Goetta: Lucrative Health Food

goetta hog

Goetta (pronounced get-a) is an obscure breakfast food that’s well known around the Cincinnati, OH region of the U.S.  The origin of Goetta is somewhat debatable, depending upon the reference sited.  However, it is well documented that Cincinnati was America’s original “Porkopolis,” holding that crown from the very early 1800’s until 1862.  The American Civil War stopped semi-safe passage down the Mississippi river; after the war Northern railroads were instrumental in making Chicago the next “Porkopolis.”  During the decades that Cincinnati held the Porkopolis moniker area packers stuffed meat into barrels containing salt brine then distributed the far less perishable products down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers; plus along adjoining canal systems.  Some meat exports were made out of the port of New Orleans.  Barrel and boat space were at a premium so shipped meat cuts were at least semi-boneless, for example the well-known Boston-style pork shoulder butt.  Neck bones separated from  Boston butts have a good bit of meat attached, but knife removal of the meat is difficult and labor intensive. Today, pork neck bones are mostly ground, bone and all, during the Mechanically Separated Meat process (MSM).  The resulting MSM is used in emulsion type products, wieners, bologna etc.  With around 85,000 hogs harvested annually during Cincinnati’s pre-refrigeration pork processing hay-day, perishable local pork neck bones must have been nearly worthless.

Cincinnati is known as being founded by people of German heritage, but there were also a lot of people with Scottish and Irish backgrounds here early-on.  I once read that the more frugal and laidback Germans usually didn’t like having the Scottish & Irish around, but when there was fighting to done they were glad to have them on their side.  I think it’s worth mentioning that an abundance of meat by-products greatly facilitated Proctor & Gamble’s Cincinnati start-up in 1837.

The Scottish had a tradition of making Haggis which is an oatmeal based, sheep offal containing pudding like product.  The Germans had a somewhat similar recipe called Scrapple, but it contains meat scraps, cornmeal and wheat flour.  I theorize that Goetta was born when surplus Porkopolis neck bones were boiled to easily remove the cooked lean.   At its beginning, Goetta was likely a Land-of-Plenty version of Haggis that was made dry enough to be fried like Scrapple.  Combine the collagen containing stock from boiled neck bones, steel-cut oats/pinhead oatmeal, long cooked diced onions, short strand pulled-pork, salt & pepper and you have Goetta.  My German father and mostly Irish mother made an upgraded traditional version of Goetta by cooking down both pork butts and chuck roasts.  Today, just about all Goetta recipes call for the use of ground meat.  And, modern commercially produced Goetta uses ground meat plus adds pork skins to bring up collagen levels.

Like Julia Child before them, many of today’s chefs seem to greatly appreciate old-school European meat products processing.  And so there is a growing resurgence toward artisan charcuterie.  The problems I have with pre-refrigeration style charcuterie are that it is usually labor intensive, is complicated requiring some specialized skills & equipment, there’s often excessive product moisture weight loss, such items usually contain a lot of fat and the over consumption of amines & oxidized fat generated by such processes is a legitimate health concern.  In contrast, Goetta is easy to produce using slow-cooked lean fresh meat (healthy), is further a health-food because oatmeal is considered to be one of the top ten healthiest foods and Goetta is formulated using about half water ($).  Probably the biggest deterrent to getting new people to try Goetta is its bland oatmeal looking appearance.  That problem could be easily fixed by adding lots of caramel coloring, like what is done in meat items containing highly processed soy grits, but then Goetta would not be as healthy to eat.  MSG and hydrolyzed vegetable protein are used commercially as meaty flavor potentiators and you could use Accent seasoning (MSG), I don’t.

The following is for a Goetta batch starting with 10 pounds of raw meat.  Click here for an easy batch size adjustment method.

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10 pounds of lean fine diced pork shoulder butt, 6 medium to large fine diced onions, 1 Tbsp. of sodium phosphate (starting raw pork was labeled “Natural”), 6 1/4 Tbsp. whole marjoram, 1 2/3 Tbsp. coarse ground black pepper 3 Tbsp. of salt and enough water to cover everything.  When using “Natural” pork I cut the recipe called-for salt amount in half because I think the starting raw butts were allowed to be pork plant pumped with a little salt & water.  Cover and oven cook at about 275F.  Stir while on oven rack about once an hour until meat is fall-apart tender (a little over 4 hours).

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Soak 10 cups of steel-cut/pinhead oats in 10 cups of water while the meat and onions are cooking.  This batch yielded about 23 pounds of finished Goetta, and since all the lean broth went back in, there was no meat cooking loss.

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Drain most liquid from meat-mix into a separate container.  Mash meat into fine shreds.

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Measure 20 cups of drained-off broth into soaked steel-cut oatmeal.  If you run out of broth  finish up by using water.

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Stir in meat-mix, cover and return to oven to cook until oats are done.  Stir about once an hour, depending upon oven temperature.  I would not go over 300F.

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Spoon cooked Goetta into loaf pans to chill.  Notice the hot Goetta consistency is viscous enough for a long handled spoon to stand.

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A loaf of Goetta chilled overnight and ready to pack-out for freezer storage, or for sale.

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Thick sliced loaf with each slice cut in half.  I package them like this, then cut them in half again the other way just prior to frying.

goetta 1

Each sandwich size bag has 2 whole loaf slices in it, with a piece of parchment paper between the slices, and each gallon size bag contains 4 sandwich size bags.

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These 4 patties were from 1 Pullman loaf pan 1 slice.  I cut them in half crosswise after partially microwave thawing then pushed them thinner with a spatula as they browned.

Goetta goes great with over-easy eggs, is good, is good for you and is profitable when sold.

FYI: The butt-end of something is its thick end.  There is a butt and picnic portion of whole pork shoulders, butt and shank portion of ham or fresh pork leg, butt end of a tenderloin, butt of a gun, etc.

If you liked this post you may be interested in reading a closely related one: click here.

Written by George Wolfer

George Wolfer

Been associated with the meat industry pretty much since starting at a Vocational High school Meat Processing program in 1974. Like to learn and teach interesting and worthwhile livestock production, meat processing and marketing practices.

2 thoughts on “Goetta: Lucrative Health Food

  1. You make it seem so easy to make Goetta! We’ll have to try. The pictures of each step are helpful too! Thanks for the info.

    Also, we loved the kielbasa. Maybe you can teach us how to make those too!

  2. First recipe is my “go to” for Goetta, but I do substitute a roast for part of the pork…and make it in a pressure cooker. Easy & clean up is a breeze.

    Cooking with Rita.

    I know I promised in my column this week Don Deimling’s delicious recipe for goetta made in an old fashioned roaster. Well, I’m still working on it so hope to have it in a couple of days. Meanwhile, here are the other recipes promised:

    Clara and Rita’s goetta

    If you can find a pork shoulder with the bone in, that’s the best. If not, boneless will do. But you know what? No matter how hard I try, it still doesn’t taste as good as my mother-in-law, Clara Heikenfeld’s. Was it the fact that they butchered their own hogs, or was it the love that made her’s special? A reader a few years ago said she added a couple of beef boullion cubes with the water and less salt, and that made it good, too. Don’t even try to make this with any other oats but pinhead (also known as steel cut) – the other oats will make it too mushy.

    2-3 pounds pork shoulder

    8 cups water

    3-4 cups chopped onion

    2 large bay leaves

    2 ribs celery, chopped with leaves

    1 tablespoon salt, or more to taste

    1 tablespoon pepper, or more to taste

    Poultry seasoning to taste

    3 cups pinhead oats

    Cut meat into big pieces and put in pot with water, onions, bay, celery, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and lower to simmer.

    Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours. Meat should be real tender and fall off bone if that’s what you’re using. Strain and chop meat finely. Set meat and veggies aside. Pour liquid back into pan and add pinhead oats. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, stirring often, for another 2 hours. Mixture will be thick. Add meat, veggies, and seasonings. Simmer another 1 -2 hours. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Line 3-4 loaf pans with aluminum foil and spray each one. Pour goetta into pans, packing down firmly. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. For a creamy, softer goetta, cover pans. Uncovered, you get a crisper crust.

    Keeps for a couple weeks in frig, or several months in freezer. To serve, slice goetta and fry with bacon.

    Jim Reinhart’s crockpot goetta

    Here are Jim’s comments: “Add enough salt or it will be bland. I use bouillon cubes instead of beef broth because of the salt content. Be careful not to add too much water or you’ll be frying mush in the morning”. Jim usually leaves out the sage and I have had more readers say this is an excellent goetta. One reader uses pork sausage instead of plain pork.

    3 cups pinhead oatmeal

    5 cups water

    1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons salt

    1 pound each of ground beef and pork

    2 medium diced onions

    6 bay leaves

    1 teaspoon each of garlic powder, black pepper, crushed red pepper and sage

    2 teaspoons allspice

    4 beef bouillon cubes

    2 additional cups of water.

    Combine 3 cups of oatmeal with 5 cups of water in crockpot and cook on high for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. An hour and a half into the cooking, combine all ingredients, except the ground meat and onions, into a saucepan. Bring to a boil and let simmer until reduced in 1/2 ( one cup). Strain and stir liquid into crockpot. While spice liquid is still reducing, brown beef and pork with onions then add to crockpot either before or after the spice mixture. When all ingredients are in the pot, turn to low and mix well, stirring often for another 2 hours.

    Don’t be tempted to add water, even though the goetta gets very thick. Let cool and spoon into 2 casserole dishes. Put one in the frig and one in the freezer for later use. To cook, brown in a non-stick pan or cast iron skillet until personal preference of crispiness is reached.

    Bill Sander’s heirloom goetta

    Bill lives with his wife Nancy on the west side of town, and is the co-owner of Woody Sander Ford. Bill has been making this for years. I don’t have room here to share more goetta recipes, but check out http://www.abouteating.com

    1 pound ground beef

    2 pounds cubed pork loin

    6 cups water

    1 tablespoon salt

    2 teaspoons pepper

    2-1/2 cups pinhead oats

    2 huge onions, diced

    4-8 bay leaves

    Put water, salt and pepper in a big pot. Bring to a boil and add oats. Lower heat to a gentle boil and cook for 1-1/2 hours, covered. Stir every 15 minutes. Add meats, onion and bay leaves. Mix well, cover and cook on low for 3 more hours. Uncover and if not thick enough, cook longer, stirring often. Remove bay leaves. Pour into loaf pans. Cool and refrigerate. Cut into thick slices, fry in hot bacon fat until golden on both sides. Freezes well.

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