Last May my sister Emily had a tremendous idea for Memorial Day: relive the hot dogs of our youth. Actually, that’s not quite correct…we wanted to relive the hot dog that our Dad remembers from his pastorin’ days back in the ’60s: the Rochester White Hot. Dad used to live in Upstate NY as an assistant pastor in Brighton before I was born. As it so happened, I went to both the University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology for grad schoolin’, so this bit of Americana overlaps both of our personal histories. I must have even been the same age as Dad when he was in the area…eerie!
Every time Dad visits, we ask him if there was anything he misses from living in the US. Without fail he says, “White hots. And good cheese.” For a long time I thought this just meant any of the white hot dogs you can get in the refrigerated section of the supermarket, but Dad said these weren’t quite right. We even went to a German deli staffed by authentic German frauleins and looked at the white sausages there, but even these were not the hots we were looking for. They were good, but they not the White Hots of Dad’s memory. Not even close.
Em dug up this link to The American Museum of Natural History, which at one time featured a selection of ball park franks as part of their Baseball as America exhibition. Apparently, Rochester NY has a regional hot dog that’s produced most famously by Zweigles. It’s made of uncured, unsmoked pork, which is what gives it the white color. The American Museum of Natural History’s description goes into a bit more detail on how the hotdog is served:
Split and griddled, this dog is served on a toasted bun and topped with a hot sauce (a meat chili made from a secret Rochester recipe), chopped onions, and any one of a variety of mustards.
Emily further recalled the joy of another Rochester brand, Nance’s Sharp and Creamy Mustard, that she had once enjoyed at my house. It’s one of my favorite mustards, though I wish I could remember who first recommended it to me. Em likes it too, so I was able to get a bottle of it at the local Hannaford’s supermarket.
Dad was originally planning to visit this June (sadly cancelled), so Emily arranged to order a variety pack of Zweigles Hots from NewYorkStyleDeli.com. The prices are a bit high if you pick and choose, but the specials are actually pretty reasonable when you consider the hassle of shipping perishable food overnight. Our package arrived just prior to the Memorial Day weekend in a nifty red cooler with freezer packs all around it. NY Style Deli also included two paper Zweigles hats to wear while grilling…an unexpectedly awesome touch :-)
Here’s a pack of genuine Zweigle’s White Hots. Since they’re uncured, they’re highly perishable, so once you open the package you’re pretty much committing yourself to eating them all or freezing them later. I don’t really like to freeze hot dogs because it seems to do terrible things to their texture…I could just be imagining that though.
Our variety pack included some Red Hots, which we grilled for comparison. There were some skinless skinnier hot dogs too, but I didn’t bother to take a picture.
Emily also found a recipe for the secret Rochester meat sauce mentioned by the museum. I don’t have the link, but it was similar to this one on David Rosengarten’s site. It’s possible that this meat sauce is related to the “hot sauce” they put on the infamous Rochester Garbage Plate, a “specialty” that I never dared try myself when I lived in the area. I must admit I am curious now, looking at this picture. NewYorkStyleDeli.com sells a Hot Meat Sauce Mix for $2.99 too, but what fun is that?
With all our preparations complete, we had a problem: neither of us had ever seen or eaten an authentic Rochester White Hot. I wasn’t even sure what one looked like. There was a small, low-resolution photo of the American Museum of Natural History site, so we used that as our model. Here are a few quick photos I took before eating. Unfortunately my indoor lighting setup is half-broken and I’ve been having some white balancing problems (my gray card may be too old), so the color is a little off:
I later re-read the recipe, and noted that pan-fried hots are split in half; not sure if that would have been more authentic. But they were still pretty darn good. If there are any Rochester natives reading this, send me a picture of the real thing!
- Nance’s Sharp and Creamy Mustard, if you haven’t had it, has a nice kick to it. It has a similar punch to that of wasabi, though not as overpowering as in the case of the really fresh stuff (you know, the kind that makes you think you’re about to die). The mustard is also a little sweet.
The White Hots themselves I found rather mild. They’re also not very salty compared to a lot of other hot dogs (Nathan’s, for example), so the condiments you choose play a major part in defining the taste. Even when charred, the white hots stayed pretty mellow.
The meat sauce, as we prepared it, was also mild and fragrant. It’s got a bit of cinnamon and thyme in it, and adds to the overall sweetness of the plate. It was not very meaty or flavorful by itself, but it added a welcome beefy taste to the hot dog that would otherwise be missing. I think even if the bits of beef were more charred, it would help; the sauce is simmered for a long time, so browing the ground beef very thoroughly might help next time.
I definitely wanted pickles and potato chips with this. It helps balance the slight sweetness. I reached for them immediately. I wonder what they use in Rochester?
For the bun, I probably would also choose a more neutral-flavored one rather than a sweetish one next time. I think for such a mild dog, the selection of bun would go a long way to making it “just right”. We used some buns from the supermarket, and you know how those are.
p>For the Fourth of July, Em and I will be recreating bien dang, the taiwan lunchbox one buys when travelling. I remember these fondly from car trips and train rides we took when first arriving in Taiwan; they’re also readily available for the lunchtime crowd in any town or city. I have been working on recreating the pork chop recipe so we can make these and maybe drive somewhere to eat them :-)
Yum! And I’m mostly vegetarian, and it REALLY looks good. Sounds delicious and historical! Nice call to order from there. You’ll have to have your dad try them too!
Oh, I think the David Rosengarten recipe was the one I found. That’s the one we used!
I’m not sure when Dad first discovered them…he probably did have them in the 60’s, but I remember when we first had them and when his interest seemed to be piqued or renewed: We visited with his old church colleague (his former secretary and her NFL scout husband who sized you up, punched your arm approvingly and asked “Football?”) one summer in the 80’s and they threw some on the grill. :) I am pretty sure they didn’t do ‘em with the meat sauce, so yeah, we didn’t have them the “traditional” way.
Hmm, I see the 3lb you-pick assortment we got last time is SOLD OUT on the site. Maybe it’s all your fault. :D
How do you remember all this stuff? :-) I dimly remember the incident now, but not what we ate. I wasn’t that into interesting foods then.
The 3lb assortment was already sold out when I looked at the link, so I’m free of blame! Free! FREE!!! :-)
I live in Spencerport, New York, which is about 10 minutes from the heart of Rochester. I love Zweigles, they are definally the best hot dog in our area. It’s easy for me to send them out to people ;)
Great food, that’s something we are known about. Tell your Dad the area is just as beautiful as ever.
Since I also grew up around Rochester, I think you did an excellent job on your hot dogs. If you’re eating garbage plates, or plates, as we like to call them, then the hot dogs are split and fried. If you’re home, or at a festival, then we cook them just like you did.
And we don’t call it meat sauce, it’s hot sauce, and usually they are pretty hot.
On the side pickles are always available, and it’s a toss up between macaroni salad or french fries as the best choice.
Oh my God! Over 45 years ago, I worked in Hamtramck,MI,(a Polish community) just outside of Detroit. A local meat market made “fresh pork hotdogs” for their personal use, and also sold them in the small butcher shop. They were wonderful! Nothing like them!
I am going to order some from Sweigles or check for them at B.J. or Sams.
Trust me….you got it right. I tell ya our dogs are the best in the wolrd!!
Just wondering if these can be mailed out
I’ve been reading your blog for a while and just stumbled onto this post! ;-)
I’m from and in Rochester, you might like this.
Originally from Rochester – what we miss most is the White Hots !!! Just ordered some for my son in Florida – 24 lbs to be exact – that’s how much we love them!
I grew up in Rochester and my grandfather worked for many, many years as a salesman for Tobin’s – so one of my fondest memories from my childhood is Tobin’s White Hots, fresh from the grill. Thanks for the link – I’m going to have to try Zweigle’s and see if they compare to my memories.
I’m now distributing Zwiegles in Florida. If any one is interested please call or Email
[Ed. note: usually I kill commercial comments, but if this helps people get their White Hot fix, I’m all for it :-) ]
Laura Groh, my fater made the boxes Tobins were shipped in. We had Tobins whenever we wanted, I was crushed when they went out of business. Sweigles are close but NOT Tobins
Love the memories of Tobin’s! Tobin’s 1st Prize!
They were the BEST! HF-L class of 80.
My folks grew up in Buff, NY. We always had Tobins 1st Prize in reds and whites. We moved to Virginia and had 4th of July up in Silver Lake near Perry, NY. Wegmans was nearby so we bought their brand which are good too! Now we have Wegmans in Virginia so I buy the Zwiegles skinless whites and reds as well. I do also love sahlens hot dogs as well like they serve at Teds Hot dog stands in Buffalo. White hots are my fav so I can understand your dad wanting them. They have always been an extra special treat to me and my family. PS your mustard is my fav as well! Keep white hottin it! :)
Glad I stumbled on to this site. I spent quite a bit of time in Rochester working for Bauch & Lomb, and then Kodak for 25 yrs. I’m in Houston now, but remember going to Don & Bob’s, and Harry’s Hots on Ridge Rd when I’d fly into town for a meeting. I’m going to try Zweigle’s – Red Hots, and White Hots…. I have about 7 friends down here, close by, that remember the hots, and the comment above that remembers the term “hot sauce” instead of Michigan, or Meat sauce… I’ll be ordering some soon – do they have the natural casing? thanks for the memories.
I thought I was starving until I saw this—now I know I’m starving!
What ever happened to Conte’s (?) White/Red Hots? I must be getting on a bit…I do love Zweigle’s and have them shipped out West quite often!
We live in NYC. Whenever I travel to Rochester (about once a month) we stop at Tom Wahls. Here is the link. http://www.tomwahls.com/ They do it right. They grill the Hots split and serve it on a hamburger bun, We get them with mustard, raw onions and the hot sauce! YUMMY. They make great onion rings too. The best thing is they give you a frozen mug for their homemade root beer. It is very good. I found you by searching “White Hots” on google. I was looking to see what supermarkets carry Zweigel’s products. Heading up there Tuesday. I’m bringing some back home to NYC. Just bringing the white hots and the sauce home. It is something very unique and tasty that you just can’t get anywhere else. It’s not a Brat its a White hot! We’ll also be sure to make a stop at Tom Wahls. All the best!
I was born in Warsaw NY – grew up in the Genesee Valley – went to college at Nazareth — now live in Dallas — the thing I miss most about Rochester and home — the white hots!!
I grew up in Henrietta. Just the mention of white hots makes my mouth water! Yum