Scrapple is one of those regional American favorites that remain a mystery to outsiders. You’ll find it in the mid-Atlantic states. Scrapple is a hog-parts mush formed into solid blocks, or logs, sliced, floured lightly and fried in fat. I first had it in Maryland in the early 1970s and have been wild about it since.
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One of the great regional foods of America, you’ll find it also in northern Virginia, eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware and southern New Jersey. Scrapple is made from leftover parts of hog processing, including offal such as the head, heart, liver and other innards that are boiled, bones and all, for the extraction of any gelatin. The edible matter is separated from the inedible and the meat is mixed with cornmeal and made into a mush with seasonings such as sage, thyme, savory, black pepper and salt. It is then solidified and stored.
It’s often described as Pennsylvania Dutch, but this is a misnomer. In fact, the expression is incorrect as the Dutch never settled in Pennsylvania but rather in New York. It began as a misunderstanding of the original German settlers who were the Pennsylvania Deutsch (Pennsylvania Germans). The earliest record of German settlement in Pennsylvania is in 1683 when a group of Quakers and Mennonites from the Rhineland founded the hamlet of Germantown.
These were mostly poor farmers seeking refuge from the Thirty Years’ War in America and afforded passage as indentured servants for the most part.
Their hardscrabble lives in 17th-century Pennsylvania meant everything had to be used including the scraps of the pig slaughter, probably giving scrapple its name.
Scrapple is related to its German precursor, panhas, a kind of pudding-wurst, but probably got its English name, scrapple, in the mid-19th century from the word scraps. It’s usually dredged in flour so it will hold together when frying and develop a crispy brown crust. Scrapple is fried in butter or pork lard and eaten for breakfast with eggs. All kinds of things can accompany it, such as applesauce, grape jelly, ketchup, horseradish or mustard. Scrapple is hard to find outside of the mid-Atlantic, but both the Rapa Scrapple company and Habbersett scrapple company provide store locators, and it can be bought on Amazon too, although in amounts that might last you years.
¼ cup unsalted butter or pork lard
½ pound scrapple, cut into slices about ½-inch thick
All-purpose flour for dredging
1. In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.
2. Dredge the scrapple slices in flour, tapping off any excess.
3. Lay the scrapple in the skillet and cook, turning once, until both sides are crispy brown in about 5 minutes. Serve hot.
Top photo: Scrapple and an egg. Credit: Clifford A. Wright