I had a friend growing up who said she was a vegetarian, except she ate hot dogs. Secretly, I think we all feel that way—a little more into hot dogs that we'd like to admit. Most hot dogs are full of less-than-appetizing ingredients, things like mechanically separated turkey, potassium lactate, corn syrup, and maltodextrin.
And yet. They taste. SO GOOD!
Enter the Farm Institute hot dog, an all-local, all-pastured beef dog. The Farm Institute is a non-profit on Martha's Vineyard working to teach people about sustainable agriculture, and part of their strategy is to produce top notch hot dogs. I met the executive director, Jon Previant, at the winter farmers' market in West Tisbury, and he said they got the idea from Allen Healy at Mermaid Farm & Dairy. Allen has been making all-local dogs for a while—it's a good way to use ground beef, and they're popular with families. The Farm got on board two years ago, and Jon says they sell out constantly. They sell them to a local sandwich shop, they use them at their events, they sell them at the farmers' markets and online, and they also "go ahead and eat a lot of them."
Jon says without irony that they are the best hot dogs you've ever had, and that they taste like hamburger with a little maple syrup and some spices. They are all ground beef, no fillers, and the meat gets mixed with maple syrup and a few spices and some celery salt. (The celery salt works as a preservative, because it naturally contains nitrates, but it doesn't give the dogs that same pink color that sodium nitrites do.)
Jon says the texture is a little different from a commercial hot dog—not so mushy, and a little less like chewing dough. In other words, delicious.
I am saddened to say that I have not personally been able to try one of the Farm dogs, as we were traveling overnight and on bicycles when we visited the market, but I noticed today that you can order them online and pick them up if you live on-Island. Also, Jon says they got the idea from Allen Healy, who runs Mermaid Farm & Diary in Chilmark, and that they also sell an all-local dog. If you try either one, I'd like a full report.