slice in the bun makes perfect sense, as you turn the other kind up that way to eat it anyway.
Nothing from somewhere else tastes like a home specialty I guess, no matter where home is. I have had "Maryland crab cakes" in many other places, and they are never just right. Good, just not "right". I'm hungry, now!

George said...

Damn You Mike, I had to go to the store & get the only thing close I could find here. Hill Meat Co., Old Time Weiner's, from Pendleton, OR. They're not red but even Mies ate one & she's not fond of hot dogs. Couldn't find anything even close for buns though. Brown mustard, relish, & fine chopped onions & enough left for dinner tomorrow too.

Mike S said...

George, I like brown mustard too, but all you'll find in most stands here is French's yellow. Glad ya found something, sound good to me.

Princess Extraordinaire said...

I never thought that would look so good - it's made me crave them now - see what you did?

Cherie said...

Oh man! You sold me. When in Maine (and it IS on my list of regions to visit soon) I shall try to blend in by ordering red dogs in plural. They look and sound so good!! The buns look particularly perfect. Have never seen those before. You guys back east have a lot of good secrets!

Thanks for sharing - I'm going to the fridge now. You've made me hungry...

Hahn at Home said...

The kids ate so many hot dogs when they were little, they can't really stand them anymore. It was my way of providing a quick meal for five kids under 7 (my foster kids included) between bus pickups and dropoffs, naps, baths, and playtime.

DeadMansHonda said...

So cute! Wow....very nice post about some very strange hot dogs. Never heard of those before-- thanks for sharing! I couldn't decide if the snapping they make made them more or less appealing....

But fascinating read, anyway. :)

Brother Tim said...

Enough with the hot dogs already.

Bring on the Egg Nog Coffee Cake.

Old Irishman gonna go take care of sweet tooth now.

Philip said...

Howdy,
Just came across your site. Red dogs are awesome! I'm a native of Caribou(yes, a county boy)and have very fond memories of stick-roasting dogs after picking potatoes all day.
Peace love and cuisine,
Phil

Dixon Ailesi said...

don't know you, but that hasn't ever stopped me from posting on a stranger's blog before! i also don't know red dogs, but by golly i want one. i live in turkey where the hot dogs are decidedly pork free and taste like something you might feed your pet dog if you had no other choice. he might not eat it though. now...how can i get my hands on one of those red dogs...?

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike, I just moved to Maine and the concept of red snappers is every so alluring. Can you tell me more. Thanks, Jess

Mike S said...

If you send me an E-mail at treebuggy@yahoo.com I'd be happy to answer any Maine queries ya might have. Welcome to a great little place;)