How to transform your backyard hot dogs with homemade condiments

A juicy, grilled backyard hot dog is the ultimate expression of summer, conjuring simple childhood memories and good times with friends and family.

But a hot dog can also be a canvas for culinary creativity, especially when homemade condiments are involved.

Before you fire up the grill this weekend, take a little extra time to add these toppings to your menu. Your dogs will taste amazing. And with everyone finally getting back together, isn’t it worth the extra effort?

Fresh ingredients like onion and tomato, along with homemade condiments, make ordinary dogs special.

Homemade ketchup

I know. Why would you take the time to make something that’s so cheap and easy to buy? Because it’s worth it. There are many great homemade ketchup recipes out there, but this one from Epicurious has great complexity. Save a step and use a can of pureed tomatoes rather than whole. Also, feel free to play around with the dry spices, perhaps using a bump of cayenne to add some heat. The texture is perfect and the flavor is much more robust than commercial ketchup.

Homemade ketchup provides intense flavor without the corn syrup found in most brands.

Homemade special sauce

Cane’s Sauce. McDonald’s Big Mac Special Sauce. Chik-fil-A Sauce. In-N-Out Burger’s “Animal Style” spread. That creamy condiment hybrid we adore has long been the secret in some of the country’s top fast food eateries. The ratios of ketchup and mayo vary, and some of the aforementioned sauces include mustard and relish, but the flavor profile is generally the same: tangy, slightly sweet—and so much better than ketchup or mayo alone. Prepare your special sauce with equal parts ketchup and mayo, and from there, add whatever moves you. Worcestershire sauce and garlic powder are used when mimicking Cane’s Sauce, and pickle relish is essential if you’re a Big Mac Special Sauce fan.

The tang of “special sauce” gives your burgers and dogs savory creaminess.

Homemade refrigerator pickles

Cucumbers are in full supply right now in both backyard gardens and farmers markets, and if you have an abundance, this recipe is a great way to use them. This foolproof formula is simple and fun, and it only takes 24 hours to yield fresh, crisp pickles that will add pleasing tang and crunch to your burgers and dogs.

Makes 8 one-pint jars

For the brine:

4 cups water
3 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
8 teaspoons kosher salt

For the pickles:

8 cloves garlic, peeled
4 teaspoons dill seed
4 teaspoons brown mustard seed
4 teaspoons red pepper flakes
8 medium to large regular cucumbers

First, make the brine by combining the water, vinegar, sugar and salt in a Dutch oven and bringing to a boil. Once the mixture boils, turn off the heat immediately, whisking to ensure the sugar and salt are thoroughly dissolved.

Next, add to the bottom of each of 8 clean, dry pint-size canning jars, 1 garlic glove and 1/2 teaspoon each, dill seed, brown mustard seed and red pepper flakes. Slice cucumbers either as chips or spears, and place in jars, tightly packing them in. Pour brine into each filled jar. Close and seal lids, and refrigerate for 24 hours. Keep refrigerated.

Overnight refrigerator pickles are a great way to use extra cucumbers and to make your backyard barbecues tastier.

Along with homemade ketchup, special sauce and pickles, enhance the flavor of your grilled hotdogs with freshly chopped or slivered onion, sliced jalapeños and sliced fresh summer tomatoes.

Take a little time this year to do something out of the ordinary. It’s good to be celebrating again.

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