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Recipe: Authentic-Style Flint Coney Sauce

This and other recipes, along with history and restaurant locations, are available on the Flint Coney Resource Site. You can download a PDF containing both this recipe and the earlier recipe we used at the beachhouse last summer by clicking here. If you print the PDF on two sides of a piece of paper, you can fold it into thirds for easier use and storage.

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
Ingredients
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

Equipment
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.

Notes:
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.

12 comments to Recipe: Authentic-Style Flint Coney Sauce

  • Dave,
    that is a very interesting take on Coney sauce. The thing about coney sauce is that it is interpretive. There are many ways to make a form of coney sauce and from that point it becomes a preference. You tend to prepare it based on preference of flavors and palate.

    I can see the progression of flavors that comes from your ingredients. It’s a curse! I read recipes and can “taste” the recipe based on the ingredients! lol

    You will actually be able to use your meat mixture with my coney spice. The meat mixture that you create is basically a rough ground and that is the “meat” base for teh sauce…and you are correct, you shouldn’t need water with it. I agree with your wife! I never tell folks what’s in rough ground unless they ask! lol

    Well, great meeting you. You are definitely a coney head! Don’t cha just love it!!! (One coney head to another!)

  • Archie MacGillivray

    Wow, I never knew!!!! Does Angelos in Flint use heart and kidney portions in their sauce?? I like Anglelos, although I long for the coney’s from the old “Night Owl” across from now gone GM Spark. My dad (in the car bus. use to bring us coney’s from the Night Owl almost every Wed. night ( after his weekly visit to the Flint Auto Auction}. I am trying to recreate a “Flint style” coney for my kids to enjoy. Any help is apprecieated.
    Arch

  • Archie,
    Angelo’s use what is called a rough ground. It is a mixture of different lertover meats and organs, ground up. That does include heart and kidney pieces.

    I would highly recommend that you order a bottle of my coney spice. It simplifies making coney sauce and you can use ground beef, ground chicken, ground turkey or rough ground. My spice will absolutely produce authentic coney sauce. I was taught by both Angelo and Tom Z.

    Visit my website and take a leap of faith! I promise that you won’t regret it!

    Marty Embry
    From the Court to the Kitchen

  • Nicole

    Well this was very insightful….I grew up in Flint and ate a lot at Johnny’s Coney Island…and never knew what was in the Coney Sauce…until reading this receipt…but I will try the receipt with just ground burger….no offense….Thanks for the information and sharing your receipt…Greatly Appreciated….I do have to add No One makes a Flint Coney…like Flint Michigan….I am sick of going to places and ordering a Coney Dog and getting chili on a bun….Yuck…

  • Elle Aytch

    Thank goodness this recipe does not use the urban legend of SE-Michigan coney sauce recipes— ground/chopped/hot dogs. Having lived in Flint for 40 years and worked at my fair share of westside Coney Islands (Genesee was the best) I can say with certainty that I never saw/heard of a single hot dog being thrown away, or otherwise used before some imaginary expiration date. Umm, hot dogs are processed meats!!! …loaded with nitrates, I might add— you’d be hard pressed to believe they (hot dogs) may expire (think Twinkies— same principle).

    This is the closest recipe I’ve seen to the original Flint Coney recipe.

  • Elle, I have a block of original Abbott’s sauce in my freezer (shipped from Koegel’s), alongside a 5.5 lb beef heart, some beef suet, and a plan. I’m hoping to get seriously close to the original sauce very soon!

  • Elle Aytch

    A few of the spices are off but I am swore to secrecy (hint: no chili seasoning is used). Also, in the winter months: fresh venison was often mixed in with the beef, which was always my favorite blend.

    Dave, it sounds like you have the makings for a nice summer BBQ season :-)

  • Yeah, chili seasonings is never mentioned on the Abbott’s package label, but cumin is. ;-) The recipe on this page one is more Angelo’s style anyway: My Abbott’s-style version is going to be a bit different. Deer venison is a good thing, and I know where to get some! ;-) I do feel so-called “secret recipes” are a bit on the presumptuous side. Chef Tad of the Frog Leg Inn down near us in Erie, MI, talks about how kitchen, equipment, skillsets, and even minor ingredient differences will render any recipe “unexact” unless the same situation is exactly replicated. Cooks within a single kitchen can basically do the same thing every time, and it’s expected. But put those same cooks in another kitchen, and the same dish will end up different every time. It makes a whole lot of sense when you think about it.

  • I have had several variations of the Flint style coney sauce recipe. I compare them to the Abbott’s Meat version (which by the way, you can buy coney sauce direct from Abbott’s, you don’t have to go to Koegel’s to get it, despite what some websites claim). While your recipe seems close to authentic Flint Style coney sauce….I still prefer the recipes that use ground hot dogs (Koegel’s of course) with beef and spices. To me, using the ground hot dog base really gives the right texture to the sauce.

  • StingerDawg, this one is actually closer to Angelo’s than the Abbott’s verssion. I’ve yet to develop a version that matches Abbott’s whatsoever, but I do have some of their sauce, a 5.5-lb beef heart and some suet in the freezer. Hopefully I’ll get that done soon!

  • Doug

    This is all correct except for the chili it should be cumin.

  • Doug, that’s for the next batch, which will be all beef heart like Abbott’s sauce, and no kidney included either.

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