Regional American specialties are "in" in "in" gastronomic circles around the country. Blackened redfish, for example, is all the rage, and done the way chef Paul Prudhomme does it, it's delicious. But there is a very significant difference between blackened and burned that chefs outside New Orleans' French Quarter seem to have trouble with.
Another food unique to a particular part of the United States is goetta.
Goetta is a German specialty found in southwest Ohio, northwest Kentucky and southeastern Indiana: the greater Cincinnati area. The dish can trace its heritage back to the days when Cincinnati was the meat processing capital of the country. The favorite meat of America in those days was pork, and Cincinnati processed a lot of it. It even got the nickname "Porkopolus," and there was even a popular song written about "Cincinnati's Dancing Pig."
True to pork processors the world over, no part of the pig was wasted. Goetta is made from some of those parts. Pork, sometimes some beef, pork hearts, pork skins, onions and spices were cooked in pork broth with a special kind of oatmeal called pinhead oatmeal, then chilled in loaves to be later sliced and fried to serve for breakfast with eggs and fried apples or applesauce. It is indeed a delicious breakfast treat.
You'll find goetta, ready-made, in the meat case of most markets in the greater Cincinnati area, but that's about the only place in the country that you will find it. The reason, it seems, is that pinhead oatmeal, the main ingredient aside from the pig, is processed by only one company, the Dorsel Co. in Erlanger, Ky., just south of Cincinnati. Unlike regular oatmeal, which is cooked and rolled into a flake-like product, pinhead oatmeal is simply washed, then cut with steel blades into a coarse meal, then cooked and, finally, mixed with cooked pork to make goetta. The texture is like that of barley; indeed, some folks put a little barley in their goetta.
If you would like to try this delicious regional American specialty but can't find it ready-made, you can make your own. Pinhead oatmeal is available by direct mail from the factory at 99 cents plus postage for a two-pound bag. Write to the Dorsel Co., Erlanger, Ky. 41018 for more information.
Here is a favorite family recipe for goetta from William H. Buether, the grandfather of a friend of mine in Cincinnati.
WILLIAM BUETHER'S GOETTA
2 pounds pinhead oats
1 pound whole barley
2 pounds pork neck bones
1 pound beef marrow bones
3 pounds pork shoulder
3 pounds beef chuck
1 onion, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Butter or bacon fat
Soak oats with barley in salted water to cover in roaster, covered, 2 hours.
Place pork and beef bones and meat in pressure cooker or stew pot. Add onion, salt, peppercorns, bay leaves and thyme. Cook in pressure cooker 35 minutes. Or cook meat in stew pot until done.
When meat is done, pour juice from pressure cooker or pot into roaster with oatmeal-barley mixture, making sure that barley and oats have enough water to more than cover. Bake, covered, at 250 degrees 2 1/2 hours. Place spoon between cover and roaster to allow steam to escape. Scrape bottom of roaster with wooden spoon every hour. Add more liquid, if needed.
Discard bones and grind meat. Mix with oatmeal-barley mixture. Pour mixture into wax paper-lined loaf pans and chill until firm. Remove from loaf pans, cut into desired portions, wrap and freeze. Makes about 8 pounds. To serve, slice and fry in butter or bacon fat.