I’ve spoken about the north German roots of goetta, descending from peasant grain sausages like Knipp, panhass, and pinkelwurst. But I’ve not yet discussed the one product that has actually evolved locally from goetta. This is a product called ‘grotta’, that as far as I can tell is made from one company in Batavia, Ohio, called Jump N Joe, which is the brand under which it’s sold.
Basically grotta is vegan goetta – its goetta without the meat. It’s sold in an encased roll like Glier’s goetta. And, it still has the same steel cut oats consistency, onions, and spices, but without the animal fat. The only difference is that grotta contains cornmeal in addition to the pinhead oats, which is not in goetta, and thus gives it a different mealy texture than most goetta afficianados would expect. It also kind of makes it more like a savory polenta. I do remember my dad bringing it home as a test for us kids one Sunday, saying it was something similar to goetta, but without the meat. Even as kids, my brother and sister and I thought, ”Goetta without the meat, that’s gross, it’s just like frying cream of wheat!” And it was just like fried porridge for us. That one Sunday was the last time grotta was brought into our household, it was never spoken of again, and the world became normal once more.
The company, Jump N Joe, originally started in 1952 with its own goetta product, but changed in 1965 to offer only its meatless grotta formula. It has long promoted the benefits of its less fatty, goetta-like product, and gives nutritional information on its website. For the growing number of vegans who grew up on goetta, grotta offers the ability to connect with the past, without breaking their food mantras.
I ran into it on the meat shelves at Jungle Jim’s in Fairfield, but it’s also available at many Kroger and Remke supermarkets in the Greater Cincinnati. Unfortunately, it’s less widely known in the area, there are no Grottafests or a large amount of consumer marketing. It is also available and served at the hipster vegan store in Over-the-Rhine, called Park + Vine.
While I do respect the fact that someone has made a business out of a healthier or vegan form of our ancestral comfort food, I much prefer Shoshana Haffner’s vegetarian goetta at the old Honey’s Restaurant in Northside. It tasted more like goetta than grotta, and also didn’t contain cornmeal, so the texture was more goetta-like too. Sadly, Honey’s is no longer and Shoshana’s vegetarian goetta is just a memory.