A story of a homesteader who meets her match in the common hot dog.
Bone local beef with a sharp knife, grind it (standing on a stool because you’re a short girl), and mix with salts. Feel so powerful that you go on to make cucumber relish.
The next day, you’re ready to freeze, grind, freeze, puree, stuff, and smoke! There’s a heat advisory, so shut the windows before you leave for morning errands and crank the A/C.
Hit a Snag
When you get home, it’s hot inside. No noise from the air conditioner. It’s ok, you are Super Homesteader!
Turn breakers on and off. Drive to the hardware store with fuses in hand, buy new ones, and replace them. Check the thermometer. Replace batteries here for good measure. Drink a beer.
Uh oh. It’s still hot and you are out of your appliance repair ideas. Call husband, away on business, and complain. Call friend who was going to hot dog with you and cancel because it would be impossibly hard to keep meat cold in a house that is 85 degrees and rising. Call a repairman.
Repairman points out that the furnace fan isn’t running because the idiot switch is disengaged. Turns out that the furnace fronts have been reversed the entire time you have lived at the house. Doh!
Drink a beer. Re-establish that you are a capable person by pickling and canning home grown cornichons.
The next day, before even consuming coffee, start a fire in the charcoal chimney. Mix and freeze meat. Soak sheep casing. Grind and freeze again. Wash dishes. Stoke fire. Drink coffee.
Struggle, finding more holes. Curse, cut, do over. Call husband and complain. Cry a little.
Finally get enough casing on the tube. Set aside.
Puree near-frozen meat in food processor. Curse at the damn safety measures that prevent you from using a spatula while the thing is running. Give in to Ruhlman’s suggestion that you might need to split the batch. Puree and place in stuffer chamber. Stoke fire, add chips.
Tie off a new end, turn again. Puree is still squirting out of pinholes in the casing. Curse. Cry. Pour bourbon creme liquor in the coffee.
Push meat into the stuffing chamber and place in fridge to stay cool. Pull out some hog casings and start them soaking in water.
Start calculating how many hours this process has taken you. Stoke the fire. Call husband and ask how to keep fire going with limited amount of charcoal left.
Start Again Again
Rinse hog casings and string them onto stuffer tube. Pull out meat and begin stuffing again. Take questions from audience of your daughter and her four year old friend. Convince your daughter to open doors so you can lay hot dogs on the grill.
Wash dishes. Add wood chips to fire. Lend stuffer to friend so she can make brats and dogs tonight. Turn links. Stoke fire. Shoot some limoncello straight from the freezer.
Two hours later, internal temperature of dogs is barely 100. Sigh. Add more charcoal. Move dogs a little closer to the fire. Snap at the five year old who wants attention and then apologize. It’s really the meat that’s making you mad.
Recall that you don’t really like hot dogs. Maybe that’s why this whole process feels like a chore.
Eventually, give up on the smoker and bring the dogs inside. Wonder why a bunch of juice squirts out when the thermometer goes in. Bake them in the oven until the temperature reaches 150 degrees.
So fed up with the process that now cost you 1.5 days and hundreds of dishes, consider not even tasting the hot dogs. Remember that you are participating in this whole Charcutepalooza thing and you might as well at least take a picture. The dogs are wrinkly and misshapen but do taste ok with your cucumber relish.
Vow to never make hot dogs again. A girl knows when something is not worth the trouble.
Much thanks to Lillian, the five year old, who tolerated my inattentiveness and took pictures of me working. She declares the hot dogs good enough to eat but wishes they were more greasy.