When Germans immigrated to America they brought along the recipe for goetta, a spiced meat and oat patty packed with spices. Originally the food of farm workers, goetta utilized the least expensive parts of the animal, namely organ meats, mixed them with steel-cut oats, and used strong spices like garlic, clove, ginger and mace to balance it out. Today goetta is still a popular breakfast food in Ohio, especially Cincinnati, though ground pork and beef have replaced the meat scraps once used.
- Place of Origin: Germany
- Other Names: Cincinnati sausage grain patties, gruetzwurst, grain sausage
- Main Components: Steel-cut oats, pork, beef, onions, garlic and spices
What Is Goetta?
In southwest Ohio and northern Kentucky the top breakfast meat is goetta (pronounced "get-UH"), a loose sausage made with ground pork and beef, steel-cut oats, onions, garlic and a lot of spices including mace, marjoram, ginger, coriander, white pepper and cloves. The breakfast sausage is formed into thick patties and then pan fried. Some restaurants serve rectangles of handmade goetta; commercial purveyors sell the sausage in tubes that can be sliced into rounds at home. No matter the shape, the slightly mushy texture with crisp, crumbly edges and the pungent spice of the sausage remain constants.
Goetta was first introduced to the U.S. through an influx of German immigrants to Cincinnati in the 1830s. In Germany it had been known as gruetzwurst, a dish farm workers ate for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Made up with organ meats, oats and a lot of pungent spices, the gruetzwurst was a way to use up scraps of meat and cheaper cuts or pork and beef. As the sausage evolved in the U.S. to become known as goetta, it became a favored breakfast food with higher-quality ingredients. Commercial brands such as Glier’s Goetta and Queen City Sausage standardized the sausage, though butcher shops all around Cincinnati make their own versions.
After all these years, goetta remains a popular regional staple. It's celebrated each August at the Glier’s Goettafest near Newport, Kentucky. Not only does goetta have its own festival, but chefs and home cooks throughout the region use goetta for more than breakfast. Goetta gets crumbled onto pizza and nachos, pressed into sandwiches, baked into frittata, and stirred into chili.
Goetta Vs. Scrapple
Technically goetta is a type of scrapple, though scrapple has become associated with Germans who settled in Pennsylvania, while goetta is associated with Germans who settled in Cincinnati. Both dishes were created as a way to use up scraps of meat, especially the offal, and are traditionally pan fried. Scrapple is made with pig parts, cornmeal (and/or flour), and spices. Goetta is created with both pork and beef and uses oats as the binder. While both historical foods are breakfast meats and still eaten today, goetta is much more popular as a sought-after dish frequently served in restaurants.
The different varieties of goetta depend on who is making it. Each butcher, chef and home cook has their own recipe, though the base of steel-cut oats, beef, pork, onion and garlic usually remain the same. Another way goetta can be different is how it's served. Some people slice rounds from a tube of goetta, others make it in loaf pans that create rectangles of the meat, but traditionally both are pan fried in bacon fat or vegetable oil.
Like other breakfast meats, goetta can be eaten at any meal and used in array of dishes. The simplest way to use goetta is to pan fry the sausage in bacon fat or vegetable oil and serve as is. Goetta can also be crumbled into the pan and cooked in loose chunks, which then can be put on pizza, on top of nachos, and in another Ohio specialty, Cincinnati chili. Slices of goetta can also be fried and put on sandwiches, or even served as a main course.
How To Cook With Goetta
Cooking pre-made goetta is easy. The first step is to heat a skillet with a teaspoon of lard or vegetable oil, and once the fat starts sizzling add thick slices of the sausage, making sure not to crowd the pan. Cook for a few minutes. The meat will turn from pale to golden as it crisps. Do not move it around in the pan; instead, let the goetta rest so the soft sausage can firm, otherwise it might crumble or break. After a visible crust develops, gently flip the slice of goetta and cook the other side the same way.
Of course, you can make your own sausage for goetta at home. There are many different recipes for goetta, but most call for one pound each of ground pork and ground beef; 2 1/2 cups steel-cut oats; eight cups water; one large onion, diced; four garlic cloves, minced; and spices such as mace, marjoram, ginger, coriander, white pepper and cloves. The first step is to cook the oats in boiling water with salt and pepper for about two hours. Then, add the ground meat and spices and cook together for about an hour. Pour the mixture into a bread pan and refrigerate overnight. Once settled, the goetta is ready for slicing and pan frying.
What Does Goetta Taste Like?
Goetta's texture is slightly mushier than loose breakfast sausage, and the flavor tends to be sweeter and more complex depending one what spices are used. The richness of pork and beef combine with the nuttiness of the steel-cut oats. Some goetta has traces of warming spices like cinnamon, clove and mace. Other versions feature spicy notes of ginger, garlic and even cayenne pepper.
Where To Buy Goetta
In southwest Ohio and northern Kentucky many butcher shops will sell a version of their own goetta. It can also be found in the regional grocery stores under brands like Glier’s Goetta and Queen City Sausage. Outside of Ohio and Kentucky it's harder to source goetta, but the breakfast sausage can be ordered online and shipped.
Factory-sealed goetta has a four-month shelf life in the refrigerator. Once opened, the sausage should be eaten within a week. Freshly-made goetta has a week-long shelf life too, as long as it's kept cold. Goetta should be wrapped up or sealed in an air-tight container in order to prolong the freshness.
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