Friday, May 18, 2012

The Butler Hot Dog Shop Sauce

As a little girl, I grew up knowing my mom's family was originally from Butler, Pennsylvania. I didn't know much about the area, but I would sometimes go on weekend trips with my grandparents to visit my great-aunts and uncles. One thing I did know about Butler was that it was where "hot dog sauce" originated at the Butler Hot Dog Shop. Hot Dog Sauce is an sweet and spicy, aromatic chili sauce made with hamburger and onions and seasoned with nutmeg, cloves and chili powder. I've watched my family top their hot dogs with the stuff for years. My mom and my grandma are both known to cook up a big pot of hot dog sauce before a picnic or family gathering or just to have a good supply of it in the freezer.

The Hot Dog Shop dates back to 1912, where its traditional hot dogs were topped with hot dog sauce, minced white onion and a dill pickle spear. Located in downtown Butler, it was a hot spot for locals who would sit at the counter and enjoy "two hots, pickles" (as the waitresses would yell to the cooks) and french fries with gravy. Though I never got the chance to experience the hot dog shop myself, my Grandad has told me about his favorite place in so much detail that it seems like I have been there before.

An advertisement for the Hot Dog Shop printed in the Butler Eagle newspaper. Courtesy of The Butler, Pennsylvania Blog.
Sadly, the Hot Dog Shop closed in 2004, but the sauce still lives on. The recipe for the sauce was printed years ago in a local newspaper, though there is some speculation that it is not the exact recipe the shop used. But for those who grew up with the sauce, like my family, this recipe is close enough to bring back  fond memories of the hot dog shop.

The Butler Hot Dog Shop Sauce
from the former Butler Hot Dog Shop, Butler, Pennsylvania

2 lbs. hamburger
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons salt
1 1/4 ounces chili powder (1 small McCormick jar)
1/2 tablespoon cloves
1 tablespoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 ounces paprika
14 oz. Heinz ketchup
7 cups water
1 cup flour

In a large pot, brown the hamburger over medium heat until it is finely crumbled. Drain the grease.

Over low heat, add the onion, spices, ketchup and six cups water to the hamburger. Combine one cup water and one cup flour and whisk to make a paste. Add the paste to the sauce, stirring until combined.

Simmer over low heat for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Hot Dog Shop Dogs: Spoon the sauce over a hot dog and top with a dill pickle spear and minced white onions. 

Makes 3 quarts and can be frozen.
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