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The Making of a Dodger Dog

You, too, can make Dodger Dogs in your own home, but it would take quite a food processor. The recipe for a single batch calls for 3,200 pounds of pork back, 800 pounds of lean pork, 1,000 pounds of lean beef, 430 pounds of spices, 122 pounds of corn syrup and 1,000 pounds of water.

The grinder at the Vernon works of Farmer John, where L.A.'s Dodger Dogs are made, is so large that sausage-maker Peter Auer shows it off from scaffolding. “It’s my baby!” he shouts, the volume required because, just now, baby is in action, and making quite a din. “Look at that shine! When you have the sheen, then you know it’s quality, that there are no soybeans in there.”

German-born, and a third-generation sausage-maker with a master’s degree in the craft, Auer has been with Farmer John for 12 years. His initial impression of American wieners was not favorable. “I threw out all the junk,” he says. “Ours are all meat, no poultry. No milk powder. We standardize, yes, but this is not ‘least cost formulation.’ ”

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Once the emulsion is smooth, it is pumped into cellulose casings and hot dogs are shot into the works at the rate of about 700 a minute. From here, they are racked on a system of trolleys and belts for a continuous trip through the works, during which they will be cooked, smoked, peeled, rinsed and packed.

Each phase is done in a separate chamber, with its own set of hygiene protocols. Lest so much as a speck of paint fall off a wall, even the walls are stainless steel. Temperature and air pressure is controlled. Drain traps are checked for microbes. Once packaged, every hot dog goes through a metal detector to make sure an errant screw from all that steel did not drop from the ceiling. “If there was ever a recall, I’d shoot myself,” Auer says.

At the smokery segment of the tour, he snags a hot dog from the works. “They never taste better than after they’ve first been cooked,” he says, peeling the dog, snapping a segment off and popping it into his mouth.

To judge by sales figures, they taste pretty good 10 miles away at Dodger stadium, too. Dodger fans lead both leagues in hot dog consumption: 29,000 dogs a game, and, in 81 home games, 2,349,000 in a season.


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