Prettles, Yet Another Goetta Cousin from Northwest Ohio German Immigrants

prettles

A pan of Henry County, Ohio, prettles, a first cousin to our Cincinnati Goetta.

Yesterday, I received two comments on my Kansas Pruttles blog, by folks from Henry County, Ohio.     That’s the county in the area of Toledo, Ohio.      They both spoke of this Germanic dish both of their families made in the area around Napoleon, Ohio, growing up in the 1950s, called prettles.  It consists of pork, spices, and pinhead or regular oats – a close first cousin of our goetta.    Now we can connect  the “Interstate 75 Goetta Cousin Trail”  from Cincinnati’s Goetta, to Minster’s Grits in middle Ohio, and to Henry County’s Prettles, in northwest Ohio.

Prettles is prepared a bit differently than our goetta, even though the ingredients are the same.  Instead of putting it in a crock pot or large pot, the meat and oats are cooked separately and then mixed together, before baking on a sheet pan.   Sometimes, they’re made into patties and frozen.    Goetta is typically poured into bread pans and cooled, frozen, and cut into slabs to be fried.    Prettles is fried, but its in more loose form and eaten on toast.  Sometimes, like our goetta, it’s dressed with a sweet syrup like molasses or sorghum or ketchup.

The cool thing about Henry County is that we can tie prettles to a very specific region in the Germanic kingdoms.    Most of the Germanic immigrants in Henry County, Ohio, came from an area called Visselhovede or Walsrode, a small farming community in the northern German lowlands,  generally between Bremen and Hamburg.

My father’s family come from upper Mecklenburg, next door to this area.    An old German electrician at my first plant job out of college called me ‘Klaudeitsch’, when I told him of my family’s origin.   When I asked him what it meant he said. “See how big your feet are?  That’s so you don’t sink into the marshland.  And see how tall you are?  That’s so if you do, you can still yell as you are sinking to be rescued!”

Similar to the low lying farm country of Westphalia and Hanover where our goetta originated, the German patronymic farming system left the younger relatives without any land, as bauer  or farmhands who worked for their oldest brother, had to ask to get married and were basically serfs.   This predicament sent many of them packing to America.

These lowland Germanic immigrants of Henry County, spoke low German, and were mostly Lutherans.     They  turned what was then called Ohio’s great black swamp into fertile farmgrounds,  into a mirror of their fatherland.

The Henry County Historical Society interviewed several old retired farmers born in the 1930s for an oral history project and they all mentioned that their families made prettles (along with blood sausage and schwartenmagen or ‘head cheese’) at the time of hog butchering.

A butcher, Herm’s Meats in Napoleon, Ohio, makes two types of prettles by request, and a whole host of German sausages.     They make the typical pork and beef, and then one made only with beef shank and beef heart.   The current owner of Herm’s says that the pork makes a richer broth for the prettles.    Herman Bischoff started the business in 1964, so he could provide the German meats like prettles, that he had in his youth, but were no longer available.

There are two restaurants in Napoleon that serve the local delicacy on their breakfast menus as a ‘choice of meat’ with eggs – Spangler’s and Big G’s – and one truck stop about 5 miles out of town.    But travel 20 miles out in either direction from Napoleon and you won’t find prettles.

While prettles is eaten today in the homes of those of Germanic ancestry in Napoleon, Defiance, and Archibald, Ohio, it’s also eaten in Putnam County, just south of Henry County, and can still be found at Holgate Market in that area.

Hamler, Ohio, in Henry County is famous for late July Summerfest, where 25,000 people ascend to polka dance and eat sausages and prettles.

hamler

24 thoughts on “Prettles, Yet Another Goetta Cousin from Northwest Ohio German Immigrants

  1. I’m from Henry County. I’m familiar with Here’s, and I remember my Grandmother boiling down a Hog head for her prettles. I still make them. I will add beef to my pork, and I have never had them cooked loosely. Always in a loaf, and cut as slabs. Never baked on a sheet. I think it might have been the Cook’s choice. I lived in Cincinnati for a while, always thought Goetta and Prettles were the same….

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    • Nancy, prettles are for sale at Herm’s Market. It is located on St. Rt. 108 across the street from Henry County Fairgrounds. My mom also made her own prettles while we were growing up. Now she buys them from Herm’s.

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  2. I, too, was from Henry County and now live in Cincinnati. I think the spices for Goetta are different and locally, most include onion as well as the pin oats and pork. I agree with Kim M. that Prettles are formed in a loaf and then sliced and fried. One spelling correction – the village north of Napoleon is ARCHBOLD. And there is another source for prettles – Brookview Farms, located in the northern part of Henry County on Road 24, south of Archbold. https://www.brookviewfarmmeats.com/

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  3. I grew up in Henry County and both grandmothers would make pretties for me as a child. I loved them! My maternal grandmother would cook them in a skillet loosely similar to browning hamburger and serve them on a slice of toast. My paternal grandmother cook them longer like a pattie and serve them on their own or with toast. I’ll have to grab some at Hern’s the next time I come through Napoleon. (Both set of my grandparents traced their ancestry to Germany.)

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    • Just came across this site. Your last name piqued my interest! Very interesting. My grandparents made prettles. My great grandma was Ida Rohrs who married John Hahn.. they came from Germany as young children. Anyway I didn’t know them very well but my grandparents made prettles! ( Rev. Arnold and Dorothy Hahn.. he pastored St. John’s Lutheran at Rt. 1 Stryker, OH ) I can smell prettles cooking now!! I had no idea anyone else knew about them. Westerville is a bit of a drive, but we might go to Herm’s in the spring! Outside of our home I never heard of the word “prettles”.

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    • Are you related to John Rohrs who married Terry (Bostelman) Rohrs? I have him on my family tree as the husband of 2nd cousin 1x removed (whatever that means!)

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  4. This sure brings back memories of my grandparents, Arnold and Dorothy Hahn. He was a German Lutheran pastor born in Northwest Ohio.( He was pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Stryker, Ohio )They used to make prettles!! I always wondered about the recipe and I am glad to see it. I didn’t think anybody knew what they were! LOL thank you so much… I look forward to trying it. The memories of my grandparents are washing over me as I read about these prettles. Tammy Fankhauser Odell

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  5. so excited to find this article . I grew up in Napoleon in the 60’s and 70’s Prettles were a staple on our family farm. I moved to Alaska in the 80’s and missed having prettles in the freezer after a long search I found my Aunt Gerties recipe and gave it a try . The smell in my cabin was heavenly as it cooked
    so thankful my grandchildren will share this wonderful food.

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  6. My Grandma Bostelman made prettles. After moving to California, I once mentioned this dish to someone and they just stared at me blankly and finally asked, “WTF are you talking about?!” I then doubted my own memory, because I was so young at the time, and so grabbed the phone, called her, and she explained the recipe and how they were made. Anyone who knew her would not be surprised to learn that the phone call went ON and ON and ON. She loved that telephone, even despite the party line. I also had to explain that phenomena to people here! Yes, we counted the number of rings…more blank stares.

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    • My father-in-law hailed from Henry County, OH where his mother Pauline made prettles in the oven following the hog butchering. I believe her maternal grandparents’ name was Bostelman(n), Henry J. and so possibly related. The prettles recipe is a breakfast favorite and something I had made a batch of earlier this week using ground pork and venison with the groats and spices.

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      • Do you know whether you are related to Henry J. Bostelman? Possibly he was a brother-in-law, but any information about your Bostelman relations might be helpful to a possible connection…besides prettles! And if you talk to your grandma, you can ask her if she remembers Pauline and August Huener.

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      • Hey Cindy! So I checked my family tree and I see three Henry Bostelman’s, but no mention of a Huener. Unfortunately, my grandma died in 2011, so I’m not able to ask her. I remember her talking about how the Bostelmann’s were not related directly. My research would support that, for I have yet to find one relative with the alternate spelling.

        I don’t have any information about the three Henry Bostelman’s possible spouses. Here is what I have (from oldest to youngest):

        1) Henry Bostelman (1845-?) – son of Carl or Cord Bostelman (1800-?) and Mary (Korte) Bostelman (1800-1877).

        2) Henry Bostelman (1871-?) – son of Frederick J Bostelman (1835-1914) and Catherine (Ottens) Bostelman (1838-1874).

        3) Henry John Bostelman (1900-1976) – son of Johann “Herman” Heinrich Bostelman (1865-1926). He was married three times to Anna (Eitzman) Bostelman (1870-1894); Rosina (Spieth) Bostelman (1870-1890); and Dorthea “Dora” (Staub) Bostelman (1874-1964).

        Finally, I’ll ask her daughter (my aunt) Connie (Bostelman) Musshel for any more information.

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      • Thank you for your family research. I discovered that our Henry J. was born in Hanover in 1852 and his death was in 1940. Must be a lot of Henry Bs out there. Grandma’s maiden name was Tadsen, so I guess that Prettles are our only relationship, but a good one to claim, nonetheless. Sorry that your Gma is no longer here; am wondering if she lived in Henry County Ohio where prettles are a popular dish.

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      • Prettles are a great thing to have in common! We have several relatives from Hanover, so who knows?! Yes, my Grandma Bostelman lived in Henry County on her farm. Perhaps our paths have crossed in the far past? When I was a young kid, she used to drag me to the Polka Festival and Germanfest nearly every year, although I missed the year that a tornado collapsed the tents on top of people.

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