Cincinnati is a strange place.
Strange customs. Strange sayings. Strange food.
Mmmm. The food!
Having gone vegetarian a number of years ago, I rarely ‘miss’ meat. I don’t really even think about it anymore. But there are things that I do miss from back home like Gold Star Chili, Graeter’s Ice Cream, and Goetta.
Now, Goetta’s definitely a strange one, and it’s uniquely Cincinnati in the sense that, besides scrapple in the NJ / DC corridor, you won’t hear about this elsewhere or even have a reference for what it’s similar to. The traditional recipe is a combination of leftover pork (post-processing), steel cut oats, onions, and a variety of other spices, the likes of which vary from family to family / recipe to recipe. I’ve not had goetta in a good number of years because of the vegetarian journey I’ve been taking, but that all changed last year when my Dad took me to Melt in Cincinnati’s Northside community. They had a vegetarian Goetta sandwich that was absolutely divine.
And it drove me nuts. Being in Pensacola, FL makes it difficult to stock up on this stuff, so I did what I usually do when there’s something I really want to eat again but cannot afford it or cannot obtain it: I figure out how to make it.
It took 7-8 test batches before landing on the following recipe, an amalgam of several traditional goetta recipes, some vegetarian cooking common sense, and a few ideas offered by family and friends. Let me reiterate this: goetta does not have a single, end-all recipe, so what follows is simply what I’ve come to enjoy for any number of reasons.
Rustypants’ Vegetarian Goetta
1 c Steel Cut Oats
1 c Bulgur Wheat
1/2 lg onion, pureed
6 tbsp real butter
2 c vegetable broth
1.5 tsp poultry seasoning
1.5 tsp ground sage
3 garlic cloves finely chopped
1/2 c cooking sherry
1/2 tsp pepper flakes (or more or less)
2 bay leaves
1. Soak the oats and wheat together in water for 4-5 hours. Drain leftover water.
2. Add all the ingredients together and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium / medium-low and continue to boil, stirring frequently (say, every 5-7 minutes). Mixture will begin to thicken after a while and won’t “boil” any longer, but it’s still not done. Maintain the heat and stir frequently. Keep stirring. Keep cooking. Nope. It’s still not done. That’s right – keep stirring. Keep cooking.
Now, here’s the trick: You want your goetta to stay together, right? So you can slice it and cook it in a loaf-like way. Well, your mixture needs to become thicker than wallpaper paste. Thicker than glue. It needs to be so thick that you’re wondering how much more you can possibly stir it. It doesn’t need to be dry like play-doh, but it needs to be difficult (way difficult) to stir. There can’t be any “juice” left, just a paste-like consistency. (I’m gonna say that the double-batch of this recipe takes no less than an hour from the time I put all the ingredients together in the pot and when it’s finished)
3. While you’re waiting, get a 9×9 square glass pan, spray some Pam (or spread some butter) in the pan. Once you’ve determined it’s done, you need to pop that stuff right into the pan, smooth it out on top, let it sit on the counter for an hour or two and cool off, then saranwrap that sucker, pop it in the fridge and let it “set” for at least 8 hours.
4. In the morning, slice that loaf up into 1/2″ slices, put some butter in a pan, and fry the hell out of it!
Mmmm-mmm! You just made some damn fine goetta!