Earlier this week I was reading Bruce Craig's Hot Dog, A Global History about the European precursors to the hot dog: weisswurst and Thuringer, made with finely chopped meat and flavored with garlic or herbs. These techniques eventually evolved into frankfurters and American bologna. Then I remembered the bright pink ring bologna in my freezer.
Ring Bologna is best described as the missing link between hot dogs and baloney, a cousin to German fleischwurst. Finely ground pork and beef are stuffed into a natural casing, lightly smoked, and looped into a ring. Thicker than a hot dog, fully cooked and super garlicky, ring bologna is often found in parts of the country with a German deli and hot dog culture.
My ring came from Zweigle's in Rochester by way of Wegman's. You can also find ring bologna in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Dutch country, but it's a whole different situation—dark, coarsely ground, and heavily smoked.
Ring bologna is traditionally sliced and cooked with sauerkraut or beans, eaten out of the package with crackers, or even ground into a salad with mayonnaise and pickles and served on white bread. But no reason not to serve it on a bun—the flavor and texture of Zweigle's ring bologna is almost identical to a really good hot dog, aside from the extra dose of garlic and ultra thick casing.
I started the ring bologna off in a barely boiling broth of water, beer, onions, garlic, mustard seeds and coriander before pan-frying it in butter with a cast iron skillet. Sure, it would have been perfectly delicious on its own, but I wanted to take it into fried bologna sandwich territory with the pickles, mayo and yellow mustard, and maybe a little bit of Denmark with the fried onion straws.
I purposefully used a standard white hot dog bun, toasted a bit to hold it together, and tons of yellow mustard. Then mayonnaise (plenty of it), a few thinly sliced pickles, and a pile of onion straws that were soaked in buttermilk before breading with seasoned flour and cornstarch (about a 4:1 ratio of flour to cornstarch).
The results were awesome. The snap of the carmelized casing, then the juicy center of the ring bologna mixed with hits of vinegary pickle and mustard, creamy mayonnaise, and crunchy onion rings, all barely held together (to my surprise it actually didn't fall apart) by the lightly toasted, warm and still soft white bun.
So if you're looking for a change of pace in the jumbo hot dog/sausage/kilebasa department, I highly recommend checking out some ring bologna if you can find it at a local butcher or grocery store, or see below for online ordering options.
Where to Buy Ring Bologna
Zweigle's Ring Bologna $6.49 from nystyledeli.com
Koegel's Ring Bologna: $7.99 to $57.99 from buykoegels.com
Usinger's Ring Bologna: $4.69 from usingersdeli.com
Koenemann's Ring Bologna: $6.85 from koenemannsausage.com
Hawk Krall is a Philadelphia-based illustrator who has a serious thing for hot dogs. Dig his dog drawings? Many of the illustrations he has created for Hot Dog of the Week are available for sale: hawkkrall.net/prints/.