Scrapple is something I’ve been coming to terms with since first being introduced to it by my wife some 20 years ago. If you’re from within a 100 mile radius of Philadelphia there is no time you weren’t aware of scrapple and in fact, a life without it may seem inconceivable.
Scrapple dates back to the 17th century German colonists who settled near Philadelphia, otherwise known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. Fun Fact; Dutch in this case refers to immigrants from west central Germany, not people from The Netherlands or their culture. Besides a general distaste for modern technology and a stellar barn raising ethic, the Pennsylvania Dutch also brought with them the recipe for scrapple. Typically served only with breakfast, scrapple has become synonymous with breakfast meats, such as bacon and sausage.
So what is scrapple? Well, I guess I’ve put it off long enough. Lifted directly from Wikipedia, scrapple is… “a mush of pork scraps and trimmings combined with cornmeal and wheat flour, often buckwheat flour, and spices.” Honestly, that’s about as nice a description of scrapple you’re going to find. When first described to me it was as “everything they don’t put in hot dogs.” Other descriptions go down hill from there.
Now I pretty much love all things pork and am not known to be afraid of “the trimmings”, but at the risk of my relationship with my wife and in-laws, I’ve never loved scrapple. Once a year or so I swipe a small bite from my wife and every time it tastes exactly the same, vaguely of pulped hardwood flooring dipped in grease with just the wrong amount of spices. Which is to say, not terrible, but not good either.
These days, if you want scrapple you go to your local grocery store and buy a pre packaged refrigerated block of it. Basically you’re at the mercy of whatever brand is stocked, as rarely more than one ever is. Your other option is to move to Philadlephia and order it as a breakfast side from your local restaurant.
I’m sure the frozen loaf found at the super market toady is a far cry of what it used to be, but the brand I’m most familiar with is Habbersett. Not sure if that’s because it’s a favorite or if it’s the only option. My guess, deep down, is that it doesn’t matter which brand you buy unless you have access to some local, organic, free range, artisanal scrapple, which I’m pretty sure doesn’t even exist… yet.
Recently, for the first time ever, I decided to try my hand at cooking Scrapple. Now cooking scrapple is fundamentally simple endeavor, buy loaf, slice loaf, and cook. That being said, sometimes it’s easier to mess up the simple things. Here’s what I did and with no authority do I say this is the correct way. As with all things, it’s a matter of personal taste.
At its heart, scrapple is a compressed mass of mashed up bits and has a tendency to fall apart easily. Its resting state is crumbles, so to aid in cohesion scrapple is typically cut thick. Personally I like thick cut scrapple even less, so I try to cut mine as thin as possible without it crumbling, which ends up being about a ¼ inch thick. It helps to cut the scrapple when it’s really cold, ideally pulled from the freezer and cut just before fully thawing.
Now you have two choices, bake or fry. I chose fry, for one simple reason, control. Heat your skillet to med high, no oil needed. You want to hear that sizzle when the meat hits that pan. Don’t go anywhere, babysit the scrapple. Keep in mind the more you handle it the more likely it is to crumble. Wait for that nice uniform brown crunchy coating before flipping. Repeat for the other side. Remember that this is raw meat, so make sure to cook it through. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and let cool slightly. Welcome to the world of scrapple.
Epilogue: I must have done something right because my father in law remarked. “Not bad for a kid from California”. High praise, indeed.