Goetta Grip

During the Lubbock years, my mother was very much the displaced Cincinnati German. Missing the cuisine of her native land-or city, rather-she often sought to recreate it. And in the 1990s, product globalization didn’t extend very far into food, so if you wanted something “ethnic”, it probably wasn’t in the dedicated grocery store isle. Some things we’d consider common today were not ubiquitous then. An example: bratwurst. It seems silly now, but she’d actually pack a carry-on with them on her return trip from visiting family. Brats are delicious.

But what couldn’t be bought pre-packaged left only the option of reverse-engineering. I don’t know if Skyline canned their chili back then, but it certainly wasn’t on shelves in Lubbock, so mom eventually developed a recipe for Cincinnati-style chili-a very bizarre concoction for one living in the heart of Texas. Cinnamon as an ingredient, and no spice? I’m glad she never served it up for any of my native friends (even though it was pretty good in its own right).

And one of her recreations that she didn’t get right, however, was something I’ve only just recently revisited, at the behest of others: goetta. I don’t remember this ever coming in packaged tube form. Instead, they were turned out of those small rectangular metal baking pans. Therefore, they must have been homemade.

Here are the ingredients, from Glier’s’ website-an apparently popular brand:

Pork & Beef, Pork & Beef Broth, Steel Cut Oats, Pork Hearts, Pork Skins, Onions, Salt, Spices, Monosodium Glutamate.

A quick reading of that list reveals its obvious origin: more poor people food. Cheap ingredients added to meat in order to extend it, like Hamburger Helper. Plus MSG, naturally. Something that would be created in some fashion by immigrants lacking the means to acquire more expensive food. Something filling and high-calorie. Something that’s an acquired taste.

Mom’s creations slid out of the pans on their own slime, wiggling as they plunked down onto the plate, where they were unceremoniously slathered in Aunt Jemima. A sticky, sweet, slimy loaf. *Shudder*

Glier’s, on the other hand, was…okay. I wouldn’t buy it myself, but I’ll eat it. Slightly crunchy with a nutty taste, it’s a convenient way to get fiber into a meat dish. Beyond making a bigger serving out of a little meat, it appears to have an alternate nutritional function.

Dwelling on the difference in experiences, here’s what I’ve concluded:

  1. Cooking method. Just as a meatloaf should never be cooked in the pan, neither should goetta. The pan holds the grease, which in large quantities will make anyone feel sick, but also the oats soaked it up. Grease, which is of course greasy by nature, not only coated the end product, but also reacted with the oats to form a wet glue texture that could have been consumed directly through a toothpaste tube. Glier’s, on the other hand, I sliced into patties and fried directly on the griddle. The grease cooked out and the oats toasted, resulting in that nutty crunchy flavor and texture. Pan frying is the way to go. Not baking.
  2. The oats. Oatmeal was a recurring breakfast staple, which I also hated due to its similar glue/slime texture. It was homemade, not instant. This generally calls for rolled oats. Greater surface area = quicker cooking and grain saturation. I very much suspect that mom used these same oats for goetta. This no doubt exacerbated the slime factor as steel cut oats would have retained their crunchier texture better.
Brown and crispy

Conclusion: More and faster grain saturation combined with more of the cooking liquid being fat due to the method of cooking caused over-hydration (fatification?) of the oats, resulting in no crunch and too much grease retention.


And the syrup thing was weird, too.

I didn’t notice this at the time, but the packaging does in fact give the proper cooking instructions.

Mom never much appreciated constructive criticism with her cooking, but some minor adjustments would probably have resulted in a much more palatable result. Liking goetta isn’t exactly a life-changing experience for me, but it’s an amusing way to end a decades-long extreme aversion to a particular food product.


Smoked Pork, Revised

For eclipse day I smoked pork shoulder again. Actually I smoked two. When done right, it’s a nice cheap way to make lots a tasty food, which is essentially the origin of BBQ.

But this time, perchance partially by accident (the meat thermometer malfunctioned and stopped giving readings until I reset it) and partially by intent (the meat reached 160 at 3:30AM and I didn’t want to wrap it at the time), I managed to improve upon the recipe. I will therefore document the changes for my own future reference.

Changes in bold:

  1. Brine meat for a minimum of 12 hours 24 hours. Just a standard salt and sugar brine here – nothing fancy needed. The flavor will come later.
  2. Place meat unwrapped in smoker cold – both meat and smoker. No preheating. Place cold meat unwrapped in preheated smoker at 250.
  3. Smoke at 170 – 200 225 degrees until internal meat temperature reads 160. Temperature is based on preference – colder smoking gives more contact time with smoke and therefore has a more smoky taste. Also I like cherry wood for pork so far.
  4. Reduce temperature to 150 and hold for 5 hours. This will be too cold to generate smoke so there’s no need to add additional wood during this time.
  5. Pull the meat at 160 (at this point, much of the water and most of the fat will have rendered out, and the collagen will start to liquefy, which you want to stay in the meat). Cover with rub. My rub base is ketchup, mustard, apple cider vinegar, and brown sugar. As a self-proclaimed pitmaster though, I won’t tell you my spice mix. But I will tell you that the rub shouldn’t taste very good on its own (like a marinade). If it makes you wince, you’re good to go.
  6. Wrap meat tightly in aluminum foil. I prefer to remove the thermometer probes first and then punch through the foil. It’s easier, and creates a tighter seal.
  7. Put the meat back in the smoker and cook at 275 until the internal meat temperature reads 205. This is the stage at which most of the collagen is liquefied. The next day’s leftovers will be a mass of meat and gelatin, which indicates successful collagen breakdown. This is good, even if it doesn’t look like it. Wiggle wiggle.
  8. Place the meat, still wrapped and with meat probes, in a cooler. There’s no real reason to rest it as you would a steak, since the collagen isn’t significantly redistributing as water would. But resting it at this point will allow the collagen to continue to liquefy if any hasn’t yet, and it will gradually cool to a touchable temperature for pulling. More importantly though, this gives you a buffer by which you can finish smoking prior to dinner and time the preparation of side dishes. You could technically wait as long as you want until the temperature hits 140, at which point you’ll be in THE DANGER ZONE! OOOOOOOO!
  9. Shred, stuff in face, and wait for your well-deserved adoration.

The changes resulted in an even juicier and tender chuck o’ flesh. The extended low temp time definitely added to collagen liquefaction, and the longer brine made for greater juice retention.

This is now documented for my future use! Huzzah!



So this is a cool random discovery.

Pork is an interesting meat. In my experience it’s often dry and funky. And there’s a variety of cultural reasons for and confirmations of this:

  • Trichinosis – a parasite that develops in pigs when they’re used as garbage disposals. Killing the parasite requires cooking pork to temperatures that make it dry.
  • Pigs fed garbage diets develop of funky flavor.
  • Heavy seasoning is often employed to mask funky flavors (brine, sausage, smoke).
  • Marketing pigs to the mass consumer population led to the development of streamlined pig diets that reduce funky flavor and trichinosis. This also led to pig meat becoming less fatty in nature, but with less fat the meat dries out even quicker.
  • People were slow to change their cooking habits to account for trichinosis elimination and drier meat.

Ergo – the pork we’re used to now is either heavily processed or very dry and lacking depth of flavor.

Then I discovered kurabuta pork!

Perusing the meat cooler at my local upscale grocer, I noticed what appeared to be beef due to its deep red color, but in the form of pork shoulder chops. Fortunately the internet was available in my pocket and revealed the mystery: a specialty breed of pig fed a non-grain diet. Free-range/grass-fed or something to that effect.

It’s juicy and meaty in flavor.

The pork revolution is at hand! Keep an eye out for this stuff. Down with boomer pork!


Canine Yuckies

A dogger does love a stinky treat. So for a minor project I fried up the salmon skin from the Lox.

They are smelly to the point of nauseating, and apparently so delectable to a furry carnivore that their odor induced uncontrollable salivation onto the kitchen floor. Fantastic. The price of being a dog dad.


Vernal Anticipations

Spring is coming, and to celebrate I smoked a salmon! This time, I used quick cure (the kind I make bacon with – the one with sodium nitrate) instead of plain salt for the brine.

Few fish preparations are as tasty as Nova Lox – brined, cold-smoked salmon. On a bagel. It’s also something that can be closely replicated at home! I don’t technically cold-smoke, since I don’t have that equipment and don’t want to rig something up. Cold-smoking is technically done around 80 degrees, but you can’t generate smoke at that temp so you have to create hot smoke and then cool it before it touches the fish.

Or, you can smoke at a temperature just high enough – say 150 – on very cold fish that’s only barely fully thawed. Combined with the brine, it’s juicy and salty, and the sodium nitrate preserves the bright orange-pink color. Cooked to an internal temperature of 130 (I deep-froze it to -40 beforehand to make it safe for “raw” consumption), then cooled, it’s a damn close facsimile to true Lox. It made for a nice faux-spring day.