The History of Kosher Hot Dogs

In celebration of National Hot Dog month, we thought it would be the perfect time to dig into history to find out more about everyone’s ballpark and summer BBQ favorite–the kosher hot dog.

The origin story of the first hot dog–which was definitely not kosher–is disputed. The two dominant narratives are that hot dogs came from Frankfurt, Germany (the frank) or from Vienna (Wien), from which we get the word “wiener wurst.”

Whether it was Austrian or German, this u-shaped sausage link was an affordable street food for the working class, usually eaten on its own. They soon became known as “daschund sausages” after the dog that they resemble. (Perhaps this is where the American term “hot dog” came from.)

The hot dog as we know it today–sausage with mustard and ketchup and bun–is undeniably an American innovation. By the mid 1800s, some enterprising food cart salesperson in New York, or possibly St. Louis, discovered the ease at which these sausages could be eaten with a bun around it.

Jewish butchers in the Lower East Side caught on to this emerging 19th century food trend and developed their own kosher beef hot dogs.

Soon thereafter, Theodore Krainin, a Russian-born Jewish butcher, founded the Hebrew National Kosher Sausage Factory in the Lower East Side in 1905.

Ted Merwin’s Pastrami on Rye: An Overstuffed History of the Jewish Deli illustrates this moment in history with a quote from a Sholem Aleichem novel, written in Yiddish in 1916:

“Maybe you’ve heard of Hibru Neshnel Delikatesn. It’s a company that sells kosher salami, frankfurters, pickled tongues, and corned beef…If you’re hungry, you step into one and order a haht dawg, with mustard or horseradish.” 

Kosher hot dogs were popular among Americans of all backgrounds not only for their quality and taste, but also for their association with higher food safety standards. Upon its first inspection, the Hebrew National Kosher Sausage Factory was described as having a higher standard than required by food safety laws at the time, and therefore gained attention from consumers growing more and more wary of the meatpacking industry (thank you, Upton Sinclair). Kosher certification at that time was one of the only ways that consumers could be certain that their hot dogs were not only pork-free, but also humanely-slaughtered.

Today, Hebrew National isn’t the only game in town–there are dozens of kosher hot dogs to choose from. (The Forward did a taste test if you find your eyes glazing over while pondering which brand to choose at the supermarket.)

Barbeque Grill filled with hot dogs

How do you like your hot dog? Plain and simple with ketchup or mustard? How about something kind of crazy? Here are some unique ways you can celebrate National Hot Dog month this summer:

Challah Hot Dogs

5 Homemade Hotdog Condiments from TheKitchn.com

Tahini Dogs, from Real Simple

Pretzel Dogs, from CatchMyParty.com

Breakfast Hotdogs (without cheese) from That’s So Michelle 

Corndogs (use soymilk instead of milk) from ChefSteps

 

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