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The Appeal of Scrapple

July 15, 2015

Scrapple is one of the least appetizing names for a foodstuff I can imagine. I suppose shoofly pie isn’t that great either. And if you spoke French, the lovely Crottin de Chavignol wouldn’t sound quite so lovely.

It’s hard to get over a name. Especially one so evocative of the nature of the product. After all, who gets excited to eat the scraps left over from butchering?

[The Profussor slowly raises his hand.]

I may have mentioned that I brought home a piece of scrapple from my trip to Pennsylvania. Well, yesterday I finished it, and took a picture of the breakfast treat crisping up in my cast iron skillet. Naturally, I was using bacon grease. The picture got mixed reactions, including a question trying to understand the appeal of the stuff.

Today, I will attempt to explain.

Scrapple appeals to me on many levels, so let’s start on an intellectual argument that may be shared by the largest population of blog readers.

It’s a regional delight. Sure, you can find scrapple in supermarkets all over the country these days. The same is true with New Jersey’s Taylor Ham. But that doesn’t make scapple any less iconic of breakfast in Pennsylvania. It’s actually the only state where I’ll indulge in the stuff. Mostly because in the rest of the country, scrapple is a curiosity. In Pennsylvania, it’s a part of the fabric of life.

Regional foods are becoming increasingly rare in our international society. It’s important to embrace the ones we’ve got. And part of that might mean being a wee bit brave and stepping out of your comfort zone when you approach one.

I’m sure people think our mini hot dogs with zippy sauce are gross too. Certainly, people scrunch up their face when I first tell them of fried mozzarella cheese with raspberry sauce. But just because you think something is going to taste disgusting doesn’t mean it will.

Less universal is my appreciation for how scrapple reduces waste in meat processing.

Truth be told, scrapple, as unappetizing as the word may be, paints a pretty accurate picture of the dish. It’s pork scraps, generally with a heavy dose of pig heart and pig liver, that have been boiled with bone and bits of meat. They get boiled together into a broth and the meats get chopped. The broth is then used to make a seasoned cornmeal mush with bits of the chopped organ meats in the mix for flavor and texture.

Porky Pennsylvanian polenta would be another way to describe it. But that’s far too fancy. Surely some might try to denigrate it by writing the pork and cornmeal loaf as “lips and a-holes.”

For the most part, I like to keep my meat consumption to parts I can point to on an animal: belly, wing, hangar steak, liver, brisket, leg, etc. Things that get ground up are a rare treat, and I try to get them from small purveyors I trust. When large multinational companies start grinding up hundreds or thousands of carcasses and making meat products from global supply chains, I start getting a little squirrely.

And that’s why I’m only buying scrapple from a small butcher in rural Pennsylvania. They do good work. Which brings me to the final point.

Scrapple is freaking delicious.

There are going to be lackluster versions of every food. Even bacon. There. I said it. Not all bacon is fantastic. And the same is true with scrapple. So if you’ve had it before in the past and didn’t like it, you may have just gotten a crappy industrially produced version of the stuff.

After taking a slice from the loaf and frying it either bacon fat or butter, I’m treated to an incredible culinary delight. It’s crisp, tender, meaty, peppery, earthy, with a liver funk balanced by a cornmeal backbone. I’m one of those people who enjoy scrapple with just a bit of pure maple syrup, which rounds out the flavor profile with some caramelized sweetness.

But a big part of what makes scrapple such a treat is that it’s a two time a year indulgence. I don’t keep it around the house, and that helps to keep it special. Of course, all that would change if I ever moved to Pennsylvania. And I suppose that wouldn’t make scrapple any less delicious. I would just need to find a different method for regulating my consumption.

Fortunately, I don’t have that problem. Well, I have that problem, but these days it’s with pizza, wings, and mozzarella sticks. So far keeping that upstate trifecta to once a month has been a reasonably good solution.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 15, 2015 9:39 am

    Try scrapple croutons. Carefully cut partially frozen scrapple into 1/2 inch cubes, fry in bacon grease, drain on paper towel and use like bacon in a lettuce salad.

  2. Laurie Ann permalink
    July 15, 2015 10:05 am

    I love scrapple as well! Very few appreciate its porky deliciousness. We will be moving to PA in August and would love to know where you buy your scrapple.

  3. July 15, 2015 12:53 pm

    Speakinging to your point about ground meat. It seems that you have been so conditioned by those little plastic wrapped loafs of meat-spaghetti at the grocery store as to believe there is some magic to the grinding of meat. Meat grinders (hand cranked or powered) are very affordable in this day and age. Purchase one and you can grind whatever suits your fancy without worry or care. Store bought ground meat is nothing more than a convenience food. Your great grandma would tsk at you for buying it.

  4. ericscheirerstott permalink
    July 16, 2015 7:03 am

    The flavor of properly fried scrapple can be great- but the texture is still not great.. It’s rather like meat tofu in that respect.

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