Let me be perfectly frank: hot dogs in any form are, at their heart (and whatever other animal body parts go into them) pretty disgusting.
As they say, one should never witness the making of laws or sausages.
But the dye has been cast — or poured or whatever it is they do to formulate one of my guilty pleasures: the classic New England redskin hot dog.
The emphasis is on red, as the dye has been known to rub off on an accompanying hot dog roll.
On a New England roll
On a recent trip back home to Maine, I instigated a lunchtime visit with my parents to Simones’ Hot Dog Stand in Lewiston. Still family owned, Simones’ has been around since 1908.
Just above our booth was a framed, yellowed newspaper ad heralding Simones’ grand opening at its current location, when it already had been in business for more than 50 years. Back then, Simones’ steamed hot dogs were merely famous; global recognition was yet to come.
I ordered two steamed redskin hot dogs, with mustard and onions. They came in a classic New England roll, which is to say split on the top. (What’s more, I washed them down with a 20-ounce bottle of ice-cold Moxie, another New England institution I wrote about three years ago.)
I only ever remember calling them redskin hot dogs, but they also are known as “snappers” after the sound and feel when you bite into the natural casing. When she was little, my niece Katie once asked, “Mom, will you peel my hot dog?”
Redskins were a Saturday treat in our house, along with Nestle Quick chocolate milk, my oldest sister, Joline, pointed out. My youngest sister, Julie, associated them with watching “American Bandstand.” Today, she tells me she hates redskin hot dogs; decades lived in California have softened her.
Bean and franks
Simones’ serves the redskins that I remember, that were made by Jordan’s Meats in Portland. Our waitress said we were eating Jordan’s redskins, but it’s more accurate to say they are made by Kayem Foods of Chelsea, Mass., which acquired the Jordan’s brand in 2008. (Kayem is the official hot dog and sausage of my beloved Boston Red Sox.)
The Jordan’s plant in Portland closed, leaving only one Maine maker of redskins.
No doubt you’ve heard of L.L. Bean, which Leon Leonwood Bean founded in 1912 in Freeport, Maine. Six years later, a company called W.A. Bean in Bangor (a couple of hours northeast of Lewiston) started making hot dogs.
I’ve had a (subpar) red hot dog in Durham, N.C., but I’ve never had a W.A. Bean snapper. My brother, Gary, has and described them as “kind of dry.”
They certainly are red, based on the photos in this Bangor Daily News story about W.A. Bean.
There’s an accompanying video, too. The finished red snappers look pretty tasty, but the video might go too far.
It shows how they’re made.