Food Challenge: Scrapple

Scrapple: (from wiki) also known by the Pennsylvania Dutch name pon haus, is traditionally a mush of pork scraps and trimmings combined with cornmeal and wheat flour, often buckwheat flour, and spices. The mush is formed into a semi-solid congealed loaf, and slices of the scrapple are then pan-fried before serving. Scraps of meat left over from butchering, not used or sold elsewhere, were made into scrapple to avoid waste. Scrapple is best known as a rural American food of the Mid-Atlantic States (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia). Scrapple and pon haus are commonly considered an ethnic food of the Pennsylvania Dutch including the Mennonites and Amish. 

A couple of weeks ago I had been kindly asked to a delicious dinner of cocinita pibil on the back deck of Kate Washington’s beautiful home and two of my fellow dinner guests started to discuss scrapple. They were reminiscing fondly about this dish I had never sampled, as I imagine most of you haven’t, and I remembered that I had seen it in the freezer at Corti Brothers for the low low price of five dollars. I decided to try it, but before I give my first impressions, here are the scrapple memories of Justin Panson and food writer Ann Rolke

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Ann: We often had it for breakfast, fried til crisp on the outside but still soft in the middle. I also ate scrapple and butter sandwiches on Arnold white bread, clearly before anyone had ever thought of cholesterol. Now, when we go visit my parents, we have scrapple fried on the griddle for our first breakfast there and several thereafter. My father is almost 82 and has been eating scrapple like that his whole life. My grandfather was a butcher in Philly and made his own scrapple. I do know what’s it in it, but it’s one of those things I’m just used to at this point. However, I almost never buy it out here or eat it anywhere else than Delaware.

Justin: I am from Pittsburgh, across the state from Philly, so I don’t have primary memories of the stuff. My mom moved to Philly when we were in college. So we’d see it on breakfast menus all around town. It is beloved and also the source of many jokes and eye rolls. Probably similar to Spam.

The only memory I have is once my brother and I went to visit my friend Bob Hyland on the way to Philly for a semester break. That night he and his high school friends had a big “field party” with kegs (think Dazed and Confused). Hyland hooked up with a girl so Andy and I were on our own to get back to Hyland’s parents’ house, wasted and very late. We couldn’t pick out which house it was on this suburban street. And it’s like 3 am so we just slept in the car and sheepishly rang the bell in the morning. His old man was amused and cooked us breakfast featuring scrapple.

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Ann had advised that I slice it thin and fry it crisp, so after thawing it in the fridge I did so in canola oil.  Then, a couple of eggs (keep your judgement about how I fry eggs to yourself, please. I drop them in to hot oil because I like that brown lacing).

 

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In a rush of strong flavor it was salty, gamy and surprisingly more like a polenta meat loaf than I expected. I won’t ever buy it or cook it again, but I would happily order it in a diner the next time I’m in a Mid-Atlantic state. That seems like the way it should be experienced.

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