Take goetta, for example. Originally a traditional German breakfast sausage, it is made with pork, beef, steel-cut oats and herbs and spices. In the city of Cincinnati, it’s widely available in several different varieties, and there’s even a yearly festival that draws tens of thousands to celebrate the product. Outside of Cincinnati…
“You can go 25 miles outside of the city, and people have never heard of it,” comments Daniel Glier, president of Glier’s Meat Inc., headquartered in Covington, Ky. “Within greater Cincinnati, there’s a huge acceptance for the product, largely through the efforts of Glier’s to make the product not disappear. There are some traditional sausages where there wasn’t enough demand for them, and the product disappears off the market.”
Glier’s Meats was started by Glier’s father, who learned the art of sausage making as an apprentice and bought a retail shop with a processing room after leaving the military.
Goetta is traditionally cooked in pans and sliced into loaves. Glier notes that it is a different process from other processed meats, not only because of the grain element, but also because it uses a denatured protein.
“That process involves specialized equipment,” he explains. “Steam-jacketed kettles to start with, along with equipment that I have developed and patented after my dad’s initial forays.”
Glier’s Meats offers the traditional product, but is also has several different flavors.
“We have over the last half-dozen years or so created completely new types of goetta,” he adds. The Great American Ballpark, home of the Cincinnati Reds, sells goetta dogs, for example. While the original product is supposed to crumble apart when heated, Glier’s makes patties that are more stable and can be cooked on the grill in summer months.
“With about a dozen different ways to have goetta, it continues to flourish in the marketplace,” Glier says.
While goetta was processed only between Labor Day and Memorial Day in his father’s time, Glier’s company now produces it year-round. The peak time for goetta does happen to coincide with the slow time for sausage, from around October through April. During that time, goetta can make up about 80 percent of the company’s total sales. In the summertime, items like brats and metts are the most popular sellers.
Specialized bologna, sausage
Sweet bologna is a particular favorite, and Groff’s makes it in several different sizes, from an 18-pound log to snack sticks, says Nancy Groff, secretary/treasurer. Unlike bologna that has a hot-dog pink color, this is red and is made with sugar, hence the name.
“It’s an eastern Pennsylvania favorite,” she says, noting that the company still makes the product in the traditional way. “The sweet bologna is stuffed into muslin bags, and then it’s hung in the smokehouse. When it’s done and you go to slice it, you take the bag off.”
Groff’s Meats sells other items like mincemeat and scrapple to its customers. Mincemeat, which has apples, raisins and spices as ingredients, is a popular holiday seller for use in pies. Scrapple, like goetta, can be cooked as a loaf and cut into slices. Another item, the filled pig’s stomach, is just that â€” a pig’s stomach, with the inner lining removed, and stuffed with sausage, potatoes, onions and parsley.
“People come into our store and buy just the stomachs, or they can buy it filled. We sell it both ways,” says Groff, who’s heard of a similar product called a hogmaw that’s popular in some areas of the Southeast and Midwest.
The more unusual products like goetta or sweet bologna may only be available in a limited region, but even a common item like sausage has plenty of variations from one area of the country to the next.
In the Gulf Coast, one of the most popular sausage processors is Manda Fine Meats, operating out of Baton Rouge, La. The company has a nationwide presence with its deli meats, but “sausage is more of a territorial thing,” says Michael Hamilton, business development. Manda’s niche has been in traditional local favorites, like its green onion pork sausage.
“You can look at retailers and see everything from jalapeno cheddar to apple to all kinds of different things, but we stick to the basics of garlic and green onion,” Hamilton says. While acknowledging that the company would experiment with other flavors if there was enough of a consumer demand, he notes that Louisiana has a love of tradition.
Moving tradition ahead
“Louisiana is known across the world for food, and when you’re in a state known for its food, and you offer the best product out there, you’re doing something right.”
Hamilton says that he has received e-mails from across the country asking if Manda’s product is available locally. The company’s solution has been to expand into more facilities, in order to strengthen its distribution.
Similarly, Groff’s Meats has many fans outside of Pennsylvania, and the company frequently ships orders out of state. It also sells its scrapple to a store in Washington state at certain times of the year.
Groff says that some people find the company online.
“I would say most of our [out-of-state] customers have lived in the area or got it from someone else who’s lived in the area,” she adds.
Glier’s Meats has a strong business selling goetta products to former Cincinnati residents, so much so that the company has brought on a fulfillment agency to handle online orders. Within the Cincinnati area, the company has held an annual Goettafest for the past eight years, with the ninth year scheduled for this August. Along with local vendors, live music and other activities, Glier’s helps introduce about 25 different ways to prepare goetta, including goetta pizza, rubens, grilled chsese and omelets.
“We even had goetta brownies of all things,” Glier says. “It is a stretch, but it’s the novelty that sells.”