Category: Hot Dogs

Recipe: Authentic-Style Flint Coney Sauce

This and other recipes, along with history and restaurant locations, are available on the Flint Coney Resource Site.

For years now I’ve been making my own version of the Flint-style coney sauce. During the summer of 2008 over a period of three months the kids and I sold hot dogs with this sauce, making 72 five-quart batches of my own version of the recipe. But while we all enjoy this sauce, both then and now, I’ve always had the urge to create my own version of the original sauce as served at Angelo’s in Flint.

This morning, we finally got the chance.

Back in early September I had purchased a few ingredients so I could attempt to create my own version of a Flint-style coney sauce. The ground chuck came from a grocery butcher, who handed me a package label at 2.01 pounds.

The frozen packages of beef heart and beef kidney were from Lee Williams’ House of Meats in the Toledo area, which is about as close as I can get to fresh without going to a slaughterhouse. The heart was from the Point Place location, and weighed about 4-1/2 pounds. There is a little bit of fat on it but not much. This is easily trimmed down to 1/2 pound portions and, as it’s all muscle, can easily be refrozen.

I had to get the kidneys from the Lee Williams Starr Ave. store. Each kidney is about 3/4 pound and come in packages of two. Cutting these down to 1/2 pound portions for the recipe is rather simple. You still need at least a small food scale to get the weight right. We picked up a Taylor scale with a 16-ounce capacity in at a local store for about five bucks. Using this, we were able to get the meat weights exact.

One of the great points about these meats is that they’re inexpensive. People rarely use them in recipes anymore, so the heart was $1.39/pound and the kidney was $2.19/pound.

Adam ground these lovely hunks of meat in an old-fashioned meat grinder that we’d clamped to the dining room table.

The recipe for an authentic-style Flint coney sauce is rather simple. There is tomato sauce and and water in the other version but not here. So you do need to add extra fats as there are no liquidswith these organ meats. You’ll get a little juice from the ground beef but not much.

The results? The boys loved it. Caleb, who ran the beachhouse with me last year, said it was better than what we’d made last summer. Adam just called it “excellent”. Briahna liked it … but said it was still “creepy” because of the organ meats. Mary said it was good but not as good as the beachhouse version. She also said we probably shouldn’t tell people what’s in it until after they try it.

Authentic-Style Flint Coney Sauce
1/2 lb beef heart
1/2 lb beef kidney
2 lb 80/20 ground chuck
4 Tbs shortening or lard
4 Tbs unsalted butter
2 tsp minced or granulated garlic
2 Tbs ground mustard
5 Tbs mild chili powder
Kosher salt and ground pepper

1 6-quart pot
1 meat grinder
1 8″ x 8″ glass dish

Use the meat grinder to grind the beef heart and beef kidney. Set the pot over low heat and melt the lard and butter in the saucepan. When the fats are melted, add the ground heart, kidney, chuck, the garlic and ground mustard and stir well.

Let the sauce simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Don’t allow the meat to dry out; add a tablespoon each of butter and lard if necessary and lower the heat when necessary. At the end of the 45 minutes, add the chili powder. Also add salt and pepper to taste, then simmer the sauce another 5 minutes before serving.

For best results, serve on grilled Koegel Viennas that have been cooked over low heat (250F) so the natural casing snaps when bitten.

Don’t use garlic powder instead of minced garlic. Throw that powdered stuff away … it’s not the same. However, granulated garlic is an excellent substitute for minced garlic.

On Hot Dog ‘Safety’ and Other Weirdness

A package of supposedly “raw” hot dogs.

This morning I ate a Ball Park Frank, uncooked, directly out of the package I bought yesterday and licked the juices off my fingers.

Obviously, I’m a dead man.

Last summer when I ran the beachhouse, serving more hot dogs than I could remember in three months time, I was inspected every two weeks by an inspector from the Monroe County Health Department. During the inspector’s first visit while looking in the fridge she mentioned, “Good, you’re not keeping the proteins (ground chuck) above the raw hot dogs.”

No I’m not keeping the proteins over the … what??

The “raw hot dogs” was a package identical to the above package. I think they’re FULLY COOKED in the package but for some reason I guess I can’t really tell.

Geez …

In the Off Duty section of Marine Corp Times for June 6, 2009, in an article titled “Grill Instructor”, the instructions echo what I’ve been paying attention to since that health inspection:

Internal Cooking Temperature; Here are some guidelines … Precooked sausages and hot dogs: 165 degrees.

Pat, I’d like to buy a vowel: Y??

Looking around online I found the following … The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has this to say toward the bottom of their Hot Dogs and Food Safety page:

The same general food safety guidelines apply to hot dogs as to all perishable products — “Keep hot food hot and cold food cold.” Although all hot dogs are fully cooked, always reheat before eating. Use a food thermometer to make sure hot dogs reach 165 °F or are steamy hot throughout … Studies have shown a high level of the harmful bacteria Listeria in hot dogs. Thus, for added precaution, persons at risk may choose to avoid eating hot dogs and luncheon meats, such as bologna, unless they are reheated until steamy hot.

Listeria. Nasty stuff. Causes Listeriosis, which is described over on the site from the Centers For Disease Control:

Listeriosis, a serious infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, has recently been recognized as an important public health problem in the United States. The disease affects primarily persons of advanced age, pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems. However, persons without these risk factors can also rarely be affected. The risk may be reduced by following a few simple recommendations.

Would those recommendations also include hot dogs? By golly they do. But there is some other info in there as well:

Recommendations for persons at high risk, such as pregnant women and persons with weakened immune systems, in addition to the recommendations listed above:

  • Do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats, or deli meats, unless they are reheated until steaming hot.
  • Avoid getting fluid from hot dog packages on other foods, utensils, and food preparation surfaces, and wash hands after handling hot dogs, luncheon meats, and deli meats.
  • Do not eat soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, and Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, or Mexican-style cheeses such as queso blanco, queso fresco, and Panela, unless they have labels that clearly state they are made from pastuerized milk.
  • Do not eat refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads. Canned or shelf-stable pâtés and meat spreads may be eaten.
  • Do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood, unless it is contained in a cooked dish, such as a casserole. Refrigerated smoked seafood, such as salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna or mackerel, is most often labeled as “nova-style,” “lox,” “kippered,” “smoked,” or “jerky.” The fish is found in the refrigerator section or sold at deli counters of grocery stores and delicatessens. Canned or shelf-stable smoked seafood may be eaten.

Holy whaaa … Whassup???

Let’s start with another sentence from the above-referenced CDC’s page on Listeriosis:

Healthy adults and children occasionally get infected with Listeria, but they rarely become seriously ill.

Looking at the breakdown of the 2,500 or so people in the U.S. who become infected each year, it becomes apparent healthy adults are the exception, not the rule. And looking at all the nastiness on those pages on who is susceptible to Listeriosis, it doesn’t look as though I’m going to be keeling over from this morning’s snack of a “raw” hot dog.

Then there’s the rest of the list. No “raw” bologna, especially deli meats. God forbid I should down a package of Buddig sliced corned beef … Juice from a package of hot dogs seems to be toxic, anything unpasteurized will cause warts, homemade liverwurst paté is a death sentence, the jerky shop here in town where everything is made in the back is a disease waiting to happen, and those who keep Kosher or are from Sweden are probably on their death beds.

Not. Unless I’m pregnant. No, I’m just bloated …

In Canada from 2007 to 2008 a certain meat plant outside Toronto manufactured products which caused 22 deaths from Listeriosis.

Back on the USDA’s page: “Studies have shown a high level of the harmful bacteria Listeria in hot dogs.”

From the CDC’s page: “In the United States, an estimated 2,500 persons become seriously ill with listeriosis each year. Of these, 500 die.”

Where were these people? What did they eat? Where was it made? If it’s bad enough the Canadian’s went bananas about 22 people dying from Listeriosis, why aren’t the 500 deaths in the U.S. more in the news? Again, the CDC:

The risk of an individual person developing Listeria infection after consumption of a contaminated product is very small. If you have eaten a contaminated product and do not have any symptoms, we do not recommend that you have any tests or treatment, even if you are in a high-risk group.

In other words, “Not to worry, nothing to see here, move along.”

That’s the reality here. There’s really nothing to worry about. If you’re high-risk, especially where the higher CDC statistics are, you might want to take it easy. Otherwise, it’s probably alright to eat the hot dog right out of the fridge … as long as you bought the hot dog fairly recently and the fridge has an average temp of 38 degrees F. Know that the hot dogs in corn dogs that are even from the carts at the county fair likely never reach 165 degrees F internal temperature because of how corn dogs are made. And jerky? I know where you can buy some good stuff, even jerky made from turkey and buffalo.

I think I’ll go get me some. That Cruisers Car Hop serves hot dogs right next door, too. Maybe I’ll have a coney island, too …

The Cavalier, Lynchburg, Virginia

Last Friday the gent I was working with in Lynchburg, Virginia, had heard about the hot dogs I’d had at the Texas Inn the previous evening. I’d told him they weren’t all they were cracked up to be. He felt I needed to have something better. He gave me a couple suggestions, including the possibility of a lunchtime pizza, and then recalled a place that served hot dogs having what he called, “A nice red sauce.”

Hmmm, that sounded interesting. Red sauce. I wondered what the Heck that was … So he and I climbed into the company’s white Ford Focus, the one with air conditioning but no cruise control, power windows or power locks (the other car had the cruise control, power windows and power locks, but no A/C) and we headed for The Cavalier.

The place is … unique. From the outside it could be a dry goods store, with its aluminum window frames and glass block halfway up the front wall. Inside, the wood walls were either inscribed with personal graffiti or covered with license plates, flags, and Lord knows what else. For only being there 22 years, it looks a lot older.

Sam didn’t look at a menu … he simply ordered the two hot dogs, “with the red sauce”, including mustard and chopped onion, and a side of seasoned fries. I went ahead and ordered the same.

After probably 15 minutes, the waitresss placed the dogs in front of us, and handed us each a fork and knife saying, “You’re gonna need ’em”. She was right … I couldn’t pick the darned hot dogs up! The sauce looks hot and spicy, but is actually quite sweet. The hot dogs and their sweet sauce were good, and honestly, I could only eat one-and-a-half of them. Why? Well, there were probably two whole potatoes in the basket of fries …

The fries were probably the best part of the meal. Crispy on the outside with tender potato when I bit into them, they were coated with a seasoning mix that wasn’t as powerful as I expected. The seasoning provided a good balance for the fries instead of providing all the flavor. I could taste the potato. That’s quite a change from a lot of fries I’ve had.

Hot dogs and fries. Who’d have thought they’d make the best meals on that part of the trip?

The Haunting of the Beachhouse

The harrassment seems to be building. The thing is haunting me.

I was in the library. Off-handedly to someone else, but intentionally loud enough so I could hear it, the Luna Pier Librarian laughingly said, “Yeah I went down to the beachhouse to get one of those great Flint hot dogs the other day … and they were CLOSED.” [emphasis hers]

Of course it was CLOSED … Labor Day was months ago and since it’s a beachhouse it’s on the beach and on Labor Day the beaches in Michigan are CLOSED for the season till next year.

Sheesh …

Lately a week doesn’t go by that someone doesn’t ask me if I’m going to run the beachhouse again for the summer of 2009. Frankly, that was my full-rime job from June 1 till Labor Day. I was there almost every day, and as I’ve mentioned before, the math indicates we made 72 five-quart batches, 90 gallons, of my version of the Flint-style coney sauce. (That link takes you to the recipe. Go for it.)

People liked the darn things. One day a car pulled up in the parking lot and some hairy twenty-somethings got out. The one guy looked at our signs, threw his hands in the air and yelled, “I thought we were getting away from Flint!” They then bought some of our coneys. They’d had some originals at Angelo’s in Flint a couple days before, but told me mine were actually better.

That’s cool. They may have been drunk when they were at Angelo’s, but still, that’s cool.

So people ask, “Are you going to run the beachhouse again this summer?”

It’s haunting me, the ghosts inhabiting real people, all asking the same question, time and time again.

Ok, here’s the thing; I have a full-time day-job now. At the time Caleb and I ran the beachhouse last summer, I was unemployed. That place is a lot of work. I just won’t have time this year. It’s that simple.

Here are some other numbers people don’t know.

Rent for the beachhouse was $600 for each of the three months, with one month deposit. Health inspections were $95 every two weeks. Insurance was $140 up-front. Start-up costs for food were about $200 for ice creams, and $225 each for Sam’s and GFS.

There it is. Just to get started is about $2,100. Then there are the things needed on a regular basis. We spent between $400 and $600 each week on supplies.

It’s more expensive than it looks.

If I were to ever do it again, there’d have to be some drastic changes so I could actually make money. I’ll lay a few things out for you:

  • Prices: They’d have to be higher. The bottom line is that our bottom line was too low. We didn’t even make minimum wage ourselves. And while the teens might complain about higher prices, it’s an honest fact that I’m still hearing from adults involved in business that we were too inexpensive. A good $3 coney isn’t all that far-fetched.
  • Coneys: This is where I’ll bite a big bullet and say, I’d go with the Detroit-style coneys this summer. This Flintoid understands some things a little better now and knows that buying a pre-made Detroit coney sauce, which is available commercially, would be less expensive that our making the Flint sauce from scratch as we did last year. The Flint sauce is only made in Flint and isn’t sold anywhere, so that’s an issue.
  • Nachos: These wouldn’t change much, except for pricing.
  • Sandwiches: This would be an addition to the coneys and nachos we served last year. I now find it odd we had all those side dishes and drinks and only two main items. These new sandwiches are items people actually asked for after looking at our menu, starting their request with, “Don’t you have … ?” Panini sandwiches, like a good roast beef & cheddar, a toasted club, and maybe even a panini Reuben, would probably sell well and be worth the price of a small press.
  • Ice Creams & Pop: These wouldn’t change much either except, again, for pricing.
  • Live Bait: No change at all. This one went pretty well and Mike Kahman of Northland’s Pride bait up in Lapeer, Michigan, took good care of us.
  • Swim and beach novelties & supplies: We never really did get a good handle on this last year. We never found a decent supplier, but then again I’m not sure we looked hard enough. This could be lucrative, especially if we were to get tanning lotions and that good Panama Jack sunburn gel in pouches.
  • Suppliers: Most of this went well but there would be two major changes. We would arrange for truck delivery from Independent Dairy for the ice creams (they come to town for two other locations anyway) and, believe it or not, the Koegel truck from Flint. The Koegel truck goes to GFS in Monroe and Toledo anyway so it’s in the area, and John Koegel made this suggestion to me last year when I asked him for our window sign. So Dave, that’s a D’oh! on your part. Besides the Koegel hot dog, this truck could also bring us most of the new sandwich meats, and Koegel’s does make a Detroit chili sauce for sale to restaurants only.

Pretty simple really. There are a few other things but this is the meat of it. I do have everything needed except for the panini press.

What I don’t have … is the necessary start-up money and, much more importantly, the necessary time to run the beachhouse right.

That’s all there is to it.

Michigan’s Coney Sauces: Beef Heart? Kidneys?? The Realities Await …

Update, September 2, 2018:This post still gets a lot of page views but is quite old. The majority of recipes developed from this earlier information are now available on my Flint Coney Resource Site.

Yes, I’m back on the subject of coney sauce again. It’s an obsession. Having made 72 batches of my own recipe for a Flint-style coney sauce over the summer of 2008, you’d think I was tired of it. But Monday as dad’s funeral procession headed north through Flint along Dort Hwy at Davison Rd., I found myself looking west. Yeah, Angelo’s is down that way … dad really liked it … I wonder if they’re finally making the right Flint sauce once again … The funeral director seemed to think the family had bought back the restaurant which they had sold without selling the recipe, and may actually be making the original sauce in the original location once again. I guess at some point I’m going to have to find out what’s going on up there.

For a long time the realities of Michigan’s coney sauces, including the beloved Flint coney sauce from Angelo’s, have been a bit elusive to some extent. The recipe for the sauce I served this past summer is based on the popular rumor of, “I always heard there were ground Koegel Viennas in the Flint sauce”. That’s what we did, and the sauce was something our customers really liked.

But there is something else as well. There are a couple rumors I’d heard that have made me wonder about the real recipe.

And then there is this white bag with a plastic tray of schtuph in it … which is coney sauce from American Coney Island in Detroit. Check it out:

One of the rumors I’d heard was that there weren’t hot dogs in the original Flint coney sauce. Rather, it was organ meat. I’d also heard rumors that if you use tomato sauce in the coney sauce (which I always have), that’s not authentic either. If you click on this image to open a larger version of the image, and have a look at the ingredients, you’ll see something interesting: Beef hearts. Suet. Cracker meal for thickening. Some spices including paprika. A little bit of coloring.

But not a single drop of tomato anything in there whatsoever.

Somewhere along the line someone had also passed me what they believed to be an authentic recipe for the Jackson coney sauce, served at Todoroff’s in Jackson, Michigan:

Jackson Coney Island Sauce
1-1/2 pounds ground beef heart
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp garlic salt
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp paprika

Brown the meat in the vegetable oil but do not drain it. Once it’s browned, add the spices. Also add just enough water to moisten the sauce, maybe a few tablespoons. Simmer the sauce for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it’s somewhat dryer, while being careful not to let it dry completely. Served over grilled hot dogs having natural casings (Koegel Viennas). Mustard and finely chopped onion are the preferred toppings.

It becomes quite obvious that if you add a few more items to the above recipe, such as the suet, a little ground beef to replace the vegetable protein, some cracker meal and a bit of water, you’ll end up with what’s apparently an authentic Detroit Coney Island Sauce:

Detroit Coney Island Sauce
1 pound beef heart, finely ground
1/2 pound chuck, finely ground
1/4 cup rendered beef suet
1/4 cup water
2 tsp garlic salt
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp paprika
1/4 cup cracker meal

Brown the beef heart and ground chuck in the suet but do not drain it. Once it’s browned, add the water and the spices. Simmer the sauce for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more water if necessary to keep it wet. Once the sauce is simmered, add the cracker meal to tighten it up but not too much. Served over grilled hot dogs having natural casings (Dearborn Brand). Mustard and finely chopped onon are the preferred toppings.

So what about the Flint sauce? Does it contain organ meats or not? The fact is there is no regulation on what goes into a hot dog and some do contain organ meats. If the Flint coney sauce does contain ground Koegel Viennas as mine did this past summer, there’s just good beef and pork in there. If they’re using cheaper hot dogs, there just might be some organs.

But at the same time, neither the Jackson nor the Detroit sauces contain ground hot dogs. And while the Flint sauce is dryer than these other two, what Angelo’s created in 1949 may have contained organ meats which were in popular use at the time.

I found an obscure little recipe and adapted it using what I knew to be readily available in 1949. I have yet to try this … I’m just throwing it out there:

Flint Coney Island Sauce
1/2 lb Beef kidney, finely ground
1/2 lb Beef heart, finely ground
1/4 cup rendered beef suet or lard
3 tbsp of paprika
2 tbsp of chili powder
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper

In a small pot melt the rendered beef suet or lard. In a large mixing bowl mix all but the salt and pepper by hand. Gently crumble the meat mixture into a medium pot, add the melted fat and stir well. Set for low heat and allow the pot to heat up. Simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes, adding suet or lard as necessary to prevent the meat from drying out. When the simmer is done, add salt and pepper to taste and finish stirring. Served over grilled hot dogs having natural casings (Koegel Viennas). Mustard and finely chopped onion are the preferred toppings.

I do know where I can likely get the beef kidney, beef heart and real suet. Once we try this, I’ll give a full review.

Maybe I can get some of Angelo’s sauce and see what’s up with that, comparing it to the results of the above recipe. Yeah, maybe …