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[Eds.: today's post is brought to you by Sage. See her bio in our Guest Bloggers section.]
A quick scan of the scrapple recipe linked on the american food holidays page led me to believe that scrapple was a sort of loaf of polenta (which I love) that incorporated pork sausage (which I love). It’s true, I’m not the most thorough reader when it comes to recipes, maybe because I just don’t use them very often.
After committing to this blog entry I did a little more digging and discovered my mistake. While my interpretation wasn’t soo far off the “modern” (or should I say “E-Z”?) scrapple recipes of today, I discovered that true scrapple comes by its name honestly; it is largely comprised of scraps – and wiki-rumour says that fans of scrapple boast that it contains everything from a pig except the “oink”. The whole head is often boiled as part of the prep, and everything from skin to organs makes it into the finished, semi-congealed loaf. Dry goods such as cornmeal, buckwheat flour and herbs made up the remainder.
We have the Pennsylvania Dutch to thank for this creation. It remains popular in the mid-atlantic states, and can readily be found at regional supermarkets since grandmas don’t make it so much anymore. It is generally a breakfast food, the loaf being sliced thin and pan-fried, most often served with eggs, and usually topped with ketchup or syrup.
Now, despite being an advocate for haggis, my findings were rapidly quelling my appetite, so after a brief fantasy involving Oyama sausages and nice bright yellow polenta I started looking at some more modern recipes for this humble dish. I don’t know if the traditional method is still widely used out there, but there are many recipes available that forgo the offal without being so lazy as to rely on pre-made sausage or ground pork. I opted to go for one of these intermediate versions.
Here is the cobbled-together recipe that I settled on:
- 2 lbs. pork butt, cut into 2″ cubes
- 1 fresh pork hock
- 1 yellow onion, quartered
- 1 tsp ground sage
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
- 1/4 tsp ground thyme
- a pinch of nutmeg
- 1-1/2 c cornmeal
- 1/2 c buckwheat flour
- 1 tsp ground oregano
- 1 tsp basil flakes
- salt and pepper
Throw the meats in a large pot with a well-fitting lid and cover with water. (I actually left about 1-1/2″ of hock sticking up and just made sure to turn it several times). Add the first 5 spices and the onion, plus a generous grind of pepper. Cover and simmer for 3 hours or until the meat is tender and easily separates from the bone. Pull out the meat and onion and let the stock rest while you prep the meat.
Remove the bones and skin and as much fat as you care to (I removed as much as I could. If you’d prefer to be more traditional and keep the skin, by all means do!). I couldn’t find definitive instructions on how fine to chop it. Recipes tended to say “fine, but not too fine”, and other such helpful comments. I cut across the grain into 3/8″ slices – (they did not remain intact of course as the meat was falling apart). Then I gave it a quick whiz in the food processor. Puree the onion and add it to the meat.
In a small bowl sift together the cornmeal and buckwheat flour.
Skim the fat off the broth and strain the broth into a large bowl. Rinse the pot to remove any debris. Put 5-1/2 cups of the strained broth back into the pot and bring to a simmer. Add the oregano and basil and the meat mixture. Gradually add the cornmeal mixture, stirring constantly. Turn the heat to your lowest low and cover. Let it sit on the low heat for 15 minutes, stirring regularly. You don’t want the bottom to stick and scorch so keep a close eye on it and turn the heat off if necessary. Salt to taste.
Scoop the mixture into 2 lightly greased loaf pans. I lined mine with parchment paper. My strategy was to use a strip that was slightly narrower than the length of the pan and give myself an extra 6″ length. That way the ends of the pan were exposed so there’s no messing with creased corners, and the long ends could be folded over the top of the scrapple mush. Cool it overnight in the fridge.
In the morning, slice it and fry it. Ketchup, syrup, mustard, and apple sauce are all common condiments. If you want it crispy, slice it thin (a few minutes in the freezer will make this easier) and dust it with flour before frying.
I sliced mine about 1/2″ thick and served it along side parmesan asparagus scrambled eggs. My favorite condiment was mustard.
So the verdict? Hmm. As written the recipe is quite bland and the texture is neutral. Next time I would definitely add a lot more spice, and perhaps increase the ratio of dry to wet ingredients. A slightly less mushy texture might crisp more nicely in the pan. Most recipes also skipped the skimming step so their greasier scrapple might fry better than mine did. L suggested that coating it in an herb-cornmeal crust before frying might add a bit more drama to both flavour and texture. He also suggested that it might pair well with biscuits and gravy. Some people eat it as a sandwich filling, so perhaps an openface scrapple/biscuit sandwich with gravy is worth a try? I’ve got pounds of the stuff so I will be experimenting with it for a while. Thank goodness it freezes well.
I will report back later if I discover any fabulous applications for this food. In the meantime, is it too late to head over to Oyama? Maybe I’ll see you there.