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Ohio: Goetta – a savory breakfast sausage inspired by the Old World

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Goetta from Cincinnati, Ohio

Ohio. Yes, Ohio.  It may not seem as exotic as Mozambique, but it has its own culinary charms.   Our first dish from Ohio is the quintessential goetta (pronounced gett-aa). It’s an amalgamation of pork, beef, spices, and steel-cut (pinhead) oats formed into a loaf, sliced and pan-fried. That may not seem like the most appealing, but when you think about it, that’s all any sausage or meatloaf is made out of – goetta is just in a different form.  I’ve been living in near Lancaster County, PA for the past two years and on its surface, goetta seemed like scrapple.  However, where scrapple uses fine-ground corn and wheat flour, goetta uses coarse steel-cut oats.  Like scrapple, goetta was created to use up every “scrap” of meat from slaughtering an animal and the grain adjuncts were added to help stretch that meat further. While it came from German immigrants settling in the Cincinnati area and was developed there in Ohio, not Germany.

Geotta is commercially available from a variety of companies, but the largest is called Gliers which produces over 1 million pounds (450 metric tons) of goetta per year.  That’s a lot of sausage.  And as a testament to how much it is revered in Ohio, over 99% of it is consumed in the Cincinnati area.  According to the 2010 US census, there are just under 300,000 people living in the Cincinnati area, meaning that people are consuming an average 3.3 lbs of goetta per person from just that one company in addition to all of their regular breakfast meat consumption (i.e. bacon, ham, other sausage)!  Like I said, people love their goetta!

Making goetta

Today, I’ll be presenting a recipe from Jason Cohen that was published in the Cincinnati Magazine.  I read through many, many recipes in my search, but this one was the most thoughtfully produced and didn’t cut any corners.  It fits my DIY values perfectly.  I normally adapt recipes to suit my tastes and cooking style (and you should too!), but this particular one is spot on and I could do little to improve it except for one thing.  The original recipe called for one large onion.  That’s great, but it doesn’t tell you what to do with it!  I minced it up fine and added it with the oats.  But we’ll get to that later, let’s start at the beginning.

Ohio Goetta – great with eggs

Fresh grind, fresh broth

It’s best to grind your own meat fresh if you have the ability, but let’s be honest, most people don’t have meat grinders.  I just got mine within the last year myself – it this great little one from Sunmile.  It’s not for high volumes by any means, but does its job well and cost less than a manual stainless steel grinder.  If you’re grinderless, buying fresh ground beef and pork works fine too.  While it traditionally had scraps of meat, if you are making it from scratch yourself, it is much easier to make it out of cuts like beef chuck and pork shoulder. The first step is to grab a big Dutch oven to cook the meat in 8 cups (1.9l) of water to make a broth that the oats will soak up.  I have a raw cast-iron one from Lodge, but someday I’d really like an enameled one like the fancy Le Cruset.  America’s Test Kitchen really liked this more practically priced one from Brazilian company Tramontina.  It looks as nice as the Le Cruset at one fourth the cost.  Whatever you are using, here too, you could take a shortcut and use store-bought stock, but if you’re taking the time to goetta from scratch it yourself, just make your own broth because it is simple and the results are far superior.  You’ll want to bring the meat and water just shy of a boil on the stovetop with high heat.  While that is heating up, preheat your oven to 200F (93C).  When your meat and water is up to temp, transfer the Dutch oven into your preheated oven on the middle rack for two hours.

Goetta frying up in the skillet with sunny side up eggs

Low and slow

After two hours, your broth is ready.  If you need to grind your meat, pull it out (I used a spider skimmer) and set it on a small parchment-lined sheet tray to cool.  When it is approaching body temp, toss the sheet in the freezer for 20-30 minutes to chill the meat quickly.  You always want cold meat when you grind it.  Throw your grinding tools in there too to get them nice and cold – you know, the screens, the auger, chute, pan, etc (not the motor, you fool!).  When everything is cold (but not frozen) grind your meats with the widest screen.  Jason gave us this pro-tip from William Woys Weaver’s book Country Scrapple: “Grind up half the meat to ultra-fine consistency, and leave the other half more coarse.”  So, in that case, grind half of your meat a second time with your smallest screen.  If you’re using pre-ground meats, obviously you skip this step.  Toss it all back in the Dutch oven and add your oats, garlic, salt and spices.  This is where that onion comes in; mince it up small and toss it in the cauldron with everything else and bring it all up to just about boiling on high on the stovetop.  Like before, when it’s up to temp, transfer it to the oven for two more hours at 200F (93C) stirring once per hour.

Detail of Goetta frying up in the skillet with eggs

Mold & chill (and maybe Netflix)

After two hours, the oats should have softened and soaked up all that lovely stock you made and have the consistency of, well, oatmeal.  What a surprise! Now, we need to mold and chill it.  Jason suggests to use two bread pans ala meatloaf.  I only had one when I made it, so I used a standard 9”x13” (23cm x 33cm) cake pan for the whole thing instead.  Works like a charm.

But don’t pour it in there just yet!  One thing I thought of that wasn’t in the original is to use an aluminum foil “sling” to help get it back out of your mold easier. To do it, make sure you use the heavy-duty aluminum foil because the regular kind is prone to tearing.  Do yourself a favor and never buy that flimsy stuff again.  You’ll save yourself from tears, punctures, headache and frustration.  Also, I like the 18” wide stuff because you’ll cover everything the first time.  Now to line it, it’s easiest to flip your pan upside down, mold the foil to the outside, pull off, flip it back over and voila, your foil drops in easily!  David Lebovitz has a great guide demonstrating this if you need visuals.  I wish I had thought of doing this the first time, because it was a little tricky to get the “loaf” out of the pan for me, but now I’m sparing you that struggle.  I presume that you could use parchment paper instead, but I’m sure it would get wet and be prone to tearing.  That isn’t necessarily an issue though, you can just flip the pan quickly onto another sheet of parchment and it should just slide right out.  Also, you’ll want to use melted butter grease the foil or pan (if you chose not to line it the pan).  Now, it is time to pour your “meatsmeal” into the mold and chill.  I chilled it overnight, but would think that it would be solid enough to slice in about 4 hours.  Once it is solid, unmold it and discard whatever you used to line the pan.

Slice, fry, and enjoy!

If you used a cake pan like I did, slice it into three rows the long way.  You should have three 3”x13” (8cm x 33cm) pieces.  Slice however much you want to fry up at about half inch (1cm) intervals and pan fry in a cast-iron or other non-stick pan.  Delicious!

Tasting and lessons learned

I ate mine with other breakfast foods like sunny-side up eggs and sous-vide new potatoes.  Being a fan of the heat, I put a little hot-sauce on there too.  Some left-over piri piri sauce from Mozambique was great!  I could see a nice coarse-ground German mustard being great on it, but apparently people dress it up with everything from ketchup to honey to apple butter, syrup and even grape jelly (probably not all at the same time).

Now, you’re going to have extras.  You just made about 4 lbs (1.8 kg) of sausage, though most is water weight because the oats slurped up that savory broth.  What I did was slice my “loaves” up into the sizes that I would fry and lay them on a small parchment-lined sheet and then freeze.  There’s no problem with layering additional levels of parchment and freezing all together – the parchment will release nicely.  After they are good and frozen, seal your individual slices in an air-tight bag so you can fry them up individually as you need.  One thing to be aware of is that freezing them this way creates a lot of surface area and could lead to “freezer burn” quicker, so I would recommend eating your leftovers within a month or two.

I thought that goetta was a delicious sausage for my breakfasts.  It is hearty and the more delicate texture thanks to the oats pairs really well with eggs.

Tried this recipe?  Let us know what you think about it and comment below!

Patrick Jaszewski

Culinary Tyrannosaurus, passport stamp collector, home cook, pilot, strength enthusiast, bilingual, coffee roaster, former homebrewer. Committed to DIY ethic. Minnesota native transplanted in Pennsylvania. Thunderbird MBA Alumni and Golden Gopher. Undyingly positive and open minded. Drives Jill crazy by questioning everything.

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