Rhode Island “New York System” Weiners/Wieners (aka “Gaggers”)

A wiener is technically the same thing as a hot dog or frankfurter, but dogs and franks are often beef-based, with a garlicky flavor and a teeth-teasing snap that their casings give them, whereas a wiener is soft, skinless, bland and often pork-based. Usually a wiener is not at all my dog of choice, but when it’s slathered with the meat sauce it becomes a “hot wiener” and more than the sum of its parts, far from health food but cheap and satisfying.In Rhode Island and surrounding Mass they are often spelled with the “e” before the “i.” It is called a New York System Hot Weiner, but has nothing to do with New York. The early 20th century Greek immigrant who invented it had come through Ellis Island on his way to Rhode Island, and was inspired by the evocative words “New York.” Rhode Island used to have lunch counters on every corner and many of the little restaurants, with names like Wein-O-Rama, dotted the landscape like McDonalds and Burger Kings do now, and it is where wiener is sometimes even spelled “ie.” Wiener is short for wiener wurst, the grandpa of our wiener, so the word wiener means Viennese and “ie” is the correct spelling. So I have no idea why Rhode Island’s dogs are “ei,” but who cares, they are so good that expatriate Ro Dylanduhs all over are passionate about their weiners, waxing nostalgic for them in Internet chat rooms, sneaking them by the dozens onto airplanes after visits home, and order the spice mixture by mail so they can make their own sauce out of state.The Hot Weiner mystique is partly due to the fun way they’re traditionally served; the counterman takes a whole bunch of them and lines them up along his arm–people often order them in threes. Then he dabs each dog with a mustardy wooden stick, slathers on the spice-laden sauce, then raw onion, then celery salt. I think the appeal is also partly because the sauce sits around on the heat 24 hours a day, drying out and requiring copious quantities of Crisco added regularly to keep it moist. If you get your Hot Weiners to go, they are wrapped in wax paper and put in a paper bag that gets pretty greasy pretty fast.

There are a lot of recipes out there on the net for the meat sauce, most of them with way too many ingredients to be accurate, and since the restaurants guard their recipe like it is the formula for Coke, I decided to post the one I use. One more thing, besides using wieners instead of hot dogs, these are best if you steam the rolls just before serving.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. hamburger
  • 3 Tbs. margarine
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 Tbs. garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. chili powder
  • 1/2 Tsp. allspice
  • 1/2 Tbs. salt
  • 1 pinch black pepper
  • 1 C water

Directions:

This is not a complicated recipe, but isn’t quick.

Lightly brown chopped onion in butter.

Add hamburger and stir until the hamburger loosens into small pieces and then add rest of spices.

Simmer on very low heat for at LEAST 2 hours.

Put cooked weiner in bun.

Put mustard on weiner.

Put sauce on mustard.

Put raw chopped onions on mustard.

Sprinkle celery salt on top of onions.

Devour your creations…. and smile.

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2 Comments

  1. Well you learn something new everyday, I had no clue. Great post, love it. You see that little fork and spoon button in the editor? You can use that for recipes, easy to use and you don’t have to type as much, I use it all the time. Great job on this post!!! I am a fan!!

  2. I did not know there was a difference between hot dogs and wieners. I’ve never heard of this this wiener concoction. Sounds similar to a chili dog with the meat sauce. Interesting to read of different regional food traditions.

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