Color Maps for “The Flint Coney: A Savory History”

One of the issues with publishing a book such as “The Flint Coney: A Savory History” is that printing color pages costs considerably more than black-and-white, or even greyscale. The processes generally happen separately, and collating occurs as a third process after both print processes, prior to binding.

To keep the cost of “The Flint Coney: A Savory History” as low as possible, the maps on pages 103 to 105 were printed in greyscale. Below are 8-1/2 x 11″ versions of those maps from the original Illustrator files, in full color as a PDF. You’re welcome to download and print these maps for your own use, but not for distribution without express written permission.

updated January 12, 2022
Download the PDF


Page Proofs

The page proofs showed up from the publisher yesterday afternoon. The book has come in at 176 pages. I can already see one error, in that the back cover image credit is missing from the copyright page. These are the kinds of errors I need to search out and create a list of, returning the list by Monday, January 10th. Yes, I did go grab more bourbon …

Cost Analysis of the Ground Hot Dog Recipe

My receipt from Abbott’s Meat on July 26, 2021, for a 25 lb bag of their Coney Topping Mix, and a 10lb box of Koegel Coney Franks. The Coney Topping mix is raw, unseasoned, and unfrozen.

A section from this site I intended to include in the upcoming book was the cost analysis of the ground hot dog recipe vs. the 25 lb coney sauce base from Abbott’s, which is what restaurants actually use. This section comes from the page Where did the Flint Coney sauce recipe that includes ground hot dogs originate?. I had neglected to include it in the book’s final manuscript, so I’ll highlight it here.

Let’s first have a look at the cost of it vs. what the Flint Coney restaurants actually use. On the receipt above, I paid $48.38 for the 25 lb bag of raw, unseasoned, and unfrozen Abbott’s Coney Topping Mix, which is what the restaurants buy. They then melt beef tallow, pork lard, or shortening, or heat some vegetable oil, add minced onion, dump in the Coney Topping Mix, and season to their taste. It’s really simple, and might end up costing $52 for a completed 25 lb batch.

The two items purchased on the above receipt.

In breaking down the wholesale cost of making the ground hot dog recipe in the same batch size, it immediately becomes more expensive. The recipe calls for 1 lb ground beef, and 4 – 5 ground Koegel Viennas, which is another 1/2 lb of meat. We’ll extrapolate that to 16 lb ground beef and 8 lb of ground Viennas, which is 64 individual Viennas, to make 24 lb total, leaving another lb for the other ingredients in the recipe.

Just the cost of the meat makes the cost of the recipe jump. According to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Wholesale Price Update for the week ending August 20, 2021, the least-expensive blended ground beef 73% was $1.73/lb, with 16 lb then costing $27.68. Unblended ground beef 73% was $2.08/lb, or $33.28 for 16 lb. The kicker though is back on the above receipt, where you’ll find the 10 lb wholesale box of Coney Franks was $33.70. Restaurants don’t use the Viennas: The Coney Frank is a variation of Koegel’s Vienna that lasts longer on the grill. The implication then is that it’s the Coney Franks that would have been used in the ground hot dog recipe, if the folklore were true. 8 lb of Coney Franks is currently $26.96. The meats alone for the ground hot dog recipe are then above the total cost of using the Coney Topping Mix. Add the butter, tomato sauce, mustard, and the rest of the ingredients, along with the additional labor for the prep, grinding the hot dogs, etc., and the cost of the 25 lb batch then goes above $70.

It’s not practical, it takes a lot more time, and it’s certainly not how the frugal Macedonians would have done it.

The Ground Hot Dog Recipe’s First Printing

Scan of the recipe’s first printing by Barbara Grant Boike.

On December 17, 2021, Barbara Grant Boike posted a scan of the first printing of the ground hot hot recipe to the Memories of Flint and Surrounding Areas Facebook group. The recipe was taped to a card. When I asked if there was anything on the back of the recipe that might suggest a date, she wrote “I got the recipe off the card & I have a note under that says, ANGELO’S/ Flint Journal, but no date. And I remember the Food Editor being Joy Gallagher.” The rest of the piece, including the date printed and the context of the rest of Gallagher’s writing surrounding the recipe, is still missing. But at least we now know what it looked like.

As the recipe is titled “Coney Island Hot Dog Sauce”, I’m suspecting the context of the rest of the piece did not indicate this recipe was from Angelo’s or any other Flint coney joint. If it were, it would nost likely have been titled as such. The title also doesn’t include the word “original”, as it seemed to in many subsequent printings, including Gallagher’s own second printing on May 23, 1978.

No Further Changes

My book “The Flint Coney: A Savory History” is now in the hands of a page designer at The History Press. I’ll get the page proofs for approval, but will no longer be able to make any changes. After 12 years of research and writing, it’s an anxious thing to no longer be able to work on this manuscript. But … It’s time to let it go. Publishing will happen in the spring of 2022. Oy …

Mis-Steps Along the Way

An updated version of the image from the MLive blog post from October 15, 2007.

In the manuscript for “The Flint Coney: A Savory History”, I mention how I’d been working on the book in various forms for eight years (which is actually twelve years), and had written the Luna Pier Cook food blog beginning in 2006. But where the story itself is concerned, I definitely made some mis-steps along the way. Some of the work dates back earlier than those included dates and should probably be looked at, especially since those works are still on the web.

Back in October 2007 I attempted to branch out from the Luna Pier Cook blog by writing a separate blog for MLive which we titled “Michigan Appetite.” MLive is a group of newspapers across the state of Michigan owned by a number of organizations over the years, currently Advance Publications/Booth Newspapers. The Michigan Appetite blog was to be in support of my broader efforts to identify and curate what I expected to call a “Michigan cuisine.”

A post I wrote there on October 15, 2007, was titled “Recipe: ‘Almost Flint-Style Coney Sauce’, and Flint vs. Detroit Coneys.” This was my first attempt to write what I thought was an honest look at the Flint Coney.

Unfortunately, I didn’t even present that moniker correctly. “At one time, coneys made with Angelo’s coney sauce were called Flint-style coneys, although I’m not sure that’s true any longer.” That was a serious gaffe, but frankly I didn’t know what I was saying at the time. The entire piece also incorrectly presents Angelo’s as the original Flint Coney location, which I know now was wrong by 24 years, as well as being more than two miles from Simion Brayan’s location at 202 S. Saginaw St.

Even worse is this section:

if you head over to the Koegel Meats web site and search their Recipe page for the words “coney sauce” (minus the quotes) you’ll currently find more than one version of this same recipe, each claiming to have been given to family members by someone who may or may not have been the person who developed Angelo’s famous sauce.

(Note that the link originally went to a section on Koegel’s site, but now goes to a Facebook recipes group they created.)

There are multiple problems with this paragraph:

  • The ground hot dog recipe in that post isn’t how Flint Coney sauce is made at restaurants.
  • Angelo’s isn’t where Flint Coney sauce was developed.
  • Just because it’s on the internet, even in a company-sponsored Facebook group, doesn’t mean it’s true.

It wasn’t too long afterward that I began looking into the facts I’d been unaware of. On January 28, 2009, I wrote a post on Luna Pier Cook titled “Michigan’s Coney Sauces: Beef Heart? Kidneys?? The Realities Await… .” While there’s still a bit of misinformation in that particular post, including the fact that the recipe I included for a Flint sauce turned out to be inedible, it was at least a step in the right direction, far away from the MLive piece from two years earlier. On September 27, 2009, I then posted my first successful version of Flint Coney sauce containing both beef heart and kidney as “Recipe: Authentic-Style Flint Coney Sauce.”

Mea culpa. Seriously.

Hot or Mild Chili Powder for Flint Coney Sauce?

Commercial spices from GFS used for making Flint Coney sauce.

One of the questions to be answered when making the sauce for Flint Coneys is whether to use hot or mild chili powder in the spice blend. When a chili powder container’s label only says “chili powder”, you can assume it’s mild. Only the hot chili powders are labeled as such.

More commonly-available spices, with mild chili powder.

But which is historically accurate? One clue we have is the published recipe for the sauce at Gillie’s Coney Island in Mt. Morris, Michigan. In 1991 Dave Gillie included a variation of his sauce recipe in “A Taste of Michigan“, published by the Michigan Restaurant Asssociation, which I discuss in “Recipe for ‘Gillie’s Coney Island Chili Dogs’, a Flint Style Coney Sauce.”

Dave Gillie’s published variation on his Flint Coney sauce. In indicating “(preferably hot)” for the chili powder, Gillie gives an indication of knowing that particular chili powder isn’t always available.

Chili powder is an American invention. According to “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America” by Gustavo Arellano, Willie Gebhardt had been born in Germany and had immigrated to Texas. In wanting to use chili peppers year-round, he acquired what were likely ancho chili peppers, roasted and ground them, and began offering his chili powder commercially in 1894.

Advertisements for Gebhardt’s chili powder as they appeared in the North Carolina Christian Advocate on September 8, October 20, and November 10, 1910, respectively. The periodical regularly ran variations of ads for Eagle Brand products.

Gebhardt’s chili powder would have been quite hot, not mild as many are today. Later commercial variations such as Gebhardt’s Eagle Brand version would have been what Simion Brayan probably used in his first Flint Coney shop in 1925. Gebhardt’s company changed hands many times over the decades and a current version of his chili powder is still available today.

Gillie’s Coney Island Now an Employee-Owned Business

Two coneys I enjoyed at Gillie’s in Mt. Morris on July 26, 2021. This image is also part of the book’s approved cover art.

During my visit to Gillie’s Coney Island on July 26, 2021, Dave Gillie let me know that he was intending on selling the restaurant to his employees on September 1st. The information wasn’t public knowledge at the time, but he knew I’d want to include it in the book. The transfer occured on October 20th, as reported by mLive in the article “Retiring Gillie’s Coney Island owner passes business on to 17 employees” by Winter Keefer.

Recipe for ‘Gillie’s Coney Island Chili Dogs’, a Flint Style Coney Sauce” is one of the recipes available on this site, and will also be included in the book.

Hofmann’s Snappy Grillers and the Flint Coney

A package of Hofmann’s Snappy Grillers, made in Syracuse, New York. I purchased this package at Wegman’s in Liverpool.

Before Simion Brayan developed the Flint Coney prior to 1925, he had a hot dog in upstate New York with a sauce that he felt he could improve on. This is according to “Two To Go” published by the Genesee County Historical Society. Those authors reported that he ordered what was called a “coney island”, then quoted Brayan as saying it was “practically tasteless … unfit for a young man whose palate was accustomed to the hardy cuisine of southeast Europe … They used ground beef, a little chili powder, a little paprika, but it had no taste.” Thinking back to the Macedonian goulash he’d eaten back in Boufi, which contained beef heart and occasionally beef kidney, all in a beef suet base, he determined he could make a better coney sauce based on the heartiness of that Macedonian dish.

The Snappy Grillers as served at Heid’s of Liverpool in New York, with their own spicy mustard, and onions.

The hot dog enjoyed most there in the Rochester region is known as the White Hot. One of its current iterations is the Hofmann Snappy Griller, which is a pork and veal frankfurter in a natural casing.

As my wife is a travel nurse, we’re regular bouncing back and forth in various iterations from Wyoming to Maine. As our home is in Michigan, the drive to Maine, with breaks, can be done in one day, taking about 15 hours. We’ve now done this drive at least a dozen times.

The first time we did that drive in April of 2018, I was well aware of the story of Simion Brayan in that area. I had also located Heid’s of Liverpool as a possible location where he may have eaten that “coney.” So it came as a welcome surprise that I started seeing signs for Liverpool on the New York Thruway, especially since we were hungry. That was the first of many stops at Heid’s over these few years. Heid’s is almost exactly halfway through the trip, and we’ve only missed eating there twice, because of the pandemic. We always enjoy a couple Snappy Grillers there.

Snappy Grillers served with Flint Coney sauce, which I made on Nov. 15, 2021.

During one trip in early August of 2021, I made a side trip to the nearby Wegman’s and found the package of Snappy Grillers in the top image. After their being in the freezer for a few months, and in the cooler, they made it hard-frozen across the country. One night in November, we had them in Grand Forks, North Dakota, topped with real Flint Coney sauce This sauce was made from Abbott’s beef heart base spiced with Marty Embry’s Flint Coney spice. (No onions because of a sensitivity in the house.) They turned out to be rather exceptional, and are something we would certainly enjoy again.

“The Flint Coney: A Savory History”

The approved cover for my upcoming book.

On October 5, 2021, my upcoming book “The Flint Coney: A Savory History” was handed off to Production at The History Press. I’ve been working on this project in various renditions for eight years now, and it’s rather strange to be told “No, you can’t make any changes now until copy editing begins, which will likely be in early 2022.” I’ve started this blog as a place to list some of the current happenings in my continued research … Nothing major, merely a number of additions that have already begun to stack up.

In the meantime, Welcome!