Traditionally a Pennsylvania-Dutch breakfast treat, scrapple nearly sounds exactly like what it is: a gelatinous mush made of cornmeal, flour, stock and scraps of pork left over from butchering the family hog. You either love it or you hate it, and if you're Pennsylvanian, you're as fiercely proud of it as the Scottish are of haggis. Recipes for scrapple vary, sometimes from town to town, other times from family to family. The basic ingredients, however, remain similar throughout.
Head to Trotter
Scraps, tid-bits, offal: whatever you want to call it, it's the odds and ends of the pig that nobody else wants, outside of hot dog factories and canine chow manufacturers, perhaps. What you get in each individual loaf varies, as it depends upon what was on hand at the time, but typically it contains:
All of this is cut up, boiled and mashed inside great tubs until it turns to a fleshy goo. Before you get to feeling faint, this isn't too different from how sausage is made. Based on thrifty methods used by frugal farmers, scrapple made sure that nothing went to waste, and everyone was fed a nutritious mix of protein, minerals and fats. Not bad for a dish that sounds like an insult.
Bringing It All Together
Cornmeal and flour help keep the mixture from crumbling when cooked, and supply the scrapple with its un-solidified grits-like texture. The preferred flour in Philadelphia scrapple is buckwheat; it's believed to lend a distinct flavor to the finished product.
Season to Taste
The stock used in scrapple is inherent from the boiled pork. When tendons and cartilage such as ears renders down, it creates a gelatin that firms up when it cools. Seasonings range among recipes, but similar to sausage they can include sage, black pepper, paprika, thyme, marjoram and allspice.
There's a What?
Of course it wouldn't be a regional recipe if there weren't additions, variations or personal flairs in an attempt to make a mark on the scrapple legacy. In Delaware some folks add fruit, such as apple. German-leaning recipes sometimes feature pork blood, resulting in a scrapple that's not unlike boudin noir, or blood pudding. High end restaurants serving scrapple -- yes, these exist -- may substitute polenta for cornmeal.
Perhaps the strangest and surprisingly successful variation of scrapple yet is "Vrapple," a vegan version of what is onstensibly a meat-centric product. Eschewing pork, vegan scrapple uses seitan, or cooked wheat gluten, cane sugar, the ubiquitous cornmeal and flour and spices. While the end result is definitely not porky in flavor, does it still count as scrapple? According to the experts it does. In 2009, Vrapple came in second place at the annual Scrapple Fest in Philadelphia. Maybe this goes to prove that Scrapple is not just a food product, it's also a state of mind.