Scrapple, love it or hate it, it’s very Pennsylvania — Pennsylvania Dutch in particular.
This regional favorite is found as easily in the Coal Region of Northeastern Pennsylvania as it is in the middle of PA Dutch country in the south-central portion of the state and around the Philadelphie area. Many a “coalcracker” breakfast starts with some pieces of scrapple on the plate.
I happen to love it, although I am particular about my way of preparing it; I like it sliced thin and fried crispy. The outside must have some crunch or I’m not a happy camper.
I ordered scrapple in a local cafe here in Johnstown a few months ago. I was really hungry for it; my husband is not a fan, so rather than cook it for myself at home, I thought I’d treat myself and let someone else do the work.
Worst mistake. Ever.
It arrived looking doubtful — there was no “golden brown and delicious” to be seen. My worst fears were quickly realized as I squished through the grayish slabs with the edge of my fork. Tentatively, I placed some in my mouth and a tear fell from the corner of my eye. “Yuck.” is the most polite word I could muster to describe it (it is a family restaurant and there were kids around…).
Apparently it had hit the flat top just long enough to be warmed through then found its way to my plate to accompany the eggs and hash browns to the table. My husband held his words in check, but he surely must have been thinking, “Enough already.” as, between every bite of something off the plate I exclaimed, “OMG, I am going to roll right back in that kitchen and teach that cook that this is NOT the way to do scrapple!”
I ate it — I was really hungry. I camouflaged it covered with bites of dippy eggs (sunny side up eggs), toast, home fries and a ton of maple syrup with a squirt of ketchup thrown on for a little extra help. But from now on — I cook my own at home!
A little history
Scrapple came to Pennsylvania thanks to German immigrants now known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. In Germany, it was called panhas, pawnhos, or pan haas, meaning “pan rabbit.”
Created in the form of a loaf, scrapple is parts of a pig (pork), cooked then thickened with cornmeal or buckwheat usually spiced with at least sage and black pepper. Once cool and firm, the loaf is sliced, the slices are dredged in seasoned flour, and then pan fried in some really tasty grease like bacon drippings, butter, or lard (but you can use vegetable oil, too).
Most often found as a breakfast dish, scrapple is not relegated to that meal alone and there are other creative ways to serve it, like my recipe for Scrapple Croquettes with Horseradish Sauce.
How a diner chooses to adorn scrapple for their consumption is as individual as that diner; some people choose maple or table syrup, others apple butter, some like ketchup, hot sauce, even jelly; some are purists and like it plain. However you like it is fine with me; there will be no food-shaming in this coalcracker kitchen.
Waste not, want not
The making of scrapple traces its roots back to the sixteenth century and the annual butchering of hogs. Although parts of the pig became hams, sausages or bacon, the remainder was put to use for things like scrapple and blood puddings.
In a frugal society often facing harsh conditions, survival depended on using every resource available and nothing on a butchered pig was left go to waste that could be used in some way. We like to say that we Dutchies use “everything but the oink,”
Even though many recipes now use cornmeal only as the thickener for the scrapple loaf, the traditional scrapple of Germany did not because cornmeal was not available in Europe at that time.
Origins of the Name
Food historian William Woys Weaver has argued that “scrapple” was a conflation of the German word panhaskroppel, which literally meant “slice of panhas”, and the English word scrapple, which referred to leftovers and to spade-shaped kitchen implements. Others have said that English-speakers came up with the name scrapple as they conjured up images of a product made with leftovers that were otherwise suspect. The “scrap” in scrapple does not mean low-quality parts, but merely what had not been used in making other foods, like sausage. (Source: philadelphiaencyclopedia.org)
This recipe uses liver as one of the ingredients. I have another recipe for homemade scrapple on my blog that does not. This recipe is from a community cookbook in my files and, though a bit more ingredients are involved than some recipes you find elsewhere, it yields a very tasty scrapple.
So try your hand at making scrapple. There is no need to butcher your own hog; nowadays everything you need to make some tasty scrapple in your own kitchen is easily obtained from the grocery store!
Pennsylvania ScrappleCourse: Entree, BreakfastCuisine: PA Dutch, Coal RegionDifficulty: Intermediate
2 pounds ground lean pork
1 pound beef liver
1 cup buckwheat flour
3 cups yellow cornmeal
4 Tablespoons salt
4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons rubbed sage
2 teaspoons ground mace
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground thyme
2 teaspoons sweet marjoram
3 quarts of water
- Generously grease 3 or 4 9 x 5 inch loaf pans or loaf pans the size of your choice. Set aside.
- Place the 3 quarts water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add the liver and boil for 10 minutes. Remove the liver and chop quite fine using a food processor or by hand with a sharp knife.
- Return the chopped liver to the pot. Add the ground pork a few pinches at a time while stirring to avoid clumping of the pork; break up any chunks. Simmer for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, place the buckwheat flour, cornmeal, salt, and spices: stir together well. After the pork simmers 20 minutes, add this flour mixture to the simmering broth, sprinkling it in gradually, stirring constantly.
- Simmer gently for 1 hour on the lowest heat possible, stirring frequently. as the mixture scorches easily.
- Pour into the greased loaf pans. This recipe makes about 4 9 x 5 pans.
- Bounce the pans sharply on the counter a couple of times so that the scrapple settles and packs in, then let it cool completely. Remove the scrapple from the pans by flipping it out and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator or freeze.
- To serve, slice scrapple into thin slices, dust in seasoned flour, and fry in hot fat (lard, bacon grease, butter, oil, etc.) slowly until golden brown and crisp on one side, turn over and fry to golden brown and crisp on the other side.
- Recipe adapted from Grandma’s Recipe Box Cookbook