So this weekend I decided to make homemade goetta. After being home in Cincinnati over Thanksgiving and only getting a small taste of the regional favorite I wanted some more. Unfortunately, it is something that can only be purchased in Cincinnati or the surrounding areas of Indiana and Kentucky. Some of you who might read this are likely wondering “what is goetta”. The short answer: Goetta (pronounced “get-ah”) is a meat and oat product of Cincinnati-German ancestry. There are some similar products made in Germany and elsewhere in the US (see scrapple, yuck), but unlike some products it is not made of scrap meat, but rather a combination of ground beef and ground pork. The meat is mixed with steel cut oats (also called Irish oats or pin oats). Most often it is served fried as a breakfast meat.
Growing up in Cincinnati, goetta was a Sunday morning family breakfast staple. It seemed like growing up that any sit down breakfast was likely to include goetta. We got it at the store in tubes or from the butcher shop in slices. Fried up with eggs and hash browns, it reminds me of those mornings after staying overnight at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, or those Sunday’s where we got our shit together and went to church early and came home for brunch. So it was, that nostalgia got the best of me and I decided to make it from scratch at home.
I had a recipe. A while ago, my Grandpa was nice enough to mail me the recipe from the back of a pinhead oats bag sold in Cincinnati. This was the same one he used to use to make homemade goetta. He also suggested a couple of modifications that I tried in previous versions. One of which was to cook the meat ahead of time and pour off the fat. The problem I found with that is that it didn’t come together as well and tasted slightly different. I think the browning of the meat is different than the slow cooking process, in terms of taste. And while I’m down with pouring off the fat, fat helps everything congeal together in the loaf. So my concession was to use 90% lean beef. The other suggestion was to use half the salt, but that also really cuts down on the flavor, especially when the only other spices are a pinch of pepper and some bay leaves.
So this time I went straight from Dottie Dorsel’s recipe. I made a double batch, with starts with 12 cups of water and 5 cups of oats. I used the slow cooker version, which is better because it doesn’t have the tendency to burn to the sides of the pan, like the stove top version (that version requires a lot more stirring). Once the oats had cooked for their time I added the meat. I will say that adding raw ground meat to oats can be a little gross looking. But like making sausage, you have to trust the process and know that you are going to be cooking this thing for 3-4 hours so all that meat will be thoroughly cooked.
Once the meat was added it was just a matter of adding the bay leaves. This is also a critical point. The bay leaves add good flavor, but you’ve got to count them out and remove all of them later, as no one wants leaves in their breakfast (unless you are some sort of herbivorous ungulate, in which case you are probably not eating a meat based breakfast food to begin with). That was it. It was a double batch so I let it go for an extra hour (1 ½ hours cooking for the oats, 4 hours of cooking with the meat). Once the cooking was over I pressed it into some disposable loaf pans and let it cool. Because the outside temperature was 30-40 degrees I just left them in the garage overnight to cool (covered loosely with foil. In the morning I popped the goetta loafs out of the pan and wrapped them with cling wrap. I got 6 loaves weighting about 1 ½ pounds each. Some I froze, one I prepared for breakfast. It fried up well in a non-stick pan with just a little butter.
The goetta got both the Katie and Sara seal of approval. The Katie seal is great since we love to have her try new foods, but not really a demanding test. Katie loves many foods and the current favorite of her discerning palate is Rio’s dog food. Sara’s approval was much more important. Sara is very picky about what types and textures of meat she will eat. Getting her to try it and like it was a coupe for my cooking.
So it all worked out well. I’ve got lots for my family and maybe some to take to Wisconsin for Christmas. No major errors were made in the cooking process and all the dishes and countertops have now been cleaned. So there were some tips I would give you if you were to do this yourself.
- Crockpot size is important. The double batch I made almost overflowed my crockpot (which is one of the bigger models made). Be cognizant of the size of all the ingredients going into the pot so you don’t over flow. Sara reminding me that crockpots don’t really lose water the way that cooking over a stovetop does.
- Count the bay leaves
- Use slightly less salt (2 ½ teaspoons versus 3) so that you have room to adjust for taste. It is easy enough to add a bit of salt when you fry it up for breakfast. But adding the majority of salt in the beginning of the cooking process ensures that it is properly seasoned.
- Make sure to break up the meat. There is not a lot of stirring so any big hunks of beef or pork will stay together as a big hunk after it is all done. If you think this could be a problem, just be sure to stir a little more. It won’t break up the oats or hurt the process. Don’t go crazy and use an electric mixer or anything but a few stirs to make sure it is well mixed is great.
- I used ½ of a large onion for a double batch. Unless you really love onions this was fine. Onions do provide quite a bit of flavor, so you don’t want to leave them out. If you want to include more onions I would suggest a fine chop. I did a small dice (1/4 pieces) but smaller pieces would be better if you want to include more onion but have it be less obtrusive.
- Disposable loaf pans are great because they let you get the loaf out easy once it has cooled and congealed. Press the goetta into the loaf firmly to get the best loaf. The loaf shape makes it easier to cut slices for cooking.
- Don’t add more water. Start with 6 cups (for a full batch) and don’t add more. I learned this lesson on an earlier batch were it looked to dry so I added water, which eventually required adding more oats, which didn’t get to cook as long so they weren’t as tender and chewy.
- Cooking a little longer on low won’t hurt anything. This was important with the double batch. I wanted to make sure it was done to the proper level so I gave it an extra hour of cook time. The only thing that happened was a bit got stuck to the side of the crockpot. It wasn’t scorched or burnt, just stuck.
- Stir as you see fit. The stirring might have stopped the bit from being stuck to the side, but just really makes more work for you. This recipe is just about time and not complex effort. Just think folding for mixing and not hard ass stirring. This mix is thick enough to break off a whisk, so just use a spoon.
- The recipe works, trust the process. There are only a few ingredients and almost no directions but somehow it works out.
So in the end, here I am on a Sunday morning, enjoying goetta and a family breakfast. We didn’t have eggs, but toast and yogurt go just as well with goetta. Good luck if you want to make this yourself.