Wednesday, April 29, 2009
The recent paranoia about the swine flu has caused hog prices and related commodities to plummet, so I thought I'd do my part to support the hog industry by featuring something porky this week: Scrapple.
Scrapple (or panhaas) is a Pennsylvania Dutch specialty made from cornmeal, buckwheat and leftover pig parts. The hog is the king of traditional Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine, and no part ever goes to waste.
Relax...according to the CDC, you can't catch swine flu from eating pork products (but you should still cook pork to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees F just to be safe).
To make scrapple, pig scraps are boiled to make pork stock, ground up offal is added for flavor, and the mixture thickened with cornmeal and buckwheat flour. The resulting pork mush is formed into a loaf, allowed to set, then sliced up and fried.
I live close enough to Pennsylvania Dutch country that I can find commercially prepared scrapple in my local supermarkets. My neighborhood ACME actually has an entire section devoted to scrapple. I didn't expect to have so many varieties to choose from - do I go with a more recognizable national brand or a local brand? Pork, beef or turkey scrapple? Which pig scraps make the most authentic scrapple, heart or snout? Liver or tongue? Every brand looked exactly the same - grayish speckled mystery loaves.
I decided to hang around in the processed meat section, reading ingredient labels, waiting for someone to show up and buy some scrapple (my loitering strategy totally worked when I was in the market for gefilte fish earlier this month, when there was no shortage of friendly shoppers offering me advice). I got tired of waiting after 10 minutes and just grabbed a package of the Hatfield pork scrapple - it had enough pork offal listed in the ingredients to give it some 'street cred' but it was surprisingly lean at 90 calories and 5 grams of fat per 2 ounce serving.
I followed the easy "brown 'n' serve" instructions on the packaging, using unsalted butter to grease the pan. I left the 1/4 inch slices undisturbed in the frying pan for around 8 minutes and they browned up really nicely. The kitchen smelled delicious while I was frying, like country sausage. I served the scrapple slices with scrambled eggs and home fries (breakfast for dinner).
Hubby Kris didn't know what he was eating but he really liked it. The pan fried scrapple was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, the texture reminiscent of a hoe cake. The taste was pleasantly porky and nicely seasoned with a bit of black pepper. Much milder tasting than I expected - I only got a hint of offal in the aftertaste.
Where to buy: If you live in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, D.C., chances are you'll be able to find commercially prepared scrapple in the processed meat section of your local supermarket. For everyone else, you can buy scrapple online from Stoltzfus Meats in Intercourse, PA here (and don't forget the shoo fly pie). And scrapple fans, declare your undying love for scrapple with an "I love Scrapple" t-shirt here.
I'm pretty sure that most people would like scrapple if they just gave it a chance. In fact, I think I'll serve scrapple the next time I have company over for brunch, perhaps even the variety containing pig snout. So in-laws, consider yourself warned!
Weaver, William Woys. Pennsylvania Dutch Country Cooking. New York, New York: Abbeville Press, 1993.