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Head Cheese (aka Guetta, Knip…..)

We brought cattle or hogs to be processed at Welch’s Locker in Frankfort.  Probably earlier in their lives, Dad and Mom did their own butchering.  Anyway, there were boney parts like neck bones, etc., that Mom would use to make Guetta.  Remember yesterday when I was talking about Mom and Dad’s pronunciation of words confusing me sometimes?  Well, they made “Guetta” with those neck bones, but I always called it “Gutter” assuming that last “uh” syllable was actually “er”.  At some point, Mom  told us that the American name for this was Head Cheese……I can’t say that sounds any nicer. After cooking up a batch of it, Mom put it in a stone crock and stored it in the cellar outside.  Mom would fix the same thing for breakfast every day until we ran out, then on to something else…like pancakes, that were actually more like crepes.  That’s another story for another time!  When we had Guetta in the cellar, a big batch was spooned out into a big old black frying pan, then heated on the gas stove until it was nice and warm with a brown crust on the bottom.  As people came through the kitchen ready to eat breakfast, you would spoon a batch of it onto a slice of home-made bread….oh, and yes, fresh milk from the morning’s milking that was still a little warm.  

I always had a fondness for the dish, although it was too difficult to explain to people who didn’t understand what it was.  When I lived in McPherson, I once described it to my best friend, Wilma, across the street.  “Oh,” she said, we call that “Knipp”.  She originated from another German Lutheran settlement around Kinsley, KS and she knew exactly what I was talking about.  Except, in their tradition you would put pancake syrup on it!  Ewwwww…….not for me!  

 I’ve researched this a bit on the ‘net, and found recipes from up in Ohio and other German communities.  We have a recipe that uses ground beef and ground pork in it, but the texture isn’t to my liking.  This last winter our son-in-law gave us some neckbones they got when they sent a hog to be processed.  So, my husband tried his hand at making it the old-fashioned way.  Now he knows what I was talking about with the texture thing and he prefers the flavor and texture obtained from boiling boney parts.  Funny thing…..he’s the one that eats this for breakfast when we have it, but his idea is that it isn’t served on bread but has to be accompanied by fried eggs.  He just doesn’t get it!

Here is the recipe from the cookbook that Betty copied on tablet paper, then somehow it got pasted into the cookbook.   I can just picture Betty telling Mom that we needed to have the recipe for this good stuff written down and Mom describing how its made.


Put the head, the heart, the tongue and other left oven meat in a boiler and cover with water.  Cook for at least 4 hours.  Grind the meat. The water that is left over from the meat should have in it – onions, salt, pepper.  Then boil.  Put in oatmeal and cook.  Add meat and cook some more, stirring constantly.  Add more salt if needed.


4 responses »

  1. Well, almost. I grew up in Kensington, and my parents called it Prittles and husband Wendell’s family called it Knip, although Head Cheese was another name. When you have to eat every part of those animals, you figure out ways to make it last and taste good. I wonder if the syrup started to get kids to eat it. But with bread underneath, it really is good that way. Don’t knock it if you ain’t tried it!


    • My Grandparents were of German heritage, and we lived in Cincinnati. Guetta was a special dish in the winter for us. Grandma served it like my Grandpa liked it-with fried eggs and toast. She used a large pork roast, simmered with salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Saving the water, grind the pork, add it back to pot and add pin head (steel cut) oats, cooking until the oats (pop) when chewed, but not soggy. That’s the best way to explain it. Try not to be tempted to add anything else to this recipe. Taste it as you reach the end. Cool and pour into lined or oiled bread pan. Cover an referigerate. Slice, about like bread. Take time frying slowly with not much oil, until brown on both sides. Just work on the proportions that you prefer. It is worth the effort.

  2. I had a discussion with a work colleague of mine that previously was in St. Joseph. Growing up, he lived in Saskatchewan, but his parents were of German origin. He said they called it Head Cheese and he loved it. He recommended keeping the pieces of meat in larger chunks, because it was better that way. He likes going to the German stores and getting some things that are similar. They served something that had duck and orange slices in this gelatinous stuff. It was OK, but I don’t plan on buying it for our family.

    I’d probably eat Head Cheese again if it was served to me, but I don’t plan on going to the stores and looking for it.

  3. Vicki Bergjord

    My mom made head cheese when I was growing up. She used pork roast — bone in only as the meat has more fat, flavor and moisture than boneless. Mom would fry it so there was a crust on it and we ate it with pancakes and never with eggs or on toast. Still love it to this day. My sister is here to visit this week so we decided to try our hand at it. It’s cooling now. Can’t wait to try it.


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