I’m not sure of the date, though it’ll be sometime after the semester’s grades are turned in and I’ve had a few days to decompress. In the meantime, I’ll be enjoying all things food-related in the Midwest! It’s already mid-February, so I’ll see you in approximately three months, when we’ll be well into spring (although it’s been pretty springlike throughout much of this winter).
In the meantime, enjoy these heritage turkeys. I took this picture at Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa.
I suppose that those of us Americans of relatively recent Germanic vintage of some sort (Germany, Switzerland, Austria) are statistically likelier to have conversations about sausages and wursts than those of some other ethnic background. Granted, I’ve not actually conducted this particular type of combination geographic-linguistic research (but, hey NSF, feel free to send me some monies!) Still, I’m fairly confident that my hypothesis is not only testable, but also reasonably likely to produce my anticipated results. So somewhere on my recent road trip to Iowa and southern Wisconsin, the term “landjaeger (landjäger)” came up in conversation. As in my extolling the smoky virtues of them. As in Mike not ever having eaten one. As we were cruising the back roads south of Madison, seeking (and finding, though closed, Cheese Chalet Coop, the only American plant producing limburger cheese), we stopped at a gas station in Monroe (WI) because my bladder is the size of an acorn. Low and behold, what do I see hanging up by twos like some glorious snack ark getting ready for a 40 day-and-night deluge but landjaegers! I bought a pair (they are typically sold in pairs) and excitedly (very excitedly!) split them between us. How serendipitous!
Speak Softly and Carry a Meat Stick
For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of indulging in one of these (and are omnivores), a landjaeger is a meat snack. Like lottery machines and cigarettes, meat snacks are a mainstay of convenience stores (Slim Jims™ is perhaps the most well known). But landjaegers aren’t mere meat sticks. For one thing, they aren’t as well known outside of certain regions with large populations of Germanic ancestry; this is unlike beef jerky (which seems to be ubiquitous). Therefore, they are likelier to be produced locally (and, by extension, have a smaller market area). And they are often made by real butchers instead of in giant factories. Landjaegers are created with beef and pork, salt and spices, and smoke. The smokiness is integral to the landjaeger. You see, these babies are cooked/smoked and dried, making them shelf-stable and free from the need for refrigeration. That’s why I found them hanging next to the cash register at the Monroe BP station.
Landjaeger, directly translated, means “country (land) hunter(jäger)”, perhaps owing to its popularity with hunters or others about to spend a lot of time outdoors. Certainly hunters (or hikers or long-distance cyclists) would find these to be delicious yet portable snacks. But no need to go outside—enjoy them indoors (or on a country drive in Wisconsin!)
Zuber’s and Ruef’s
So, my first Wisconsin landjaeger was made by Zuber’s Meats of Monroe Wisconsin. Now that was definitely local, given that we’d stopped at a Monroe gas station. We enjoyed them as we drove on to New Glarus Brewing for an afternoon beer. In the über-Swiss town of New Glarus itself, we stopped at Ruef’s Meat Market, hoping to find more landjaegers, as we’d eaten the two purchased earlier. Alas, there weren’t any. But as luck would have it, another customer told us they often had a few extra in the back. We asked and were rewarded with some Ruef’s landjaegers. And, as luck would have it again, a stop at a gas station the next day yielded some more Zuber’s landjaegers. More souvenirs to add to my collection of fourteen Wisconsin cheeses, several liqueurs, and a couple of cookbooks!
Want Your Own?
If you have a German butcher or delicatessen in your neighborhood, see if they carry them. But if not, Zuber’s and Ruef’s do ship landjaegers. Because these babies are cooked, they can be mailed to your home.
The heading is the answer to “what does the sheep say”. Well, it’s ONE of the answers! Another answer is “ try my delicious cheese”! Sheeps milk is one of the Big Three in the cheesemaking world (the others being cow and goat). Indeed, many fine (and well known) cheeses are the product of Ovis Aries, including Pecorino Romano, feta, Roquefort, Manchego. These are readily available in grocery stores, even in the small city in which I live. What IS more difficult to source, though, is fresh sheep’s milk cheese, even in places like my semi-local Whole Foods in Indianapolis.
Fresh chèvre, the caprine (read: goat) white log of spreadable cheese, seems to have exploded in popularity within the past 10-15 years, going from exotic ingredient to supermarket mainstay. While not as ubiquitous as Slim Jims at a convenience store, fresh goat cheese has become so common that I can find multiple brands in my Muncie grocery stores. And I hardly live in a bastion of gastronomic innovation. But fresh sheep’s milk cheese? Nope.
Landmark Creamery’s Petit Nuage
On a recent food landscape exploration road trip to eastern Iowa and southern Wisconsin, I discovered Landmark Creamery’s Petit Nuage (or rather the wonderful staff at Fromagination helped me discover it). “Nuage” means “cloud” in French, and this little cloud is aptly named. Sold in a four-pack of crottin-sized, 1-oz. (28 g) buttons, Petit Nuage has a crisp, bright flavor underscored with grassiness. It’s mild flavor pairs well with berries and fresh herbs like parsley or chives. As a breakfast treat, I’ve enjoyed it drizzled with a mild honey (such as dandelion); avoid matching this with an assertive honey, which would overwhelm the cheese flavor. The cheese is smooth and spreadable, with a (very) slight granularity that add some real textural interest. I imagine this cheese would work well in salads, slightly warmed, though I’ve not tried that yet. Petit Nuage is a seasonal offering from Landmark, available from February to October.
About Landmark Creamery
Landmark Creamery is a relatively new operation, the owners having met each other only in 2009. The two owners (or two Annas) are women, Anna Landmark and Anna Thomas Bates. According to their website, they met at a potluck for a group of women in sustainable agriculture. This serendipitous meeting grew into a cheesemaking operation!
Landmark Creamery also makes a couple of other cheeses, such as Anabasque (an aged sheep milk cheese). Indeed, that particular cheese is on my dinner menu for tonight. I sampled Anabasque at Fromagination and was taken with that offering as well. Sadly, I don’t believe either cheese is available in Indiana yet, so I’ll have to consider a return trip to Wisconsin!
Don’t forget to bring your cheeses (Petit Nuage or any other cheese) to room temperature before enjoying them. Taking them out about an hour before you plan to serve them should suffice, assuming your house isn’t refrigerator-cold. Serve cheese too cold and you risk suppressing the flavors, losing your ability to taste the complexity of various cheese.
As promised, I’ve got some instructions on cooking goetta as well as a recipe in which goetta is the ingredient but not necessarily the star.
The key to cooking goetta is creating a crispy, but not burnt, exterior but without a mushy interior. I confess to being a bit of a neophyte, so you may have some goetta-tastic friends rolling their eyes at my instructions. Probably best to listen to them, not me!
You’ll need to cut up the goetta first into half-inch (1.25 cm) slices. I’m using some Glier’s goetta here.
Then you’ll need to heat up your pan. Ideally you’d like to start with a hot, non-stick pan, so a well seasoned cast iron pan would be ideal. I do not have that. Instead, I used a non-stick pan, which I don’t place on a burner while it’s empty. Thus for me, I use some oil (neutral oil, such as grapeseed). There are those who consider adding oil sacrilege, while others have no such qualms. I know this, because I asked Dr. Google (she knows everything). So, I do add oil.
Next, when the pan (with or without oil) is hot, I add the slices o’ goodness. Cook for a bit (say 2-5 minutes) over medium heat until one side is brown and crispy, but not burnt. Flip and cook the second side; this will take less time (about 2-3 minutes). Remove from heat and start with the next batch (adding a little oil if necessary). Repeat until you’ve cooked as much goetta as you want.
A Recipe for Goetta Grilled Cheese
Goetta is delicious on its own, breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. But goetta-as-ingredient is, as Martha Stewart would say, a Good Thing. So, I’m adding goetta to a grilled cheese sandwich here. This is delicious and simple. Ingredients are for one sandwich, so double if making two.
What You’ll Need
nonstick skillet or seasoned cast iron pan
box grater for shredding cheese (or food processor, if you are making multiple sandwiches)
knife for spreading butter
scale to weigh shredded cheese
board for assembling sandwich
2 slices sturdy white sandwich bread, not the overly squishy variety, but some that has a bit of heft; do NOT substitute fancy country loaves—this is not the time to use your finest wood-fired artisan bread!
1.5 oz 1 shredded Gruyere or Comte cheese (if unavailable, use a nutty Swiss cheese); this is about 1/3 to ½ cup
0.5 oz shredded smoked Gouda cheese (about 2-3 tablespoons)
unsalted butter, softened (there’s plenty of salt in the goetta and cheese, so do use unsalted if possible
1-2 slices cooked goetta (2 slices of Glier’s works for me, but you might only need 1 slice from the rectangular Eckerlin’s or Mike’s loaves)
How to Make the Goetta Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Read the recipe. Seriously. You don’t want to be half-way through, only to realize that you needed butter. Read through the recipe now.
Assemble your ingredients. This is called mise en place, a French term for putting everything in place. Do this before you begin to cook ANYTHING.
Okay, we are ready now. Butter ONE side of EACH piece of bread.
Flip ONE bread slice over and place about 2/3 of the Gruyere on top of the unbuttered side.
Place the cooked goetta on top of the Gruyere. You may have to chop a piece to fit onto the bread.
Top the goetta with the rest of the Gruyere and add the smoked Gouda on top of it.
Melt some butter in a nonstick skillet or seasoned cast iron pan over medium-low heat. You don’t want the heat too high, because you don’t want to burn the bread before the cheese melts. .
After melting the butter, place the sandwich in the pan, pressing down with a spatula.
Cook until the bottom is crispy and golden brown, but not burnt.
Carefully flip the sandwich over and cook until the second side is golden brown.
About a year or so ago, I was introduced to goetta (pronounced get-tuh, rhymes with meta), a type of breakfast sausage-combination-amalgamation-thing with its roots in Cincinnati’s German immigrant population. I’d heard of this semi-mythical gastronomic beast but, living in Hoosier Land, a two-and-a-half hour drive away from the Queen City epicenter, I’d never partaken of so much as a crispy, crunchy crumb of the stuff. It wasn’t (and to my knowledge, still isn’t) available in my local grocery stores.1 So leave it to a new relationship and an invitation to a Goettoberfest to initiate me in the Ways of the Goettarati.
As a mixture of meat and grain, goetta has been compared to scrapple, that morning mush featured as part of Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine. Certainly, similarities stand out—both contain some combination of meat, grain, and spices. Both share a German-American lineage. And both are an expression of creative frugality. But they are clearly two different kinds of treats.
So, What Is Goetta, Exactly?
Goetta, which combines ground pork, often pork shoulder (sometimes with ground beef), pinhead or steel-cut oats, and seasonings, was, historically, a way to stretch meat into multiple meals. In that sense, it served as a testament to immigrant frugality. Typically formed into a log or rectangular loaf, it’s sliced thin and then fried so that the exterior becomes crisp. Although goetta is most often deemed a breakfast treat, culinary creatives pushing the envelope incorporate it into other recipes (goetta pizza, anyone?).
Goetta’s closest relative may be the aforementioned scrapple, the Pennsylvania Dutch2 dish. Scrapple mixes porks bits (including offal), cornmeal, and spices, so there is that meat-grain similarity. It, too, is sliced thin and fried. But the grains are different, as is the origin of Germans behind these dishes. The revolutions of 1848 that brought many Germans to the United States served as the impetus of many of Cincinnati’s immigrants relocations, whereas the Pennsylvania Dutch primarily stem from the Protestant religious refugees of the Rhineland-Palatinate, southwestern Germany, and Switzerland during an earlier period. Additionally, the textures differ. Scrapple is fine-grained, whereas goetta is coarser and crumblier. Still, one cannot deny the correlation between scrapple and goetta.
Sources of Goetta
The Greater Cincinnati area (which includes not only the Queen City herself, but surrounding counties, including some in Indiana and Kentucky), is Goetta Central. A number of producers supply the goetta-loving public and, having tried three of them, the recipes are like snowflakes—no two are alike. The standard (and most ubiquitous in supermarkets) is Glier’s, which comes in a tube. I’ve also had Eckerlin’s (from Cincinnati’s Findlay Market), which seems spicier and pepper-ier, as well as Mike’s (also acquired at Findlay Market), which has a more pure pork flavor. I enjoyed all three and wouldn’t turn any of them down. If you’re up for a challenge, you can even make your own (which I will, some day!). Until then, I’ll happily indulge in those available commercially.
On Deck: Cooking Goetta and a Recipe for Goetta Grilled Cheese
In the next week or so, I’ll be posting some instructions on cooking goetta, as well as a recipe for goetta grilled cheese. With pictures!
1On June 16th, I checked both my local Marsh supermarket and my local Meijer superstore, neither of which currently carries goetta 2The proper term is actually Pennsylvania German, as “Dutch” is a corruption of “Deutsch”, aka German in German.