cookout

8 quality American-made foods to step up your cookout

July 5, 2012 at 8:58 AM ET

Try flavorful hot dogs from Let's Be Frank, which are nitrate-free.
Let's Be Frank
Try flavorful hot dogs from Let's Be Frank, which are nitrate-free.

Upgrade your cookout spread this summer with these all-American foods, made right here in the U.S. Almost all these purveyors said their companies started by accident, as passion projects or hobbies that spun out of control—lucky for us!

First Field Jersey Ketchup

Princeton, N.J.

First Field /

Ketchup is one of those things that few of us have attempted to make from scratch—and that’s because it’s a real pain. Just ask the makers of First Field Jersey Ketchup in Princeton, NJ, founders Patrick Leger and Theresa Viggiano, who start with real local tomatoes—not tomato paste or sauce—and reduce the fruit down in a long, hot process. The resulting ketchup is like nothing you’ve ever had out of a squeeze bottle—it has a true tomato taste that’s not overwhelmed by sugar, with a touch of tang from apple cider vinegar, and a smooth texture that’s more robust than sauce but not whipped. Serve it at your next cookout—Leger and Viggiano did all the work for us! $29 for three 8-ounce jars, first-field.com

Let’s Be Frank hot dogs

San Francisco, Calif.

Healthful grass-fed beef doesn’t always make the best burgers, but it makes great hot dogs, as Northern California company Let’s Be Frank found when it set out to reclaim the American icon. Founders Larry Bain and Susan Moore realized that local ranchers were able to sell off their grass-fed top cuts like sirloin, but lots went to waste, so they used that meat to make juicy, nitrate-free beef hot dogs flavored with little else than paprika, garlic and a little salt. Knowing the beef is pasture-raised takes a little bit of guilt out of this guilty pleasure. $7.50 for four, letsbefrankdogs.com.

Old Dutch Dill pickle chips

Roseville, Minn.

Pickles are everywhere right now, but really, nothing beats old-fashioned dill, which is probably why these dill potato chips from Minnesota snack-food maker Old Dutch are still the 76-year-old company’s top seller. The puckery chips are so unique, the company has shipped them to overseas Midwestern soldiers who get a craving. Try them with a sandwich—they can easily stand in for the pickle on your plate. $4.29, olddutchfoods.com

Curtis’ All-American Southern-Style Barbecue Sauce

Putney, Vt.

One might be skeptical about North Carolina-style barbecue sauce from Vermont, but anyone who has tried Curtis’ All-American Southern-Style sauce knows this is the real deal. The perfectly balanced sauce is neither overly tomato-y or vinegary, the consistency isn’t too thick or too watery, and the heat is spot-on. And if you are ever passing through Vermont, be sure to stop at Curtis’ roadside barbecue pit, where you place your order at the window of a big blue school bus. $7 for 12 ounces, piecesofvermont.com

Savannah Bee Co. /

Savannah Bee Company honey

Savannah, Ga.

Most supermarket honey is cut with corn syrup, but if you want to taste actual, pure honey, try a jar from Georgia’s Savannah Bee Company – our favorite is the orange blossom. By corralling the bees near a specific flower, in this case, an orange blossom grove, the beekeepers get a honey with actual citrus notes (most local honey comes from wildflower nectar). Slather it on salmon, chicken or ribs, or combine with warm water to make a simple syrup for lemonade, iced tea or sangria. $15 for 12 ounces, savannahbee.com

Seattle Chocolates Lemon Ice Bar

Seattle, Wash.

Chocolate isn’t typically thought of as refreshing, but this new Lemon Ice bar from Seattle Chocolates really is—candy makers infuse the white chocolate truffle bar with pieces of old-fashioned lemon candy from Chicago. If white chocolate isn’t your thing, the Seattle chocolatiers also make a seasonal Campers’ S’mores bar, the perfect thing to drop in the kids’ summer camp bags. $3 for 2.5 ounces, seattlechocolates.com

Spindrift /

Spindrift soda

Charlestown, Mass.

A self-described former diet soda addict, Bill Creelman started Spindrift Soda less than two years ago when he set out looking for the kind of healthy, all-natural fruit sodas he drank as a kid growing up in New England. His sodas are more like carbonated juices, fizzy and full of pulp, and they’re the only soda delivered to stores cold to maintain freshness. And if you’re wondering how much actual fruit is in each bottle, just look at the label, which will tell you the bottle contains, for example, 16 raspberries and 9 cranberries in the sparkling Cranberry Raspberry. $32 for a 12-pack, spindriftfresh.com

Talenti /

Talenti Gelato

Dallas, TX

Once just a tiny Dallas gelato shop, Talenti recently became the country’s top-selling gelato brand with good reason: It’s seriously addictive. The company goes to crazy lengths to source top-notch ingredients—the Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip, for example, is made with actual black raspberries, which grow for only about three weeks each July almost exclusively in Oregon. Let the Belgian Chocolate melt a little and it tastes like a gourmet Wendy’s Frosty, and we mean that in the best possible way. Price varies, at most supermarkets or talentigelato.com.

Tracy Saelinger is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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