Going through the grocery store the other day I spied the Heinz ketchup and mustard on sale. Of course those items bring summer picnics to mind. For me they also had me thinking about hot dog sauce.

I have several recipes for hot dog sauce, although the one everyone usually asks for is “Mrs. Ransom’s Sauce.” Of course, I never know when one of my brothers will ask me to bring some sauce to a summer family picnic. And the guys usually end up calling the night before or the morning of to make the request. While it doesn’t take a long time to make the sauce, it does need time to simmer to not only thicken up some but also to allow the flavors to meld together.

I can always tell when I’ve rushed a sauce. It’s not quite like how Mom made it when I don’t take the time to do it correctly.

This year I’ve decided to plan ahead.

A month ago we had to replace the refrigerator when it suddenly stopped staying cool and instead warmed up. So now I have a new refrigerator/freezer combo that is just waiting to be filled, especially the freezer part.

In the past I’ve made a large batch of sauce and then frozen whatever was left over. This time I want to make large batches of several sauces and freeze them so that when one is requested this summer, I can simply thaw it out slowly and warm it up. “Mrs. Ransom’s Sauce” freezes beautifully and always tastes as if just made once it is reheated.

A day of making hot dog sauce should last us through the summer and possibly into football season. Nothing is better than cooking hotdogs over the fire in the fireplace and then having homemade sauce to put on them.

It reminds me of my childhood and the cookouts we had almost every weekend during the summer and fall months. Whether at home, a local state park or at my cousins’ house in Brockway, we had a lot of cookouts back then. Likely because it was so much easier than preparing a full meal inside. My siblings and I would put our hotdogs on a long-handled fork made for campfire cooking or sometimes on a stick. So we’d do the actually cooking of our own meal. Mom would have made salads and baked beans ahead of time so they were already in containers just waiting for us to open them and put a spoonful, or two, on our plates.

Sometimes we’d have a corn boil as well if we were at my cousins’ house. A large kettle of water would be suspended over the campfire for cooking the corn. If we didn’t do it that way, we’d clean an ear of corn, place it with some butter, salt and pepper in aluminum foil and wrap it up tight. Then we’d place the foil-wrapped ears of corn into the hot coals of the fire, essentially roasting the corn. It was delicious once we pulled it from the fire and unwrapped the foil.

Not long before leaving the grocery store I spied another display that took me right back to those carefree days. Of course, that would be the display for s’mores. There were bars of Hershey chocolate, boxes of Graham Crackers and bags of large marshmallows.

We usually had roasted marshmallows but sometimes we’d make s’mores. Once the marshmallows were toasty and oozing, we’d place them on a Graham Cracker, top it with a piece of Hershey’s chocolate and then another Graham Cracker and press down slightly to moosh it all together. Mooshed ones always tasted better for some reason.

Of course, once mountain pies were introduced to our cookouts, we sometimes went for the pie filling types for our dessert. Toasted marshmallows, though, were always had, just sometimes a little later after our stomachs had rested and maybe us kids had gotten in a game of hide and seek in the dark.

For those who may have missed the recipe for “Mrs. Ransom’s Sauce” or can’t seem to find where you put it, I’ve included it below.

MRS. RANSOM’S HOTDOG SAUCE

1 1/2 lb. hamburger

3 cups chopped onions (I usually chop mine fairly fine)

3 tsp. salt

1 tsp. chili powder

1/2 small jar mustard

3/4 bottle ketchup (note this recipe is from the 1960s or earlier so I try to think of the type of ketchup bottle they had then. I usually look for a medium size one, not the large family size.)

2 small cans Hunt’s Sauce

Put the hamburger in a large sauce pan and add in a small amount of water. Work the hamburger with your hands to loosen the meat. The water makes this an easy task. I start with a small amount of water and keep adding a little at a time until I can get the meat all loosen up so there are no chunks. Do not drain off water.

Add the salt and the chopped onions and cook over medium heat until the onions are done (translucent and soft).

Add the chili powder, mustard, ketchup, Hunt’s sauce (that is what it’s called on the can) and stir to combine. Cook slowly until the sauce thickens. This sauce will reduce and get thicker as it cooks. I usually put it down to medium-low on my electric stove and stir it occasionally.

Once it starts cooking down, taste it to see if it is what you want. You can add more ketchup, mustard or chili powder to suit your taste.

Note: As it cooks down the flavors will all come together. This sauce can also be frozen for use later as well.

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