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Goetta – Heirloom Goetta Recipe

A Reader Asks for Help with an Old Family Goetta Recipe

Summary: Goetta is a Cincinnati favorite. Rita steps up to help Terry with an old family Goetta recipe.

Dear Rita,

Please help me. When my mother was fifteen, her mother taught her how to cook. I can actually remember my grandmother telling us how she and her mother, my great grandmother, of course, and her aunt would visit the stockyards to purchase a hogs head. They would lug it home and make goetta. My grandmother lived downtown somewhere in the vicinity of the cathedral. The house is long gone.

When they arrived home from the stockyard, they would start the fire pit in the side yard. Into the large boiling pot would go the tongue and other parts of the head. Then they would scrape and shake until everything was in the pot and there was nothing left. I remember her saying the neck bones went in as well. Next came the spices and finally the oats. The porridge cooked all day. This was how my grandmother made her goetta. She did it often because it was cheap to make and she made a lot of it each time.

Years later, she taught my mother how to make the dish but not with a hogs head. She was taught two different ways to make it. One was with Boston butt as I remember and the other was with breakfast pork sausage and ground beef. We kids liked the later better. Goetta was on the table several times during each season but the summer. We loved it and couldn’t get enough.

Rita, my brothers want me to make it for a family reunion. I have my mom’s recipe and follow it specifically but each time it turns out barely edible. I don’t know what I am doing wrong, but after three attempts the end product is only fit for Trixie, our dog. Here is the recipe if you care to look or try it. I only hope you can tell me what I am doing wrong.

8 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
2 large onions diced
a pinch of black pepper
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
4-5 bay leaves
2 1/2 cups Dorsel’s pinhead oats
2 lbs. Jimmy Dean’s or Webber’s Sausage w/sage
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef

Using a heavy pot, bring salt water to a quick boil and then reduce to low with the lid on the pot. Combine the next eight ingredients and cook for about 20 minutes with lid on pot. Add crumbled meats. Cook on low with lid off for about 1 1/2 hours or until porridge pulls away from the pot.

I think the poultry seasoning might be the bol weevil, so to speak, though I am only guessing. The goetta turns out bitter. Perhaps I need to boil the spices as well, including, of course, the poultry seasoning. Perhaps this will take away the bitterness. Just guessing, though. I have thrown this away, as I have said many times. I am also considering purchasing a non stick stocpot, so the porridge can cook without constant stirring and sticking to the pot. Please, please help!! ~ Terry

Hi Terry

First, what a great story! This is why food is important and how recipes become almost like historical documents, and family favorites. My in-laws, who were German, did the same as your grandma – but they lived on a farm so had the hogs right there.

There are a couple things going on here that I may help with. Check your dry herbs  and do the sniff test – do they smell like bay, allspice, sage, and poultry seasoning? If not, discard and buy new. Usually, ground spices last about a year after you open them; whole spices like bay a bit longer.

I am also thinking that you should use regular sausage, not sausage with sage as sage does tend to be bitter when you use too much of it. And remember, poultry seasoning has sage in it, too. In fact, I would reduce the amount of sage to 1/4 teaspoon.

The ground beef should not be too lean – I would use ground sirloin or ground chuck.

I think the initial time of 20 minutes is not long enough for the oats, etc.  to cook in the water. Most recipes call for 1 to 1-1/2 hours. So do use a heavy pot to prevent burnin,  or a nonstick one, increase initial cooking time to 1-1/2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes, add your crumbled meat and cook on low, again for 1-1/2 hours. The goetta will leave the sides of the pan, and a spoon inserted in the center should stay straight. When you put them in the pans, leave them uncovered in the frig and the goetta turns out more firm that way.

So I think, as you do, that the dry herbs/spices may be the culprit, but it doesn’t have anything to do with boiling them….

Here are 2 recipes which I’ve shared before on this site and which are winners with my readers. (Yes, I have my own goetta recipe but it’s not as exact as the two I’m sharing).
Both Jim and Bill are friends of mine, and are excellent goetta makers. Keep on trying, though – you have a treasure there in Grandma’s recipe, and you will get it right! And let us know how it turns out.

Goetta and eggs in a cast iron skillet.

Goetta and eggs in a cast iron skillet.

Bill Sanders 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.
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.

Jim Reinhart’s Crockpot Goetta

Jim is an Indiana reader who makes his in the crock pot. A time tested reader favorite.
3 cups pinhead oatmeal
5 cups water
1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons salt
1 pound each: ground pork and ground beef
2 medium onions, diced
6 bay leaves
1 teaspoon each: garlic powder, black pepper, crushed red pepper, sage
2 teaspoons allspice
4 beef bouillon cubes
2 additional cups water

Combine 3 cups of oatmeal with 5 cups water in sprayed crock pot and cook on high for two hours, stirring occasionally. An hour and a half after putting oatmeal in crock pot, combine bay leaves, garlic powder, sage, allspice, red pepper, black pepper and bouillon with 2 cups water in saucepan. Bring to boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes or until reduced to 1 cup. Strain and add liquid to crock pot. While spices are cooking, brown beef and pork with onions. Drain grease and add mixture to crock pot, either before or after spice mixture goes in. When all ingredients are in crock pot, turn to low and mix well, stirring often for another two hours. Don’t be tempted to add water, even though goetta gets very thick. If it becomes too thick to stir, add water sparingly but remember, the thicker it is when done, the better it will fry up. Spoon into casseroles, seal tightly and after it cools, put one in the refrigerator and the other in the freezer if desired. To serve, saute in a non-stick or cast iron skillet until both sides are browned. (Add enough salt or it will be bland. The bouillon cubes will help with this.)

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