“There’s no such thing,” the women at Glier’s Goetta in Covington emphatically told me when I called to ask if they knew anyone in town that sold vegetarian goetta. By definition, she explained, goetta has pork in it. Ipso facto, there is no such thing as vegetarian goetta.
It seemed like if anyone should know, it’s Glier’s. After all, in the mid-1960s the USDA developed standards of identity for goetta from Glier’s goetta recipe. Still, I couldn’t let go of the idea, so I kept searching for a vegetarian version of that German version of scrapple.
Like other forms of scrapple, a popular working-class dish of meat, grain and seasonings, goetta is typically cooked in a loaf pan until set, then sliced and fried. Goetta’s distinction from its scrapple country cousins is the use of pinhead (steel-cut) oats.
If you haven’t tried it (and you aren’t a vegetarian), there are plenty of opportunities: Glier’s Goetta puts on Glier’s Goettafest every August, and the dish is likely to make an appearance or two at this week’s Oktoberfest. Year round you can find it at Eckerlin Meats at Findlay Market.
So if I can find traditional goetta year round as well as goetta coneys, goetta fried rice, goetta mac and cheese and even goetta brownies at the Glier’s Goettafest, why is it so hard to find vegetarian goetta?
I began to worry that the woman on the other end of the phone at Glier’s was right.
Vegan goetta makes its home in Northside where you can get it at Honey for Sunday brunch as a side dish or a GLT sandwich with field greens, tomato and a chili-laced aioli. Melt often features homemade vegan goetta on its Sunday brunch menu. It comes with scrambled eggs or a tofu scramble. Finally, a couple of doors down, you can buy frozen portions of Melt’s goetta when it’s in stock at Picnic and Pantry, a micro market and specialty food shop.
Of course, finding vegan goetta was really only part of my mission. Once I found it, I wanted to know how it was made. If you’re going to make a product that’s a meat substitute, it seems logical that you would first figure out what makes the original product good. Eckerlin’s Meats at Findlay Market has been making their own goetta for more than 40 years. Owner Bob Lillis uses pork shoulder, ground chuck, pinhead oats, onion and a seasoning mix he declined to divulge. They slow cook it for six hours at a low temperature. According to Lillis the secret to good goetta is lean, quality meat.
So what’s the secret when you go meatless?
“The most important thing is to start with a strong flavor base,” said Lisa Kagen, owner of Melt and Picnic and Pantry. Kagen starts with lots of onions, spices and pressure cooked oats. She also noted that any vegan or vegetarian version of goetta is unlikely to behave like goetta made with pork, so part of the trick is to get the moisture content correct so it will hold together when sliced.
Feeling adventurous enough to try making your own traditional goetta or vegan goetta? Lillis recommends frying it until it’s golden brown on both sides and serving it with eggs or pancakes. He likes it with grape jelly but says his customers also tell him that they like it served with syrup and even horseradish. Kagen recommends serving her vegan goetta in a mix with potatoes and vegetables or grilled with tomatoes, goat cheese and a poached egg.
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