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!