The picnic staple gets a sustainability upgrade
Summertime holiday menus sparkle with classic food memories: wedges of juicy red watermelon, bowls of handchurned ice cream and, of course, the staple fare at cookouts and ballparks alike: the hot dog.
While the humble tube steak has enjoyed a loyal following for generations it sometimes gets a bad reputation over questionable ingredients. Preservatives, hormones and fillers in addition to poor land and animal management are qualities that leave a bad taste no matter how much chili, cheese and onion get piled on top.
Fortunately for local consumers, Texas is home to ranchers who are passionate and conscientious producers of good hot dogs— those deserving of an elevated place at the summer picnic and dinner table.
A good hot dog is much more than ground meat with seasonings. It is the end result of a complex relationship between land, air, soil, water, cattle and man that starts in the pasture and ends on the plate. Ranches like 44 Farms in Cameron and Tierra del Sol near El Paso embrace the importance of this connection by implementing efficient, humane and sustainable practices including continual access to fresh clean water, open pasture, nutrient-rich food, regular veterinary care and facilities designed to limit stress on the animals. Furthermore, the use of antibiotics and growth hormones is omitted (animals requiring antibiotics are removed from the production lot) while animal by-products, GMOs, pesticides and other environmental imbalances are also absent.
After living a rich and respected life, Black Angus cattle at 44 Farms and Dorper lambs at Tierra del Sol are humanely slaughtered and further processed into primal cuts and products including hot dogs. In the case of 44 Farms, trimmings from Choice and Prime cuts are ground with select seasonings before being formed and cooked. Consumers can enjoy the robust and deeply flavored dogs on menus at select restaurants around town or purchase them online.
While Tierra del Sol makes a lamb bratwurst, Revival Market in Houston creates a super-local version in its 100% lamb hot dog. The nose-to-tail process involves Butcher and Charcutier Andrew Vaserfirer first breaking down the animal and removing the bones, separating the fat from the meat, adding back the right percentage of fat-to-meat, seasoning, grinding and stuffing the sausage into casings, and then finally gently poaching and allowing it to cool. The final product is impeccably satisfying when served with local toppings on homemade buns (dogs, buns and toppings are all available for purchase at Revival Market).
“The breed is a Dorper lamb and it’s a Texas-driven breed,” says Chef-Owner Ryan Pera on how the meat became a Revival mainstay. “The flavor/fat ratio is great with just the right amount of mildness. It all worked into our philosophy.”
While hot dogs are often relegated to the “junk food” category at cookouts, local good dogs tip the scales making this perennial picnic pleasure good without the guilt.
WHERE TO FIND HAUTE DOGS
Houston locales are perfectly poised to serve up 44 Farms’ hot dogs in a variety of variations, which means the command “Sit, Stay, Eat” is most welcome. Read on for a sampling of options that’ll keep your metaphorical tail wagging all summer long.
Pass & Provisions
Ara (at Royal Sonesta)
Brooklyn Athletic Club
Sonoma Wine Bar
Tin Roof BBQ
JCI Grill (Hill Country Dog created by
Chef Randy Evans.)
Ellie Sharp is a local writer and photographer who enjoys running, gardening, cooking, hiking and traveling