What is Scrapple?
Scrapple is a dish whose American origins go back to the Pennsylvania Dutch settlers of the 1600s and 1700s. Consisting of pork and cornmeal moistened with broth, it is seasoned with various spices, formed into loaves, and allowed to cool and set in the refrigerator. Before serving, the loaf is unmolded, cut into 0.5-inch (1.25 cm) slices, and panfried in butter, bacon drippings, or oil.
As its name suggests, scrapple was originally created to make use of whatever parts of the pig remained after the larger, more desirable parts were cut from the carcass. Offal, skin, and small shreds of meat scraped from the skull and bones would find their way into the pot. Modern cooks — or those without a pig carcass at hand — may use various other cuts of pork, including pork shoulder, pork butt, or even lean ground pork, to make their scrapple.
Cornmeal is almost always used for the base of scrapple, but individual cooks occasionally replace it with oatmeal or even barley. Onions, salt, pepper, sage, mace, thyme, marjoram, savory, and cayenne pepper are typically added in some combination to season the mush.
Scrapple’s long shelf life was much valued by the colonial-era Pennsylvania Dutch settlers, who had no means of keeping their foodstuffs cold other than sinking them into streams or half-buried ice houses. George Washington and Benjamin Franklin were both said to have been fans of the dish's charms, the latter having developed a taste for the dish during his visits to Philadelphia.
Fried scrapple is typically served as a breakfast meat. It is eaten plain, between slices of bread as a sandwich, or with fried eggs, and popular accompaniments are ketchup, maple syrup, applesauce, or butter.
Although this dish remains a regional favorite of the Pennsylvania Dutch country, it is sold frozen in grocery stores as far afield as New York and California. Scrapple is available in bacon-flavored and spicy varieties as well as beef and turkey and even soy-based vegetarian versions.
The Palantine German immigrants to America brought with them a product called "panhaus" which is similar in some ways to scrapple. This basic recipe was merged with cornmeal mush (which was already a staple here) to become what we now call scrapple. The name comes not from the concept of scraps (one could argue that in seventeenth century America there were no such things as scraps), but from the word "scrape," which refers to the scraping of the great iron cauldron used to cook much of the pork during the butchering process. The solids in scrapple are the "scrapings" from the pot from which the broth was poured to make the mush. The German accent resulted in the pronunciation of scrapple. Some makers of scrapple do put lips and cheeks and such into their product. The best scrapple does not contain these things. Das is gut!
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