Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Bourbon Hot Dogs from The Unemployed Cookbook via author Cleo Coyle

After my dear dad passed away last year, I received some of his things. Among them was this blast from the past...

Cooking on Extended Benefits: 

The Unemployed Cookbook. 

The book was put together by volunteers in the Western Pennsylvania area during the deep recession of the 1970s. 

Old joke:

What's the difference between
a Recession and a Depression?

A Recession is when
some other guy loses his job.
A Depression is when I lose mine!

So anyway, while national stats ran to 9% or so unemployment in the mid-1970s, regional stats were appalling. Some towns in our Mon Valley area were registering up to 50% unemployment. Families used to working hard and paying bills on time were now accepting blocks of government cheese and using food banks.

Worst of all, men and women who had decent-paying jobs not only lost them, they fell off the grid. After their unemployment ran out, nobody counted them anymore. Some would never be employed again. Some would find work, but the new jobs would pay them far less that the old ones. 

Recovery? Not a good recovery for them. But that's a song this country has heard before: Eddie Cantor performed the brilliantly ironic lyrics during The Great Depression.

Feeding the Community

As for this cookbook, it was created to raise money for the Mon Valley Food Bank. It was also distributed to families to help them with ideas for cooking at home and eating economical meals. It was done with good humor and good grace, and I'll always cherish it.

Below is a recipe from the book, 

so let's get cooking!

Shockingly tasty...

Cleo Coyle has a partner in
crime-writing—her husband.
Learn about their books
by clicking here and here.

Bourbon Hot Dog Bites

Marc and I have seen versions of this dish around the inter-web, but the recipe predates the digital domain. Given that it was in my late father's  Unemployed Cookbook, it's at least 40 years old. 

It's also shockingly tasty. Seriously. We could not stop popping these babies into our mouths.

We did tweak the original recipe, adding dry mustard for better complexity of flavor. We used dark brown sugar instead of light brown for the same reason. And if you're serving these at a party, we suggest using a little slow cooker to keep the bourbon bites warm throughout the evening. 

Finally, we're sharing our bright idea of using pretzel sticks instead of the usual toothpicks or cocktail forks to spear them. That little bit of salty crunch with the sweet bourbon bite certainly had us eating with joy. 

We hope you enjoy it, too...

~ Cleo

For a free, illustrated PDF
of this recipe that you can
print, save, or share, click here.

Click me.

Adapted by Cleo Coyle 
from The Unemployed Cookbook


1 pound of your favorite hot dogs*
1 cup ketchup (we use Heinz Natural)
1 cup bourbon** (we use Jim Beam)
1 teaspoon dry mustard (our addition)
1 cup brown sugar (we suggest dark brown)

*Note 1: This recipe is delicious with beef or pork hot dogs, as well as Brats and cocktail meatballs.

**Note 2: The original recipe suggested that if 1 cup bourbon is too rich for your household, use 1/2 cup bourbon and 1/2 cup fruity red wine.


Step 1 - Cut both ends off each hot dog, slice cut each wiener into five, 1/2-inch pieces. Set aside.

Step 2 - In a large skillet or saute pan, combine ketchup and bourbon and bring to a boil. As the mixture cooks, add dry mustard and dark brown sugar. Simmer for about 5 minutes and then...

Step 3 - Add your sliced hot dogs (or Brats or cocktail meatballs). When the mixture boils, lower the heat and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes. Serve warm...

SERVING NOTE: Instead of the usual toothpicks or cocktail forks, Marc and I like to serve these with pretzel sticks. That salty crunchy flavor with the sweet bourbon bite is outstanding.

Click here for the
free recipe PDF, and...

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
Follow me on twitter here
Learn about our books here.

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  1. The pretzel sticks are brilliant Cleo! These look irresistible even though I don't like bourbon and try not to eat hot dogs:)

    1. Lucy/Roberta - No worries. I've got you covered!

      * DON'T LIKE BOURBON? As mentioned above, the UNEMPLOYED COOKBOOK gives us the option of substituting fruity wine for half of the bourbon. You can use another hard alcohol or simply use a full cup of fruity wine.

      * DON'T LIKE HOT DOGS? Try those little cocktail meatballs we suggested; you can make them out of any ground meats you like. And if you're vegan, give seitan meatballs a try.

      All and all, a pretty versatile recipe, and a great one for football season and just in time for a Halloween party menu, too...

      ~ Cleo
      Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  2. You had me at bourbon! Love that flavor.
    Don't like hot dogs, however, so I'll try some brats.
    Thanks for a great flashback.

    1. Libby - You're very welcome! We love using bourbon in recipes and will happily continue! It's also good to look back and consider the past. The young like to look forward, forward, forward--but looking back is more than reminiscing. You know what they say about those who fail to remember the past...eesh!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  3. As you might have figured out by now, I love recipes with a history. This recipe sounds good whatever the source. (My only question is, if you're down and out, how do you manage to buy bourbon?)

    1. Sheila - I agree, recipes with a history are always fascinating, and I'm glad you brought up the bourbon question. The area of Pennsylvania that I'm from has a long history with whiskey--The Whiskey Rebellion comes to mind, the first major protest of USA citizens against a USA government tax.

      As we mentioned in the notes of the recipe, the UNEMPLOYED COOKBOOK suggests cutting the bourbon in this recipe to 1/2 cup and substituting fruity red wine for the rest. This means 2 to 3 shots of good whiskey will give you a dish that can be enjoyed by a gathering of people, a nice use for what you have left before the benefits run out completely.

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  4. One version of that old joke went
    It's called a recession when someone else loses their job
    It's a depression when you lose your job
    It's a recovery when the government loses their jobs.

    1. Anonymous - Okay, you got me on that one--and thanks for demonstrating your First Amendment Right. Everyone should be entitled to an opinion: Like hot dogs. Hate hot dogs. It's all part of the conversation. :)

      I'm guessing your point is not unlike one made in THE HUNGER GAMES. To borrow a literary metaphor from author Suzanne Collins--be careful crying recovery in District 1. The people in District 12 may not see it that way. That was my experience growing up in a steel-making town in the 1970s; and as I mentioned in a previous reply, with the young constantly wanting to look forward, forward, forward, it’s not a bad idea to give them a little glance back at the past.

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  5. I love the history of this recipe, Cleo. And I always love it when your dad finds his way into a post. It's lovely and moving. I think it will be very tasty too!



  6. You may have started a new trend, Cleo. People will serve these instead of little cocktail weiners! They certainly look appealing!