A Hot Dog Haven: The Storied History of Germany's Frankfurters

February 12, 2024
Natalie Thorburn

Hot dogs amp up baseball games, serve as a quick bite in bustling cities, and warm countless hands on winter days. But have you ever paused and considered where this delicious street-food hero came from?

None other than Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is said to have had a weakness for the original version of this popular dish. Skip the snacks because we're about to embark on a thrilling journey tracing the origins and path of the world-famous frankfurter.

The Frankfurt Connection

We all know the feeling of touching down in an airport and feeling suddenly famished. The next time you visit Germany, the rumbling in your stomach drowned by the hustle and bustle of Frankfurt Airport, you’ll know all about your different hot dog options.

There are many places to store luggage at Frankfurt Airport and free yourself up to take an exciting foodie journey. Follow the tantalizing smell wafting through the crowd and find yourself at a food stall where you can try a frankfurter (or any other kind of classic German sausage).

But what is the frankfurter's connection to this vibrant city of world-class museums and towering skyscrapers? Frankfurt am Main, from where the sausage gets its name, has been a powerhouse of the German economy since the Middle Ages.

Butchers here, in the heart of the city, perfected this sausage that later gained worldwide acclaim as the “hot dog.” They introduced this culinary wonder to the world, and the world fell in love with the frankfurter, forever linking the two.

The Origin of Frankfurters

The frankfurter's story starts in the 13th century with a creative Frankfurt butcher who sought to make a special sausage for the Imperial Coronation. This meaty delight that we love so much was created from a simple mix of pork, beef, and secret spices.

The resultant sausage was smoked and boiled, producing a uniquely flavored sausage that was distinctly different from other regional sausages. Hence, the frankfurter was born.

The Spread and Global Influence

The frankfurter's journey didn't stop at Frankfurt. It quickly became a sensation across Germany and Europe and later, thanks to German immigrants, made its way to the United States in the 19th century. Americans took the frankfurter, put it on a bun, and the American-style hot dog was born.

It then continued to roll around the world, influencing local food cultures. Today, from baseball stadiums in the U.S. to street stalls in South Korea, the influence of the humble frankfurter is evident. The frankfurter has wrapped, quite literally, the whole world in its delicious embrace, starting from the heart of Frankfurt.

The Frankfurter’s Recipe Evolution

The recipe of the frankfurter has seen adaptations as the sausage voyage continued from Frankfurt to other parts of the world. Originally, the frankfurter was a blend of pork, beef, and a bouquet of secret spices.

This mixture was smoked and boiled to perfection. A bite of the frankfurter would reveal its coarsely chopped texture, a signature trait maintained for a long while.

Fast-forward to contemporary times, and the American hot dog, often smooth-textured, favors an all-beef blend or even turkey encased in a soft bun. It might then be slathered with ketchup, mustard, mayo, or pickles. The bold among us might try our frankfurters Chicago-style with a whole garden on top; the base of a good sausage remains the key.

Frankfurters Today

Stroll around the cobblestone streets of today's Frankfurt during the annual Green Sauce Festival, and what joy it is to see the mighty frankfurter, still a beloved recipe, being devoured in large quantities. Beyond Germany, other countries have embraced and adapted the frankfurter, making it their own.

In Vienna, it's called a wiener and is eaten with a side of bread and mustard. In America, the frankfurter's legacy lives through the wildly popular hot dogs, an essential at every baseball game. The dagwood dog is its Australian carnival favorite cousin, and let's not forget the corn dog. The frankfurter has become a canvas for culinary creativity worldwide.

Savoring the Legacy: A Final Bite Into the Frankfurter's Tale

As we've delved into the history of the frankfurter and followed its spread across the globe, it's clear that this German sausage has left its footprint (or, should we say, food print?) in every corner of the world.

Remember, next time you enjoy a hot dog (or one of its many cousins) worldwide, you're biting into a piece of history that started in the German city of Frankfurt. In essence, the frankfurter and the city of Frankfurt are more than just an association. They’re an experience that everyone should enjoy at least once — and enjoy you will!


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