Although my wife is not Pennsylvania Dutch, she grew up in the middle of Pennsylvania Dutch country in a small town near Philadelphia. While she was growing up people in her town still spoke mainly the 17th century german dialect know as Pennsylvania dutch in everyday conversation. English was a foreign language for them. She used to shop for food at Yoder’s general store at the corner of 1st and Main street. As a result, many of the foods from her childhood are Pennsylvania dutch and unique to the region in which she grew up. These include pies and sweets such as shoo-fly pie, funny cake and this dish, scrapple. I was first introduced to this when we went to Philadelphia to visit her brother a long time ago while we were living in California. We had it in a small diner and I did not particularly like it then. It was unique to Pennsylvania and as far as I was concerned it could stay there. Later, when we visited one of the family’s friends on their boat on the Chesapeake, they prepared wonderful scrapple which was much better than anything even my wife had before.
For some reason, my wife wanted to make scrapple from scratch. The traditional recipe is made of scraps gleaned from the traditional fall hog slaughter (the Pennsylvania Dutch did not waste anything). The first recipe my wife read calls for a whole hog’s head hacked in half (Although I may have the skill to do it, I would have refuse, if asked. Fortunately, she did not ask.) and boil it for long time and all the meat and bits are then removed from the hog’s head and made into a loaf containing cornmeal, buckwheat flour and many spices. Since my wife has been making polenta in a loaf form and we really like it, she must have thought this is an interesting variation. Instead of a hog’s head, she first boiled pork spareribs as though she was boiling the hog’s head but the result was a bit disappointing with a sort of tired meat flavor. So she made some adjustments and perfected her recipe. We eat this most often for breakfast but sometimes for lunch over the weekend. We also enjoyed this as a part of Izakaya feast for evening. I will hand to my wife for the recipe and how to properly fry (sauté) it to get optimum crispy outside and creamy inside. Here, we served scrapple with a fried egg.
This is a very “sanitized” version of this dish because it does not use any pork offal or scraps. Start with 4 or 5 country style spareribs. Parboil for about 5 minutes. Put into a pyrex baking dish with some onions and carrots, a bay leaf and several pepper corns. Cover the ribs half way with boiling chicken stock. Cover and place into a 350 degree oven and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (until the meat is tender and falls off the bone).
Remove meat from the bones and remove any excess fat. Chop the meat into very fine pieces but do not grind. Take 3 cups of chicken stock add 1 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 bay leaf, 1/2 tsp dried sage, 1/4 tsp margoram, 1/8 tsp mace and several grinds of pepper. Boil for a while until the liquid has been infused with the taste of the spices. Strain the liquid, remeasure to get 3 cups total and put back into pot. Meanwhile mix 3/4 cup corn meal with 1/4 cup buckwheat flour until they are uniformly mixed.(The recipe can also be made with just 1 cup of cornmeal if buckwheat flour is not available. The buckwheat however seems to result in a finer texture and adds an additional element to the final flavor). Bring the infused chicken stock back to the boil. Lower the heat and slowly whisk in the cornmeal mixture. Keep stirring for about 5 minutes as it thickens. Toward the end add about 2 cups of the meat and continue stirring until the meat is completely incorporated (you shouldn’t be able to distinguish any individual pieces of meat) . Turn the mixture into a loaf pan which has been rinsed in cold water (the water keeps the mixture from sticking).
After the scrapple has cooled (usually over night), it is ready to be cooked. Turn out the loaf and slice into 1/2 inch pieces. (The final cooking makes the difference between really good and really bad scrapple. The thickness of the piece is important to get just the right combination of crispy to creamy soft. If the pieces are too thick the overall texture is too mushy and much less pleasant.) Lightly coat the pieces in flour with salt and pepper added. Heat several tablespoons of peanut oil in a saute pan on medium high heat (peanut oil is best because of its high smoke point). Put the pieces in the pan making sure that the sides of the pieces don’t touch each other. Let ‘er rip on that fairly high temperature with out touching for 5 minutes. This forms the nice crunchy crust. Lower the heat slightly and turn the pieces over and again let it cook undisturbed for another 5 minutes. (At this point the pan may be smoking a bit but don’t let that bother you if it looks like it is getting too hot turn down the heat slightly.) If it looks like the first side needs more of a crust turn the piece back over and cook a bit longer. Drain the pieces on paper towels.
The scrapple can be cut into individual pieces and frozen. If it has been frozen don’t thaw before cooking. Just go ahead a dredge the pieces and put them in the pan. It will thaw in the cooking process and the cold keeps the interior creamy.
The traditional way of eating this is with maple syrup but we like to eat it plain served with a fried egg on the side. It has a lovely porky spicy flavor and the crunch of the crust with the smooth creaminess of the inside is wonderful. Again there are many variations on this recipe. Some add liver, some add much much more pepper. This is a rather tame version but we like it.