The Shandification of American Beer



The  American big beer brands are fighting for market share in a world of less demand for bland light lagers.   The mass explosion of regional craft brewers has cut into the national brands like they couldn’t have predicted.   Just take a look at the craft brewers who have entered the scene in Greater Cincinnati – Rhinegheist, Mad Tree, 50 West, Rivertown, Bad Tom, Moerlein, Wiedemann, Listermann, and several more.   In order to gain market share with these new competitors, the American big beer brands have introduced beer-like products to bring more non-traditional beer drinkers, like women, for example, into their fold.   Last year, 2013, seemed to be the year of the cider, with introductions from Stella, and Anheuser-Busch’s Johnny Appleseed.   This year seems to be the year of the Shandy, a type of beer mixed drink that has been around as long almost as beer has in the Western World, but seems to have just arrived in the U.S.


The Shandy, which usually means a 50/50 mix of beer with a fruit juice, like lemonade, originated in England as the shandygaff, in the 1850s. Back in the times when people drank beer because of fear of water quality, a shandy, with its diluted alcohol content gave workers a safe, yet refreshing drink that would not get them too blitzed to continue their work day after a lunch break. In the UK today a shandy can be a mixture of beer with lemonade or with ginger beer or gingerale.


Nowadays, the shandy has lost it’s ‘girly beer’ moniker thanks to the mass marketing the larger American beer firms have created over the last year.   Cool commercials have made it ok for American men to indulge in the shandy craze, without having their masculinity questioned.    We are even led to believe a cooler full of shandy can be a chic magnet.


The idea of shandys spread to the continent and ‘Biermischgetranke’, or beer mixed drinks, became popular in Germany and Austria.   Every region of Germany has its specialty beer mixed with a juice, syrup, or cola.   Whizz Peach, for example, is a mix of a Darmstadt brewery’s beer and a peach flavored lemonade – a peach shandy of sorts.   A typical ‘Summer Shandy’ in Germany is called a Radler, but it is made with sparkling lemonade, rather than the flat American lemonade.   A Greifswalder is a mix of a dark lager brewed in Meckleburg-Vorpommern and Coca-cola.   It seems weird that a country who developed a beer purity law, Rhineheitsgebot, centuries ago, is so apt to mix so many different drinks with their beer.


And in Belgium, with its hundreds of different beers, they will mix anything in a beer.   As a college student, backpacking across the continent, my friend Steve and I came in contact in a Brussels bar, with a mix of Belgian ale, and a peach sherbet like apertif called Avacadar.    The end result tasted like an orange flavored Pepto Bismol – not one of my favorites!


And the Latin Americans have their own version of a shandy, but they’re less about lemonade, and more about tomato juice.   While travelling in Guatemala last year, I came across a drink the Guatemalans love, called a Michelada.   It is a 50/50 mix of light lager with clamata juice, spices, and tobasco sauce.   It might sound like a disgusting marriage of flavors, but in the heat of Central America, the Michelada is actually a very refreshing and satisfying drink.    It’s a bit like a Bloody Mary, but with the refreshing fizz and tang of a lager.


I remain a steadfast beer purist and somewhat an anti-shandyist. I enjoy the taste of a nice lager and find a really hoppy pale ale to be refreshing in the heat of summer.     It remains to be seen if Anheuser-Bush can turn us into a Shandy Nation.  

The Sauerkraut Ball Dilemna


I posted a picture last week of the Germania society sauerkraut ball prep room.   I have never seen so many sauerkraut balls in one sitting, but I am sure the region goes through hundreds of thousands in one Oktoberfest season.   Germania Society’s Oktoberfest kicks off the Greater Cincinnati Oktoberfest season.  It’s held in a northwestern suburb called Pleasant Run at a German American society that’s been there since the 1960s. It would not be an Oktoberfest without the deep fried sauerkraut ball.   They go great with a nice lager and a side of spicy Dusseldorf mustard dipping sauce.


One of my friends who is a native of Frankfurt, Germany, said, “I’ve not seen these anywhere in Germany!”   This confirmed their American origin, most probably within the kraut eating German immigrant community.   As far back as I can remember, and that would be into the mid 1970s, these dainty little appetizers have been a staple of any Oktoberfest I’ve gone to.


But, I then hear from my food idol, Lynn Rosetta Kasper’s show on NPR, The Splendid Table, that they were actually born in Akron, Ohio, amongst the German Mennonite community.   Travelling food writers Jane and Michael Stern told Kasper on her show:


“Sauerkraut balls were invented in Akron, Ohio, and in many restaurants around Akron a favorite hors d’oeuvre is a sauerkraut ball. It’s a small sphere of sauerkraut and ground up meat that is breaded and deep fried … a wonderful kind of tangy, tart savory hors d’oeuvre.”


Yeah, well that surely describes them, but I was about to give Cincinnati and our ‘World’s Largest Oktoberfest outside of Munich’ status, the moniker of ‘born here.’   As it turns out there’s a company in Akron, Or Derv, that has been commercially manufacturing sauerkraut balls since 1964, when the brand was called Bunny B.   Their CEO, Keith Kropp, says they’re to Akron what buffalo wings are to Buffalo and what Philly cheese steaks are to Philadelphia. Kropp bought the company eight years ago and doesn’t know how the sauerkraut ball came to Akron.   Some people say it was the Polish, others say it was the German immigrants who brought them, but Kropp has never been able to get the true story.


Although they make a variety like smoked, beef, and habanero, the ham stuffed sauerkraut balls are the most popular at Or Derv. During peak production times during the holidays, their plant cranks out 350,000 balls per hour.


I was still not willing to give up the ‘born here’ status to our city’s beloved deep fried balls.   Our neighbor to the north, Waynesville, Ohio, has been having its sauerkraut festival, with its requisite balls, since 1970.   Every year Germania, Donauschwaben, Newport, Mainstrasse, Downtown, Kolping, and other local Oktoberfests serve these balls every weekend from mid August to the end of October.   Restaurants like Mecklenburg Gardens in Clifton, Wunderbar and Hofbrauhaus in Newport, Lazslo’s Iron Skillet in Newtown, and  Rascal’s New York Deli in Blue Ash serve the balls.   And our legacy Germanic restaurants, the Black Forest and Lenhardt’s restaurants served them back into the 1960s.


But maybe it’s not whose balls were the first, but who’s balls taste better. Most Cincinnati sauerkraut balls have cream cheese in the mix, while the Akron balls do not.   The cream cheese gives a tangy, gooey, goodness that just can’t be achieved from the northern Ohio balls.  There’s no doubt both cities have a passionate and avid culture of sauerkraut balls, and consume more per capita than any other city in the Unites States. So, maybe it has to come down to a Sauerkraut ball challenge between the two cities that bookend the state. Ok Akron, bring out your balls, it’s time for a reckoning!

Cowboy Comfort Food or Alpine Genius Adapted?



All this talk of goetta and its related German-American peasant dishes sparks another conversation about a truly American dish that has similar origins – the chicken or country fried steak.     What more perfect food is there than a tenderized beef cutlet, dredged in season bread crumbs, deep fried and served with peppered milk gravy?   Well some Texans would add that the dish is even more perfect with chipotle in the milk gravy.   And who, again do we have to pay tribute to this delicious dish – the southern Germans and Austrian-Moravian immigrants of the 19th century who inhabited the south plains of Dawson County, Texas. The dish resembles the German/Austrian dish Wiener Schnitzel, a breaded pork or veal cutlet served with thick gravy that the immigrants brought with them across the Atlantic.    They quickly adapted the dish to the cattle they ranched.   And, although invented in Texas, it has been named the Official State Meal of Oklahoma.  


While the prevalence of cheap pork led the German immigrants in Cincinnati to develop pork based economical dishes like goetta, the prevalence of beef in Southern Texas, led them to create cheaper meals out of their more common meat staple.     So, to utilize cheaper cuts of tougher meat, country fried steak was invented.   Given the stringiness of steers in the 1830s, pounding lesser cuts into a more edible form seemed wise.   The tenderizing of a lower cut of beef, and the breading and deep frying of it gave it more flavor than it would have had without the treatment. And then topping it in gravy made from its own juices, well that’s just brilliant, and cheap.   Those Germans were not ones to waste good lard!




Much like German Cincinnatians ate goetta before exercising on the weekends at the Turnerhalle on Walnut Street in Over the Rhine, or after singing their hearts out in preparation for a Saengerfest at Music Hall, the Texas Germans were coming home to chicken fried steak after their acrobatics at the High Hill Turnverein.  


There are two claimants to the origin of the country fried steak.   The town of Lamesa, the seat of Dawson County, claims to have invented the dish, and has a celebration in its honor every year.   John Neutzling of the High Hills of Bandera, Texas, also claims to have invented the dish.    The story as Lamesa tells it goes this way: In 1911 a short order cook named Jimmy Don Perkins mistook an order for chicken and fried steak in flour batter, serving with french fries and cream gravy.   Lamesa’s legend comes with bill signed by State Rep. Tom Craddick of Midland which names it as the “legendary home of the chicken-fried steak.”


My friend and now a fan of Cincinnati chili, Robb Walsh, the respected Texas food authority, has a theory about the dish.   He wrote about it in a 2007 article for the Houston Press, breaking down the dish into three distinct versions, stating that each may have a separate heritage. The East Texas one, dipped in egg and then flour, is probably connected to Southern fried chicken. The central Texas version, sometimes using bread crumbs in the mixture, probably comes from those German immigrants. And the eggless West Texas version is probably more closely related to what the cowboys called pan-fried steak.   However, these are probably regional variations, that evolved post-introduction by the German and Austrian-Moravian immigrants.


Wherever it originated – plains or high hills – the country fried steak is a beloved comfort food, popular outside of Texas and Oklahoma, and again brought to us by the genius of frugal German immigrants.

The Goetta-Grits Road Tour



I had the opportunity this past weekend to do some first hand taste testing of the product known as ‘grits’ in Minster, Ohio, that is very similar to Cincinnati’s goetta.   I was on the way to meet some friends for a guys weekend at Indian Lake, only three exits north of Minster, Ohio.   So, what better a test situation for grits than a Cincinnati contingent familiar with goetta.


So I took exit 99 off of Interstate 75, drove through the little town of Anna, and then 12 more miles into the very German American Minster Ohio.   I drove through downtown, and headed toward the towering twin spires of St. Augustine Catholic Church. I thought this would be the epicenter of grit eating Minsterites, and a good place to start to ask about a local meat market I might find the local delicacy.


Nearly adjacent to the large beautiful red brick church is Oktoberfestplatz, straddling Minster’s main street.   A large expanse of lawn with a beatiful bandstand gazebo is what will turn into a tent laden celebration of German-American food and celebration in October.     I am told that many people will party on Saturday afternoon, go to church to slow down their buzz, and then party on into the night after Church lets out.   I think that sounds like the best way to go to church in the fall – straddle it with an Oktoberfest!


I was lucky to find a Wagner’s IGA just one block up from Oktoberfestplatz. I though sure, that if they didn’t have grits, they’d at least know where I might find some.   I walked in and went immediately to the deli counter and asked a girl of about 17 where I might find the local German grits or meat grits.   She looked confused and asked some of the other teenage workers if they had German or meat grits. When they all looked like I had two heads with horns, I asked if there was a nearby local meat market, which they replied no. If it wasn’t for a smart teenage guy who heard my conversation, I would never have found the grits. He said, “Are you just looking for grits?”   I replied yes, and he led me to a corner of the meat section where there was a mother load.


They sold them in one-and-a-half and half-pound increments, shrink wrapped.       The sticker said “Weber’s Signature Recipe – Our Own Grits – (Pork , Beef, Salt, Pepper, and Pin Oats)” – so I knew these would be authentic. I decided to go big and bought the 1.5 pound package for nearly $5 – pork and beef prices have sky rocketed this year, but this was for a fun lake weekend, and a special treat, so no worries.


I was so excited to have found the infamous product I had written about during Goetta Equality Week. I showed the girl at the meat counter who looked at me funny when I asked her for meat grits.   She said, “Oh yeah, we just call them grits.”     I paid for my proud find and asked for a bag of ice. So the counter girl paged another kid who looked like he was 10, but I’m sure was about 17 like the rest of the crew to help me with an ice bag outside.   As he unlocked the ice chest, I told him I’d found the infamous Minster grits that in southern Ohio we called goetta, and was excited to try them with other southern Ohio goetta experts at Indian Lake. He looked at me quietly with a look that said, “Whatever, old dude.”


Armed with my find, I drove off to Indian Lake to enjoy pizza, beer, and a beautiful sunset over the lake.


The next morning, after everyone was up and had their coffee, we made a big breakfast with eggs, French toast, and Minster grits.   The taste testers were a West sider, and three Northwest siders from Pleasant Run, Sharonville, and Finneytown – each well familiar with goetta, its nuances, prep methods, and how to dress it best.

 I cooked the grits in small rectangular pieces in an iron skillet over low heat.     What I found was the pieces kind of fell apart in the pan, and it made them hard to brown.   I did get some brown on the sides, but not as much as we typically get with goetta.   The flavor was ok, although not as oniony and spicy as the homemade goetta I’m used to.     I ate them without any condiment dressing, like the typical ketchup I would do with goetta,  to really taste the flavor.   They whole mix seemed mushier and blander, overall, but a good substitute for homemade goetta in a pinch. Everyone else’s opinion was sort of ‘meh’ with the grits, so I think we have a bit of recipe education to teach the Minsterite grit eating population!

Not All Belgian Waffles are Created Equal



As anyone who has been to Findlay Market in Cincinnati or North Market in Columbus knows, there’s a distinct sweet caramel-ly smell wafting the stalls as soon as you step into the main market building.     Follow your nose, and you’ll end up at a waffle stand owned by Belgian immigrant Jean-Francois Flechet.     If you’re quick enough you can grab a bite sized taste when one of the griddle flippers cuts a newly removed waffle from the cast iron.     The sugary crunch on the outside, followed by the dense and chewy inside create a wonderful tasty snack that has become legend in the Ohio valley.


Since 2007 Jean-Francois Flechet has been selling the Liege style Belgian waffle to Cincinnatians, with his Taste of Belgium waffle stands.   In just seven years, Flechet has turned his one stand at Findlay Market into a successful empire of Belgian Bistros, including a concession stand at the Cincinnati Red’s stadium, and won the hearts and stomachs of Cincinnatians with his waffles.   While Europeans would cringe at serving the dense Liege waffle with chicken and clog-your-arteries chicken gravy as he serves at his Taste of Belgium Bistro, Cincinnatians are cult followers.   Although not native, and certainly new to the Ohio food palate, the Liege waffle seems to fit in well with the Midwestern food tradition.


When visiting home, Flechet attended a food trade show where he walked in and smelled the waffles from his home city being made.   He found the stand and ended talking to the old man proprietor for two hours.   He came home from that trip with a new waffle iron, a recipe that he tweaked, and a new food genre – Americanized-Belgique – that has taken Cincinnati by storm.   The many varieties of Belgian beers he serves at his bistros compliment the rich brewing heritage in Cincinnati, which before prohibition, had more breweries per capita than any city in the United States.


In Belgium, there is no such thing as the light Americanized version of the Belgian waffle. And, the Liege waffle is very different from the Americanized Belgian version.  The American Belgian waffle is much less dense, has larger pockets, and usually the batter is leavened with baking soda instead of ale yeast.   The dough is less sweet, less crunchy, and makes it ripe for a variety of toppings, such as whipped cream and strawberries, stewed spiced apples, and syrup.


In Belgium, there are two types of waffles – the Liege waffle and the Brussels waffle. The liege waffle is native to the French speaking Wallonia region of Eastern Belgium, and is also known as a ‘hunting waffle,’ or ‘gaufres de chasse.’   That’s an appropriate name, because they are more dense, richer, and sweeter than the Brussels waffle.   A hunter out on a cold long day would want a dense, carb-packed snack to keep his energy and concentration high.   The batter is an adaptation of the brioche bread dough, stolen from the French, but Belgianized by being leavened with ale yeast, which they have in abundance.   The real magic to the Liege waffle are the chunks of pearl sugar which caramelize on the outside.


The Brussels waffle on the other hand is lighter, crispier and have large pockets.   They can be distinguished from the round or oval shaped Liege waffles by their rectangular sides.   Attributed to the Swiss baker, working in Ghent, Belgium, Florian Dacker, they have been a treat in the European Union’s capital since 1842.   The Brussels waffle is the most similar to the Americanized version of the Belgian waffle.   It can be seen topped with Nutella chocolate spread and fresh strawberries.  


And waffles just aren’t for breakfast anymore.   Taste of Belgium serves a comfort food favorite chicken and waffles. The waffle replaces the starch that at breakfast might have been potato hash, or at dinner might have been french fries.   The has spilled over into the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) industry in the last few years as well – think McDonald’s chicken waffle breakfast sandwich, White Castle’s Belgian waffle sandwiches and Taco Bell’s waffle tacos.     The Belgians and their waffles are here to stay.


However, for me, I do think waffles are just for breakfast.   Call me old fashioned, but I think waffles were made to dunk in strong coffee.   And for me, the perfect waffle for morning coffee submersion is the Dutch version, the Stroopwafel.   They’re from cheesemaking Gouda region of Holland, consisting of two crisp round waffle wafers with syrupy filling.   They’re certainly not as ubiquitous as Flechet’s Liege waffles, but I can still find them at Jungle Jim’s in the Dutch section.   Thanks Ms. Neubauer for that introduction!

Hitch your Wagons to the Kentucky Chili Bun Trail



Many people know about Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail, the amazing tour of the state’s bourbon distilleries.   But, few know about a lesser known trail called the Kentucky Chili Bun Trail. The trail consists of several towns just off of Interstate 75 south of Lexington, on 25E starting in London and progressing on 25 to Corbin, Barboursville, Pineville, Middlesboro, and out 119 to Harlan, Kentucky. There are even a few drive-ins and groceries across the border in Tennessee that proudly serve the Kentucky chili bun.


To Cincinnatians familiar with our cheese coney, we might call the Kentucky Chili bun a ‘phoney coney’ without the dog.   Skyline Chili calls its version of a dogless coney a ‘chili sandwhich’, and has a

‘chili cheese sandwich.’   A first cousin of the coney island , the Kentucky chili bun consists of a steamed bun, filled with a heaping portion of coney dog chili, without the dog, chopped sweet onions, and a healthy dollop of Plochman’s yellow mustard from nearby Illinois.   The buns are typically accompanied by Pepsi, Ale 8, made in Kentucky, or with a homemade root beer, along with Grippos or Mike Sell’s potato chips from Cincinnati, and Dayton, Ohio, respectively.     The chili in the Kentucky chili bun is all meat, no beans, and bit drier than that used on coney dogs, but is nowhere near the consistency of a sloppy joe, to which some folks try to compare it.


Kentucky Chili buns were born in sin in the pool halls of southeast Kentucky, as Ronni Lundy, author of the Heart and Soul of Country Kitchens claims.   “They have little redeeming social or nutritional value, but they could be one of the tastiest things you’ve ever had”, she adds.   Locals claim the secret ingredient might be a bit of pool chalk dust in the chili, but regardless, these dogless versions of the coney island have been in existence since at least the stock market crash of 1929.   And maybe that’s the reason for the cost cutting measure of no dog.


Legend has it that Terrell Halcomb first served the chili bun at his Dixie Billiard Parlor in Corbin, Kentucky in 1929, so Corbin is the epicenter of the trail.  Corbin, Kentucky, is probably more famous for being the birthplace of another more well-known food legend – KFC.   Colonel Harland Sander’s Kentucky Fried Chicken enterprise, was started in his humble gas service station a year after the chili bun was born in Corbin.



Dixie has moved around in location since its inception, and was even an Italian restaurant for a while. But, it reopened in 2012 under the name Dixie Café with a new chili recipe and a new fervor to reestablish the old landmark and its delicacy, the chili bun.


From Corbin the chili bun went as far north as London and as far south as the Tennesse border.   Many of the places that serve chili buns use Mitchell’s chili. A meat cutter in Barboursville, in 1929 . E.C. Mitchell invented his own chili that he served in his chili buns, in his grocery on Town Square.   He survived the Depression and his great grandson Greg Mitchell owns the business, where until a few years ago one could get a chili bun for 75 cents, about 20 cents less than the Grippos or Mike Sells potato chips most buy to go with.   The grocery itself sits in an ancient building on the Barboursville courthouse square.   The real treasure was at the rear where a cafeteria hot line is set up.   Although the grocery is no longer open, Greg supplies meats and his chili to commercial operations in and out of state. The Chili consists of pureed tomato and ground beef with a primarily sweet flavor, with only faint notes of cumin.


Weaver’s Pool Hall in London Kentucky, in Laurel County, is a heavy hitter when it comes to the chili bun.   Legend has it that Carl Weaver, the current owner’s, grandfather, bought the chili recipe from a man from Corbin for $25 who was on his way to Mexico. Carl tweaked the chili recipe a bit, making it his own, and this is what the Weaver family has been serving on their chili buns since 1940. Originally just a pool hall with 10 tables, Carl’s son, Jerry Weaver expanded it to a restaurant before passing the business on to his son, Judd Weaver.    Jerry added the vintage booths with hardboard seats that remind you of your ancestor’s wagon ride across the Cumberlands.   Many locals enjoy seeing the photo wall which is a virtual history of London and the restaurant.  One 1955 photo shows Kentucky Governor and Baseball commissioner A. P. “Happy” Chandler in the restaurant. Judd gets up at 4:30 AM every morning and makes the chili fresh from Kentucky Proud Grade A beef, serving about 10 pounds of it a day. Local families have a Memorial day tradition of stopping at Weaver’s for a plate of steaming hot chili buns before decorating the family graves in the local churchyards.



Other recommended places in London to get a chili bun are House’s Pool Hall at the corner of east 4th and Hill Street, and the Dairy Dart. A long gone pool hall famous for its chili buns was Nevel’s Pool Hall in Corbin, Kentucky, which began serving in the 1930s.


Some recipes like that at Tommy’s call for flat beer and a variety of spices, more similar to the Greek coney island sauce with sweet apostoulos like nutmeg allspice, and ginger and spicy apostoulos like chili powder, celery, garlic, and onion salt.   However some recipes also call for ketchup, something that would not be allowed in a purely Greek sauce.


Some of the heavy hitters who served the bun have gone out of business like the Fad Pool Hall in Corbin on Main Street, but many still exist today.   The popularity of the chili bun spread out of the pool hall to the variety of dairy bars, root beer stands, drive-ins, gas stations, and family restaurants in the area.     The drive-in culture is still very much alive in this part of Kentucky and is surely a unique experience.     People in and around the Kentucky Chili Bun trail look forward to warmer weather when the root beer stands, dairy bars, and drive-ins open so that they can enjoy their chili buns.

That’s MR. PINHEAD to YOU!!



After last week’s dive into Goetta History, I thought it appropriate to give some history behind the Dorsel Milling Company , the company that made Dorsel’s Pinhead oatmeal, the key ingredient to our delicacy. It took a bit of digging, but I finally found Mr. Pinhead Oatmeal himself, Johann Christian Dorsel.    Although the Dottie Dorsel Pinhead Oatmeal brand is now owned by Praire Mills Company, the Dorsel Company has a long history in northern Kentucky.  


Johann Christian Dorsel was born the third son of 10 children in Westphalia, Germany, to Johann Bernard and Gertrude Marie Dorsel.     John Sr. was an oldest son and owned a large farm, making him a ‘Kolonus’, a land owner, and thus a very influential community member. In Westphalia, only the oldest son or oldest daughter, if there were no sons, could inherit the family farm.   All other siblings were called ‘Heurling’ or day laborers, and worked for their oldest sibling. They even had to ask for permission to marry and have children.   They were basically tied to the farm estate into which they were born without any rights or much room for economic growth. They were basically at the mercy of their oldest sibling’s charity and had to accept their position in life or leave for better opportunities.     As a heurling, Johann Christian Dorsel, decided he would roll the lucky dice and left the family farm for America in 1854, 2 years after his father died.   He landed in Galveston, Texas, and stayed there less than a year working as a farmhand.


For the next nearly forty years, J.C. Dorsel, made his fortune in a variety of industries, until his broken road led him to Flour Milling, grain bartering, and pinhead oatmeal manufacturing.   He settled in Covington, Kentucky, in 1854, where for four years he worked as a coach driver for D. H. Holmes.   From 1858-1862, J.C. operated the Dorsel House on Washington Avenue, in Covington, Kentucky, a hotel and coffee house.   During the Civil War – 1862-1865 – he became successful in the dairy business, until in 1867, he found distilling.   He partnered with Frank Wuttange, and built the largest distillery for rye whiskey in Covington.   They operated that business until a fire destroyed the factory in 1887.   That year, J. C. Dorsel bought a large farm, and raised and sold tobacco until 1894.     During this whole time Dorsel had been amassing a huge real estate empire in Covington, building and buying houses.  He built a huge Italianate mansion in Edgewood, Kentucky that was called the Duddley Mansion, as it was on Duddley Pike.




In 1892 J. C. finally found the flour milling business.   He started the Dorsel Milling Company, and built a large plant in Newport, Kentucky, on Monmouth and 11th streets, right on the railroad line.     This is where our key goetta ingredient, pinhead oatmeal was made for many years, until the third generation moved the operations to Erlanger, Kentucky.     The Dottie Dorsel company logo was based on Dorathea Dorsel, a beloved daughter from his first marriage to Elizabeth Kurre.    Being from Westphalia, J. C. Dorsel would have been familiar with Knipp, the pork and grain sausage native to the area.   So, knowing this delicacy, and being a purveyor of raw oats and corn by the train car load, he came up with the pinhead oat product.   Pinhead oats are made from the whole oat kernel before being flatttened or rolled, and are significantly cheaper than more highly processed oats.   Because they’re not processed, they take about an extra thirty more minutes than processed oats to cook, but the lower cost made it an affordable product for the lower and middle class German immigrants of Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati.   J.C. found a gold mine with unprocessed oats!




John involved his sons, John Jr. and Fred J. in his business. In 1916, an agricultural report gave a description of the Dorsel Milling Company:


“The Dorsel Company (Newport, Kentucky), 11th and Monmouth streets, operating a 225 bbl flour mill, buys almost 20,000 bbls annually of hard wheat flour for blending.  For the last two months the company has run its mill day and night.   It is a car buyer of chicken feed, handles self-rising flour made by other mills and is a  wholesale grain dealer, buying corn and oats in cars.   Fred Dorsel, secretary and treasurer, commenting on wheat, predicted it would reach $22.4 before the next crop – he believes there will be a considerable falling off in the consumption of wheat on account of bakers reducing the size of loaves.”


John and his large family were members of the St. Joseph Catholic Church up on John’s Hill above Covington.   From his first marriage to Elizabeth Kurre, he had 9 children, five of whom made it to adulthood – Dora, August, Jospehine, Louisa, Frank, and John.     And from his second marriage to Mina Staggenborg, he had 9 more children – 6 of whom made it to adulthood – Louise, Fred, Mary, Albert, Nettie, and Loretta.   J.C. was very active in the Catholic church and was president of the St. Joseph Orphanage Society from 1878-1880.   He passed in 1922 at a ripe old age of 90, and passed the Dorsel Milling Company to his sons.    


It might be kind of a chicken and egg thing – was goetta invented first, or was pinhead oatmeal found first?   Whatever, the case we have an anonymous butcher from Covington, who supposedly invented goetta regionally, but if it weren’t for J.C. Dorsel and his cheap pinhead oats, we may not have had the size of the industry it needed to take off and become our local pop delicacy.


Minster, Ohio’s “Meat Grits” and the Cincinnati Goetta Connection



The heartland of Ohio is made up of many farm towns with deep German heritage.   Many of these towns were started by groups of German immigrants who came through Cincinnati, congregated in small communities and then decided to move out of the bustling coal-smoked metropolis to the country.   One such community is Minster, Ohio, in Auglaize County, about an hour or so north of Dayton, Ohio.     Founded in 1832 by the Utopian Socialist Franz Joseph Stallo. Herr Stallo was an immigrant from the Oldenburg/Westphalia region of Germany, who along with six other agents were representing a very Catholic group of ninety some German immigrants who came via Cincinnati.   By 1843 the Miami Eire Canal had connected Minster to the Ohio River, and to the ‘Goettakreis’ or region of goetta eating Cincinnati and Northern Kentuckians.


Today the largely Catholic village of Minster, on Interstate 75, celebrates its German immigrant heritage with one of the largest, and probably the most authentic German Oktoberfests in Ohio region the first weekend in October.   Authentic German foods, polka dancing, and beer carrying competitions are some of the highlights of Minster’s celebration.



Nestled within the German heritage of Minster is a legacy of eating German grits, which do not resemble the southern grits to which they may seem to allude.   What they do resemble more , and what their historical society recognize they also resemble, is Cincinnati’s goetta.   Made with steel cut oats, rather than pinhead oats, the Minster version of the German grain-based-meat-part-sausage is chunkier, and mushier than the Cincinnati goetta version.   The Minster Historical society put together a legacy cookbook with a recipe for Minster grits, and they claim the best Minster grits (goetta) was from the now closed Woehrmeyer’s Meat Market.


Another German farm village near Minster is New Bremen, Ohio, founded mostly by Hanoverians, who like Minster’s founders came to the U.S. via Cincinnati, Ohio.    The tradition of meat grits probably spills over to New Bremen’s German immigrant community as well.


It doesn’t seem like Minster’s meat grits are dressed with any particular condiments, like Cincinnati’s goetta might be with ketchup, grape jelly, or maple syrup.   But there is one adder to a breakfast of Minster’s meat grits that one would find – a delicious piece of zweiback, perhaps compliments of Kuehne’s bakery. Zwieback is a hard north German pastry, like the Italian biscotti, meant for dunking in your coffee.


Since Minster was founded by Westphalian and Oldeburgian Catholics, they probably brought their tradition of Hanoverian knipp, the goetta-like grain sausage flavored with allspice and pepper. Or, given the canal connection to Cincinnati, maybe early Minsterites were exposed to goetta by a century of trade with the Ohio River region.   Whatever the genesis, it’s a food tradition that remains strong in Minster, Ohio.   There is perhaps a Goetta Trail to be discovered that follows the old German farm villages that popped up along the Miami Eire canal.    That’s definitely on my food travel bucket list!

Goetta A-Go-Go



To Cincinnatian and Northern Kentuckians, goetta is a source of pride.   I don’t know how many times I’ve defended it to out of towners and naysayers who claim its use of organ meat.   One mention of it amongst a group of natives and the conversation instantly turns to its best preparation method, who serves the best goetta, and who’s recipe was always the best.     Eating it is like travelling back in time along your family tree.   It’s being able to say I am eating the same thing my great grandparents ate in Over the Rhine or Northern Kentucky.    It’s a spiritual way to honor our ancestors’ struggles in the New World, by doing something tangible – eating the same peasant food that sustained them.


I recently attended a funeral in upstate New York of family members, all of whom are fifth generation Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky German immigrants. So, of course goetta was a topic of conversation.   You could see the passion in aunts and cousins faces as they described how they liked their goetta and remembering holiday breakfasts with copious piles of crisp goetta. And then came the amicable argument of what meat market makes the best goetta – Is it Finke’s in Ft. Wright, Hoffmans on the West Side, Kroeger Meats at Findley Market, Eckerlein’s, or Stehlin’s Meats?   And then comes the question – what commercial brand is the best – the ubiquitous Gliers, made in Covington, Kentucky, or Queen City Sausage?


In a pinch, my mother usually bought goetta made by Hamman’s Meats on Mill Road in Pleasant Run, but she would always say hers was better and vow to never buy commercial goetta again.   Crock pot technology has certainly streamlined the goetta making process, but it’s still a many hour event.   From the cooking of the meat, to the stirring with the pinhead oatmeal, to the pouring and setting into mini bread pans, it’s not easy to make goetta at home, but its well worth the effort.


What does goetta eating say about someone?   It definitely indicates a Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky German ancestry.   It probably also indicates that you are at least a third generation descendant of a German immigrant to one of those areas.   And, it indicates that you’ve probably eaten more homemade than store bought goetta, or that you even make your own goetta.


Then there’s comes the separation in how you eat your goetta.     There are three common ways to dress your goetta once it’s fried.   Families are separated by whether they dress their goetta with ketchup, grape jelly, or warm maple syrup.     I happen come from a ketchup dressing family, and none of us have ever steered off this path.   I had a childhood friend whose Dutch immigrant family dressed with grape jelly, and that seemed completely foreign to me.   We always thought of goetta as the main savory meat of a big breakfast, and, as such should be dressed with a meat condiment.   It was never just a side sausage or even a sweet dressed dish.   But to each their own.   A ketchup goetta family doesn’t look down on a grape jelly family, and vice versa.   There’s still a respect for the dish and for these hyper-regional variations on how it’s served.


The Frisch’s restaurant chain serves Gliers goetta on their breakfast menu, as does Hathaway’s Diner, and Price Hill Chili.   You can even get Glier’s goetta 24 hours at the Anchor Grille in Covington. The Hitching Post, known for its fried chicken also serves goetta as a side.   Tuckers in Over-the-Rhine serves Hoffman’s goetta from Findley Market.     There are even Goetta Run groups in Cincinnati – groups of friends and family who travel weekly or monthly to different restaurants who serve goetta.


Its weirdness has catapulted goetta to regional pop icon status.  Glier’s goetta has a company mascot who dresses up and marches in parades and attends the various Oktoberfests and Goettafests in the area.   Goetta can be eaten in a goetta reuben, as deep fried goetta balls, on goetta pizza, in goetta stuffed peppers, as a goetta hot brown, in a goetta grilled cheese (one of my favorites), and in goetta sausage links and goetta hamburger patties.   Local chefs have integrated goetta into their menus. The Chef of the Rookwood in Mt. Adams uses goetta as the meat in their amped up Hanky Panky appetizer.   You can even find a goetta link Cincinnati style cheese coney at Glier’s Goettafest this weekend.     Shoshana Haffner, the chef of the former Honey’s Restaurant in Northside, created a popular and very tasty vegan goetta, made of textured vegetable protein and a mirapois of onions, carrots, and celery.   To the goetta purist, these ways of eating goetta are comical and outlandish. The best way is surrounded by family at a big holiday brunch or breakfast in the comfort of your own home.

A Mispronounced German Delicacy



There has been much written about one of Cincinnati’s immigrant inspired regional delicacies – goetta.   Goetta is basically a breakfast meat/sausage, made from the combination of a bit of pork shoulder, onions, spices, and pinhead oatmeal.   It’s cooked and poured into terrines and sausage casings to set, and then sliced thin and fried crispy.     It has been said many times that you won’t find anything similar to goetta in Germany or Europe, but that’s not exactly true.     Will you find something on a menu called goetta in a Westphalian gasthaus?   The answer is no, but you will find sausages and something that looks and tastes remarkably similar to goetta there called Grutzwurst.     The fact is there’s a long history of European peoples making sausages with a bit of protein and a lot of grain filler to make a poor man’s gruel.     Imagine a peasant in the middle ages trying to give some semblance of flavor to his gruel or porridge by dropping a few scraps of meat into it.


This legacy of poor man’s meat gruel has different names all over Europe.   We can connect the goetta family tree to Scotland’s haggis, a combination of sheep’s heart, liver and lungs, onion, oatmeal, suet and spices.      I had haggis for breakfast at a hotel near Glasgow a few years ago on a business trip and besides being darker in color, it tasted remarkably similar to goetta.   In Hanover a similar sausage is called Knipp, made with oat groats, pork head, liver, and spiced with allspice and pepper.     In northern Germany Grutzwurst uses pig organ parts with buckwheat, barley or rye, onion, black pepper and marjoram.     In Poland Grutzwurst is called Kishka.   Even in areas of the U.S. where the Pennsylvania Dutch settled, there is a version called Scrapple, which uses cornmeal as the grain filler, but also uses pork parts.


So when the Hanoverian, Westphalian, and other peasant Germans brought their various traditions of grains sausages made with pork parts to Cincinnati before the Civil War, they were happy and surprised to see the prevalence and cheapness of pork in our city.   You could barely walk into the streets in the Over the Rhine German community without being stampeded by pigs being led to one of the many slaughterhouses in the city.   So, the Cincinnati German immigrants amped up their grain sausage with only pork shoulder or other equivalent pork muscle meat.   Perhaps there was even a regulation agreed upon by Cincinnati butchers, similar to beer’s Rheinheitsgebot purity law, that specified only good pork cuts to be used in goetta like pork shoulder or pork butt and no offal or organ meats.     Maybe this Uber-dem-Rheinheitsgebot for goetta has been lost to time, but it’s message still exists.   My own grandmother’s recipe for goetta, which is over 100 years old, calls for only pork shoulder or pork butt.   If someone describes goetta as livery or organy, it’s not goetta they’re eating but another poor man’s sausage.


Who knows if there was one butcher who invented goetta.    Northern Kentucky, where the delicacy is as or more prevalent than in Cincinnati, has claimed inventor’s status.   But it’s impossible to really pinpoint who’s responsible.   It should be pointed out that Cincinnati, while adapting and uplifting goetta as a pure meat, grain sausage, had also been mispronouncing its delicacy for the last probably century.   We always laughed when my northern Kentucky grandmother exclaimed “now that was some good goowda!!”   She even spelled it how she pronounced it in her mother’s recipe as ‘Guetta’.     We’d always laugh and say Grandma you’re not pronouncing it right, its ‘getta’.”   Well Grandma was actually right .   The German umlauted o, translated into English as ‘oe’ is pronounced with a round on the lips with more of a soft u sound than an o sound.


Again while we can’t really trace the exact origin, we say that goetta like products started showing up in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky meat markets in the 1840s, when Hanoverian, Westphalian, and north German immigrants flooded to Cincinnati leading up to and after the 1848 Revolution.       And, while we can’t necessarily point to the mother of goetta as knipp, grutzwurst, or something else, we can certainly trace the roots from a recipe to one of those in the spices that it uses.     One legacy meat market, Kroeger at Findley Market spices their goetta with cloves and allspice, so it probably can be traced to knipp.     Glier’s goetta is more bay leaf, marjoram, and peppery, so it’s recipe can probably be traced to grutzwurst or a close cousin.   My own grandmother’s recipe, which is actually her mother’s recipe, can be traced to Rheinish-Bavarian immigrants, an area a bit south of Hanover.   Her recipe is spiced more similar to Hanover’s Knipp with clove and allspice, but still has bay leaf.   Her recipe might indicate a mix of both knipp and grutzwurst recipes, due to a marriage back in the family of Northwest Germans to Northeast Germans.


Kentucky might have more hold on the goetta legacy.   They host two goetta festivals throughout the summer – one in Covington’s German Mainstrasse neighborhood, and another in Newport, sponsored by its largest commercial producer, Gliers.     Wherever goetta was invented, it’s culinary tradition runs deep on both sides of the Ohio River.