Scrapple–also known by the Pennsylvania Dutch name Panhaas or “pan hare”–is made from the scraps left after butchering a pig, cooked in a broth often containing the whole pig’s head, bones removed and combined with cornmeal and wheat flour, and sometimes buckwheat flour, and spices. The mush is formed into a loaf, preserved by refrigeration today but traditionally protected from the air with a layer of congealed lard on top.
Slices of scrapple fried in lard were a typical breakfast food in the mid-Atlantic states (Delaware, Maryland, South Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia). You can still purchase it in supermarkets throughout the region both fresh and frozen, but probably won’t find it anywhere else in the U.S..
The use of innards to make a mush or sausage has been a common practice in many nations. For example, the Dutch make balkenbrij, which shares some of the characteristics of scrapple; an English dish called faggot contains off-cuts and offal, especially pork; the Scottish savory pudding haggis, which contains sheep’s pluck (heart, liver, and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, then mixed with stock; an Icelandic food called slatur, made with sheep innards; and Weckewerk, in Germany, a sausage containing blood and offal. However, scrapple seems to be the only one of these treasures that has survived the culture-crushing foodways of modern America.
And just barely survived at that. Today’s cookbooks tell you to fry the scrapple in vegetable oil and if you look up the recipe for scrapple online, you are likely to get something that looks like this:
1 ½ pounds ground pork sausage
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
In her 1978 cookbook Julia Child & Company, Miss Julia calls for sausage meat, pork stock, cornmeal, eggs and seasonings in a scrapple recipe, although she does mention in her “Remarks” that you could add liver to the sausage meat.
In her delightful book Pennsylvania Scrapple: A Delectable History, author Amy Strauss almost seems embarrassed to reveal that traditional scrapple contains naughty bits like liver and other organ meats, usually describing scrapple as a product made from “pork.”
Supermarket scrapple still contains liver. RAPA brand scrapple contains “Pork broth, pork meat, pork liver, pork fat, pork snouts, corn meal, pork hearts, wheat flour, salt, spices.” Just be aware that “spices” may hide MSG – and that this is pork from confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). As Garrison Keillor once said of CAFOs, “You can taste the misery.”
The scrapple made from our pigs by Horst Meats, our Mennonite butchers in Hagerstown, Maryland, contains pork broth, pork jowl, pork, boneless pig feet, pork skin, pork liver, pork heart, pork tongue, corn meal, wheat flour, malted barley flour, salt and black pepper. Sometimes they will add sweetbreads. Those of you who purchase food from Amish or Mennonite farmers will be able to obtain something similar.
The best way to eat scrapple is to slice it thin and fry it in lard until crispy. You can put butter on it, even honey or maple syrup, and serve with a couple of fried eggs from pastured hens. That’s what I would call a nutrient-dense breakfast!