Scrapple is considered to be one of the first original dishes created in the Mid-Atlantic region. It is called Pon Haus in Pennsylvania Dutch which is the region in which the recipe is most commonly associated with. In Pennsylvania it is also referred to as Pannhaas,” “panhoss,” or “pannhas.”
As the name implies, this dish was created as a way of utilizing scrap meat from pork butchering. There is a great injustice associated with this product. It is much maligned by people who are uniformed on the subject. Scrapple does not contain eyeballs, ears, lips and intestines of the pig. It may contain Offal such as liver or lungs, but it is mostly limited to pork trim.
Along the Mid-Atlantic, it is jokingly referred to as “poor man’s pâté,” and in a way it kind of is, although it has more in common with “white pudding,” which is a dish eaten primarily in the United Kingdom and is made with oatmeal rather than cornmeal and rye flours.
The Pennsylvania Dutch is a remarkable ethno-religious people which have created a sort of cuisine within a cuisine, when it comes to regional Mid-Atlantic cooking. Their food is generally much plainer than food in the rest of the region, but this is due to the self-reliant nature of the people who practice this belief.
The spices which were so common in the American spice trade, which ran through Baltimore, while locally convenient, all such luxuries had to be traded and bartered for by the Pennsylvania Dutch. Due to their reclusive nature, which increased more as industrial innovation began to become common place, they did not have access to “exotic” ingredients which were considered to be common only a few miles away.
As the innovations in technology and transport became more common, the Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine remained dependent on local and seasonal ingredients. This dependence has worked to their advantage in recent years as the culinary market for local food has made the Pennsylvania Dutch a coveted supplier to restaurants and hotels in the region.
Pennsylvania Dutch refers to immigrants and their descendants from Alsace, southwestern Germany and Switzerland who settled in Pennsylvania in the 17th and 18th centuries. Historically they have spoken the dialect of German known as Pennsylvania Dutch or Pennsylvania German.
The first major emigration of Germans to America resulted in the founding of the Borough of Germantown in northwest Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania on October 6, 1683. Mass emigration of Palatines began out of Germany in the early 18th century.
The Pennsylvania Dutch maintained numerous religious affiliations, with the greatest number being Lutheran or Reformed, but many Anabaptists as well. The Anabaptist religions promoted a simple lifestyle and their adherents were known as Plain people or Plain Dutch, as opposed to the Fancy Dutch who tended to assimilate more easily into the American mainstream.
Over time, the various dialects spoken by these immigrants fused into a unique dialect known as Pennsylvania Dutch or Pennsylvania German. At one time, over a third of Pennsylvania’s population spoke this language, which also had an impact on the local dialect of English.
After the Second World War, use of Pennsylvania German died out in favor of English, except among the more insular and tradition-bound Anabaptists, such as the Old Order Mennonite and Old Order Amish. However, a number of German cultural practices continue to this day, and German-Americans remain the largest ancestry group in Pennsylvania.
Pork mush or scrapple can be eaten “raw,” which is actually not really raw since it is pre cooked, and is sometimes eaten by impatient children, but most often, it is sliced and dredged in flour and fried in oil until crisp. It is usually served with eggs, but it can also be commonly found in a breakfast sandwich. Most people consider it to be a cholesterol nightmare, but in fact, it is mostly a carbohydrate.
Scrapple is commonly served with catsup, or applesauce, although sour cream is also a common accompaniment. It is said that these are a direct result of the region of Pennsylvania in which you eat it, but you can see any of these things served just about anywhere. Catsup is the most common of all the condiments since it also is served on the side with scrambled eggs.
I don’t have a recipe for scrapple myself, since even though it is on the breakfast menu; it is not something that we make. It is readily available for purchase already made and is a quality product as good as anything you can make yourself. You may have to special order it if you do not live in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Eat, Drink & Be Merry in Maryland
Frederick Philip Stieff
The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore & London, 1932
One jowl and one liver. Boil until it is well done, take out all the bones, run the meat through sausage cutter, then throw it in the water it was boiled in, season with salt, pepper, and sage, thicken with cornmeal the consistency of thin mush, put in pans and slice off to fry. – Mrs. J. Morsell Roberts, Calvert County.
The recipe for scrapple has not really changed much over the years, since it is a product of utilizing scrap meat. The one tip I can give you is the importance of seasoning, since the dish is comprised of so much carbohydrates and flour, the seasoning must be strong. Salt, as well as herbs and spices, must be used in large quantities. You can taste this dish as it is thickening, since it is already well cooked by this point.
Philadelphia Scrapple Croquettes
The Pennsylvania Dutch and their Cookery
J. George Frederick
The Business Bourse, Publishers, 1935
1 Cup Scrapple
½ Cup Cracker or Bread Crumbs
2 Eggs, Hard Boiled
1 Tsp. Minced Parsley
1 Cup Cooked Rice, or Mashed Potatoes
1 Egg, Beaten
In a wooden or earthen bowl, mix well the scrapple, the rice or the potatoes, the hard cooked eggs, chopped fine. Season with parsley etc, shape into croquettes with beaten egg and bread crumbs, fry in deep fat. Serve with horseradish sauce or with fried tomatoes.
In this book there are a myriad of recipes for the uses of scrapple including: Scrapple Cabbage, Bethlehem, Baked Scrapple with Scalloped Potatoes, Scrapple Peppers, Germantown, Scrapple with Pineapple Rings, scrapple with Fried Tomatoes, Scrapple with Fried Peppers, Scrapple with Tomato Sauce, and Scrapple with Spinach. The recipe use scrapple as an ingredient rather than as a recipe for making scrapple so I do not include them here, but it is a book that is worthy of seeking out if you are interested in the history and cookery of the Pennsylvania Dutch.
The Pennsylvania Dutch Cookbook
Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York & London 1948
1 Calf’s Liver
½ Kidney (Optional)
½ Tsp. Sage
Salt And Pepper
The correct way to make scrapple is to boil a lot of pork scraps in the water in which liverwurst is made. Since this can only occur on a farm at butchering time, the way to get around that is to boil the liver and kidney until tender, remove from water, and chop the liver. Chop pork and place in water with the liver. (Skip the liver if you do not want a decided liver flavor.) Simmer until the scraps of meat shred. The drabble cornmeal into the mixture stirring constantly. When the consistency of mush had been achieved, add the sage, salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes longer, stirring constantly to prevent sticking. Pour into pans about 3 inches deep. Cool. Slice and fry lightly.
One of the big differences in scrapple recipes is the use of buckwheat flour. This adds a unique taste to the dish. In the recipe above, only cornmeal is used, this will require more cornmeal as it does not thicken the same way that Buckwheat flour does and will need additional seasoning. This recipe would be great for anyone with a gluten allergy.
Mrs. Kitching’s Smith Island Cookbook
Frances Kitching & Susan Stiles Dowell
Tidewater Publishers, 1981
2 Pounds Pork Liver
1 Pound Lean Salt Pork
1 ½ Cups Flour
1 ½ Cup Cornmeal
1 Tsp. Sage
Cut up meat into cubes. Add to 1 ½ quarts of water. Cook until meat is tender. Drain and Save liquid. Mash meat and add liquid. Sift together dry ingredients and add to mashed meat as it simmers on the stove. Stir constantly to keep from sticking. Pour into baking dish and let stand until gelled. Eat hot or store in the fridge to slice and fry later.
In this version, they use salt pork and a larger quantity of pork liver. Be careful with the liver, as it has a strong flavor and can make the dish taste more like pate than scrapple. Salt pork can be used, but it is hard to puree it into the necessary mush since it has been cured. It will give a good flavor, but the texture will be different in the final product.
Best of the Best from Pennsylvania
Gwen McKee & Barbra Moseley
Quail Ridge Press 1993
1 Pound Pork Pudding Meat
1 Qt. Water or Pork Broth
1 ½ Cups Cornmeal
¼ Cup Buckwheat Flour
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Stir pudding meat into 1 quart seasoned rapidly boiling water or pork broth. When the mixture reaches the boiling point, slowly add the cornmeal and buckwheat flour. Stir continuously until thickened. Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes over low heat. Pour into two 1 pound loaf pans. Cool thoroughly; then refrigerate promptly. When scrapple is set, cut in ⅜ to ½ inch slices and fry in hot, greased skillet. When slices are browned and crusty, turn and brown the other side.
Serve with catsup, syrup or apple butter. A hearty and traditional breakfast dish. Makes 3 – 4 pounds of scrapple.
This is a classic example of a scrapple recipe. Pork pudding meat is pureed pork trim, this can be done in a food processor. The main innovation in the evolution of this dish is the use of machines to pulp the meat. Even 50 years before this, sausage grinders were used, now any number of kitchen tools can be used to achieve the same result with a lot less effort.
The recipe does not make clear if the pork pudding meat is raw or cook, it should be cooked since the liquid used to cook the pork makes a stock which is used in the cooking process.
Pennsylvania Trail of History Cookbook
The Editor’s of Stackpile Books &
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
Stackpile Books, 2004
2 Pigs Hearts
1 ½ Pounds Pig Liver
2 Pounds somewhat Fatty Pork
2 or 3 Pounds Pork Bones (Optional)
1 ½ Cups Flour
1 Cup Buckwheat Flour
3 Cups Yellow Cornmeal
2 Tbsp. Salt
2 Tbsp. Ground Black Pepper
1 ½ Tbsp. Ground Sage (Optional)
Cover meat and bones completely with water in a large pot. Boil for 3 hours. Remove meat and bones, and let cool. Strain the liquid and set aside. Cut off the excess fat and gristle, then grind the meat. Discard bones. Mix together flour and cornmeal. Dissolve a little of the flour mixture into some of the liquid to make a smooth paste. Mix this into the rest of the liquid, add meat and bring to a boil. Take off the heat and stir in the rest of the flour and cornmeal mixture and seasoning. Adjust seasoning to taste. Return to the heat and boil for 30 – 45 minutes, or until very thick. The mixture must be stirred constantly after the cornmeal is added, as it will burn very easily. When a cake tester remains upright in the mixture, pour into bread pans and let cool. After refrigerating overnight, the scrapple will be ready to fry. If it is cooked nice and thick, the scrapple will slice easily and fry up without breaking apart. Fry on both sides with a little lard and butter. You may dip the scrapple into flour before frying. In the Cambria-Somerset county area, scrapple is often topped with maple syrup, jelly or apple butter. In the Lancaster County, where Landis Valley Museum is located, the preferred topping is King Syrup, Molasses or Catsup. Makes 3 – 4 servings.
The biggest problem faced when making scrapple is keeping the slurry moving in the pot, so it does not burn. If it “catches” on the bottom, the resulting burning of the mush will contaminate the flavor of the entire dish; it can’t just be scrapped off. It is similar to making a cream based soup, it is better to take it slow over a low heat than to try to bring it to a boil. This is why the ingredients need to be cooked before the final thickening is done.
Scrapple is a dish that must be experienced before it is written off. Most of the prejudice against this dish is based on complete ignorance. The people, who are the strongest advocates against it, are people who have never tried it.
It is considered to be a first world problem to be picky about the food you eat. In countries where food is a necessity, not a luxury, utilizing every scrap is the difference between eating and starving. This dish was born out of necessity and in the modern world, it should be considered an inexpensive luxury.
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