Know Ohio: Ohio's Odd Foods

GABE: WITH THANKSGIVING JUST AROUND THE CORNER MY BELLY IS RUMBLING AND MY MOUTH IS WATERING. AS IT HAPPENS OHIO HAS SOME ODD DISHES THAT JUST MIGHT SLIP THEIR WAY ONTO YOUR TABLE THIS HOLIDAY AND THEY CAN TELL US A LOT ABOUT OUR STATE’S HISTORY.

TAKE THIS DISH FOR EXAMPLE. CINCINNATI CHILI- YOU EITHER LOVE IT OR HATE IT, BUT NO MATTER WHAT IT IS ICONICALLY OHIOAN. IT’S A MEAT AND TOMATO SAUCE WITH A MIX OF SPICES INCLUDING CINNAMON, CUMIN AND CHILI PEPPER. TRADITIONALLY IT IS SERVED ON SPAGHETTI WITH CHEESE, ONIONS OR BEANS. NOW THAT’S A STRANGE MIX!

THE DISH ORIGINATED IN GUESS WHERE? UH YEP CINCINNATI. IN THE 1920’S TWO BROTHERS MOVED HERE FROM MACEDONIA IN SOUTHEAST EUROPE. TOM AND JOHN KIRADJIEFF (KEARA-GEE-EFF) OPENED THEIR EMPRESS CHILI PARLOR NEXT TO A THEATER WHEN THEY MOVED HERE. THEIR FOOD SENSATION STARTED AS A MEDITERRANEAN STEW, BUT THEY SOON ADAPTED IT TO THE TASTES OF AMERICAN CUSTOMERS- ADDING THE PASTA UNDERNEATH AND THE CHEESE ON THE TOP.

NOW THERE ARE CHILI PARLORS ALL AROUND CINCINNATI – ONE OF THE MOST RECOGNIZABLE, SKYLINE CHILI, WAS STARTED BY A FORMER EMPRESS EMPLOYEE.

IMMIGRANTS TO OHIO TWEAKED OTHER RECIPES TOO LIKE SAUERKRAUT BALLS. THESE ROUND APPETIZERS ARE FOUND ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY IN AKRON WHERE THEY WERE INVENTED.

THEY’RE A MIX OF GROUND MEAT AND SOUR CABBAGE THAT IS BREADED AND DEEP FRIED. NO ONE HAS LAID CLAIM TO BEING THE FIRST TO MAKE THESE TREATS, BUT THEY WERE MOST LIKELY INVENTED BY GERMAN IMMIGRANTS WHO IN THE 1920S AND 1930S MADE UP MOST OF THE POPULATION THERE.

DESPITE DATING BACK TO AT LEAST THE 1960’S SAUERKRAUT BALLS HAVEN’T GAINED MUCH POPULARITY, THEY JUST SEEM TO ROLL AROUND AKRON AND THAT’S FINE WITH THE FOLKS THERE.

A POLISH IMMIGRANT IS BEHIND A BIG CLEVELAND CONDIMENT CRAZY. BASEBALL FANS KNOW THAT NO INDIANS GAME IS COMPLETE WITHOUT A HOTDOG COVERED IN BERTMAN BALL PARK MUSTARD.

JOSEPH BERTMAN MOVED TO CLEVELAND IN 1902. WHEN HE WAS JUST 19 HE BEGAN A PICKLE COMPANY THAT SOON GREW TO SELL OTHER PRODUCTS LIKE BARBEQUE SAUCE, SLICED PINEAPPLE AND IN 1921 THE ICONIC MUSTARD.

IT IS MADE WITH VINEGAR, BROWN MUSTARD AND SPICES. BERTMAN DEVISED THE EXACT RECIPE IN HIS CLEVELAND GARAGE AND WOULD DELIVER IT TO STADIUMS AROUND THE CITY. FROM PICKLES TO BALL PARKS – LIKE MANY IMMIGRANT ENTREPRENEURS THIS GUY KNEW HOW TO GROW A BUSINESS!

OKAY SO MAYBE YOU WON’T HAVE CINCINNATI CHILI OR SAUERKRAUT BALLS ON TURKEY DAY, BUT AN OHIOAN CAN DREAM CAN’T THEY?


Find Out More


Website Article: Food Timeline, Ohio | Learn more about Ohio food history

Newspaper Article: The Columbus Dispatch, Swiss Cheese, Tomatoes Among Ohio’s Contributions to American Cuisine, September 22, 2015. | More famous Ohio foods

Website Article: Food Reference, Ohio Food Trivia and Facts

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