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!