…as served for breakfast in Eastern Pennsylvania.
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…as served for breakfast in Eastern Pennsylvania.
If you look at the picture to the right, you’ll see a pile of a substance sitting next to the egg. At the mere mention of this product people have been known to shudder, gag, and deny its right to exist.
What you see there is a Pennsylvania Dutch product known as scrapple. As you can guess, it’s fairly popular in Pennsylvania, and can be found throughout surrounding states and the Mid-Atlanitc region with only a minimal amount of searching. But once you end up west of say, Cincinnati, it’s near impossible to locate.
Scrapple is one of those farm products made to use every bit of a downed pig. Back in the day (say, before the era of supermarkets and readily available foodstuffs) a farm had to make food last. It makes use of those parts of slaughtered food animals that can’t be eaten on their own, such as the meaty parts of hog heads, hearts, some liver, and other scraps.
It’s for this reason that scrapple is looked upon with much disdain. It is of my own opinion that those who do the disdaining have never sat down and actually, you know, eaten the stuff. It is typically eaten at breakfast in place of other pork products (such as bacon or sausage). It is often cut into thin slices, fried until the outsides form a crust, although I must admit to not having enough patience to let it remain a slice. While frying in the pan, I often poke and prod it often enough to have it become more of a pile of scrapple rather than a slice.
What does scrapple taste like? Think Bacon and sausage mixed with corn meal, and you’ll have a good start. Typically salty like most cured pork products with a fair amount of pork fat mixing ever so lovingly in the corn meal. Depending on who makes it, you can tasteeverything from sage and hungarian paprika, to the more basic salt and ground pepper. It’s one of those dishes that you have to taste before you truly understand just how good it is.
Back to the fear that scapple causes. It’s this use of hog parts often left on the butchers floor that cause this irrational distaste of scrapple. This is a recent development, probably started over here in the States, as it used to be common practice to use every bit of every animal, whether as food or as some other product. This is something that many chefs realize, and now you find chefs such as Anthony Bourdain, Mario Batali and Fergus Henderson all advocating the use of bits and pieces that we often throw away. In fact, if you pick up Chef Henderson’s book “The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating“, you’ll find ingredients such as warm pig’s head, ox tongue, roast bone marrow, calf’s heart, brawn (headcheese), jellied tripe, rolled pig’s spleen, duck neck terrine, duck hearts on toast, many recipes for lamb’s brain, sweet breads, blood cake (made with 1 quart of pig’s blood), pig’s cheek and tongue, gratin of tripe, haggis, deviled kidneys, and lamb’s kidneys.
I place the blame of our disdain for these parts squarely on the shoulders of supermarkets. Most of these products do not have a lond shelf life, nor do they fit the aesthetic image that the meat counters wish to display. As such, one would often have to ask for these parts. Before long, they were quickly forgotten and tossed aside.
It’s a tradition we can get back quite easily. If you wish to see if it’s worth it, I highly recommend starting with scrapple, in order for you to see just exactly what can be done with these parts.
SIDE NOTE: Major Kudos to Tara, for not only trying scrapple, but for liking it. She and I have discussed scrapple before in which she raised some concerns. When I was able to procure some, there was a little bit of anxiety surrounding it’s place on our breakfast table. However, once tasted, the majority of the anxiety vanished. Another scrapple fan created!
I have been blessed.
In the deep dark recesses of Madison avenue, I have found a dealer. Someone who is willing to take on the risk and rewards of finding something so horrible and illicit that many physicians shudder at the mere mention of this product.
That’s right. I’ve found someone who sells scrapple.
For those of you not in the know…and let’s face it, unless you’ve lived close to the Pennsylvania Dutch (who aren’t really dutch, btw….they’re of german decent), you probably have no idea what scrapple is…scrapple is near as close to the pork verson of mana as one can get. Sliced up, fried in butter (or lard) and served with fried eggs (or poached, as I like them), it makes one of the best breakfasts one can have.
There are some who shudder at the idea of scrapple. And if they are health conscious, it’s understandable. It is chock full of fat and salt, and tastes best when cooked in even more fat and salt. But it’s the other folks who shudder at scrapple who make me want to thwack my forehead on the kitchen counter. They shudder at it because scrapple is made from…well…made from every meat product from a hog not included in ribs, ham, chops, bacon, brisket and other popular cuts of pork.
In polite company, people will tell you it’s made from Pork butt and Pork shoulder. but the truth is, it’s made from any piece of meat available left after the butcher had their say. And this is the idea that makes people all squeamish about scrapple; the idea that they might be eating pig brain, pig hoove, or *shudder* the pork version of the Rocky Mountain Oyster.
I use scrapple as a dividing line. Those who understand, and those who don’t. But the fact is, some of your better eaters can’t deal with the idea of scrapple. Which brought me to thinking: There are degrees of which one can determine how diverse an eater is. And for me, the higher degree, the more likely one will be considered a sensei of gastronomy. So yeah, in some ways, the risks one is willing to take in the epicurean sense can easily be equated to the degrees (belts) one attains during the pursuit of the black belt in the martial arts. (Please note that the following list has an American bent to it)