What is scrapple? About the institution called scrapple (1977)
By Julia Lawlor / Philadelphia Daily News (April 6, 1977)
Scrapple is to Philadelphia as the peanut is to Plains, Georgia — except that the love of Scrapple doesn’t go far beyond the stomachs of southeastern Pennsylvanians.
It originated in the Rhine Pfalz section of Germany, emigrated to the Pennsylvania Dutch region north of Philadelphia, migrated south to this city, and stayed here.
Ask for a slice west of West Chester and north of Shartlesville, and they’ll hand you a scorecard and a dictionary. If you’re lucky.
Merchants can’t explain why scrapple has never really caught on elsewhere. Philadelphia seems linked to scrapple like it is to cream cheese, neither of which is made here exclusively.
“We get eight or nine letters a day from people who’ve moved and can’t buy Scrapple where they live now,” says John Clemens, vice president of Hatfield Packing Co. His company sells scrapple as far south as Delaware, Maryland, and Washington, DC.
But that, apparently, is as far as the gray sausage has traveled since it first hit the Reading Terminal Market in 1883.
Secret scrapple recipes
Clemens’ grandfather founded the company, and like several meat packing plants in the area, the business has remained a family operation; “He used to run back and forth from Souderton to the farmer’s market at 18th and Ridge Sts. in Philadelphia to sell the family’s scrapple,” says Clemens.
The family recipe is still used, but he’s not about to reveal the exact proportions.
Typical ingredients are pork stock, pork head meat (or “cheek” meat) pork liver, hearts, skin,’ and seasoning. Most scrapple has salt and; black pepper, some include sage and onions. Local producers pride themselves on staying away from artificial flavors, colors and preservatives.
The indoor farmer’s market on the Allentown fairgrounds is a gathering place for small family businesses who handle the scrapple from slaughter to market, where the product is advertised as “Direct from the Farm to the Consumer.” Prices are generally cheaper than in Philadelphia. A pound of scrapple costs 49 or 59 cents compared to 69 and 75 cents a pound in most Philadelphia markets,
The Allentown Fair market offers 12 different varieties of scrapple. One of the prime differences is the use of cornmeal or buckwheat flour as a binding ingredient.
There are two sides to the cornmeal vs. buckwheat flour question. Hatfield Packing Co. uses both in their scrapple, but sell their cornmeal-made product in Philadelphia because “the people in that area prefer it that way.”
Habbersett Brothers, outside of media, use cornmeal in their scrapple. The other two major scrapple producers in this area, Roberts and Rapa, make their scrapple with cornmeal.
But Elwood Rausch, a former employee of A & B Meats in Allentown, insists that “the real Pennsylvania Dutch scrapple is made with buckwheat flour. Cornmeal is just a replacement. The reason they don’t make it with buckwheat anymore is because it’s more expensive and it’s hard to get it from the farmers.”
Some say there is little or no difference in taste between the two. Others say buckwheat flour holds the scrapple together better than cornmeal does.
How do you make homemade scrapple?
Don’t look for a definitive scrapple recipe — at least one that anyone agrees on. It’s clear that scrapple is one of those foods that you throw together according to whatever is leftover (scrapped) in the kitchen; or, in the case of the farmers who invented scrapple to make use of pig scraps, on the farm.
Home scrapple cooks have used anything from pig’s feet, knuckles, heads, ears, spleen, kidney, gullet and diaphragm meat, to assorted bones.
Scrapple endeared itself to Philadelphia late in the 19th century with the opening of the Reading Terminal Market on Market St. One of the original scrapple dealers, Strode’s, is still: there, selling scrapple for 72 cents per pound. A Darlington Strode is the 3rd generation in a scrapple family. His grandfather started the business, and Strode’s son intends to carry on the tradition.
Scrapple, the ultimate in “waste not, want not” foods, is not wanting in calories or cholesterol. A 2-ounce slice contains about 120 calories, B vitamins and iron. And about 50 of those calories are highly saturated, a no-no for low-cholesterol diets.
Philadelphia chain retail stores buy primarily from the four major producers in this area, including Hatfield Packing Co., Habbersett’s, Roberts of Kimberton, Pa. and Rapa of Delaware.
A&P also sells Park’s, with prices ranging from two pounds for $1.19 (Roberts) to 75 cents a pound for Habbersett’s and Parks. Acme Markets sell Habbersett’s, Bob Evans Farms, Roberts, Parks, Yankee Maid and Rapa brands. Prices range from 69 cents a pound to $1.53 for two pounds. 75 cents a pound.
Even if the description of the scraps in scrapple turns up your nose, you can be fairly sure that you’re getting the best if you stay in the Philadelphia region.
Among the many opinions on Philadelphia scrapple is this one: “It is in Philadelphia that you get the best scrapple. Everywhere else, scrapple is suspect.” And, “For the perfect enjoyment of love, there must be perfect confidence — this is also true of Philadelphia scrapple.”
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The history of scrapple: A Pennsylvania Dutch dish (1922)
New-York Tribune (New York, NY) January 15, 1922
Hog’s head, spices and cereals well-combined make “Scrapple” — a highly-seasoned mush
Scrapple is a Pennsylvania Dutch dish, made from hog’s head, spices, and cereals, cooked into a sort of highly-seasoned mush, which can be sliced and fried in its own fat if enough pork has been used.
It is a very appetizing savory winter dish if the maker has not been overgenerous with the cornmeal and stingy with the pork and seasonings.
What old-fashioned scrapple’s made of
The two samples examined are characteristic of the farmer’s homemade product as found on the market stands, and the commercial products, which must stand up under more trying handling conditions.
The Farmer Reed scrapple had nearly 19 percent of fat, 11 percent of protein, and 7 percent of starch, with 59 percent of water. It was delicious and tasted much like a sausage, though the cereals made it less rich.
Wheat flour and cornmeal were both present, and the wheat gives it a better flavor than when all cornmeal is used. This product, because of the fat present, gives 243 calories (heat units) a pound.
The best-known commercial scrapple is the Vogt brand examined, which has no more starch present than the farmer’s product. Cornmeal, however, seems to be used exclusively, and less pork, the scrapple containing 4 percent less fat and 3 percent less protein than the farmer’s mixture, also less seasoning and 9 percent more water.
Seasoned somewhat, dipped in flour and fried in fat, it is, however, a representative product and more available than the homemade, richer product. Also it is cheaper, which must always be considered in relation to quality and richness.
In this connection, a recipe for making real Philadelphia scrapple may not come amiss. Here it is, right from a Pennsylvania Dutch stronghold.
Old farmer’s-style Philadelphia scrapple recipe
Thoroughly scrape and clean a small hog’s head. Cut in half and take out the eyes and brains. Wash the halves of the head and wipe dry, and put into a large kettle.
Into the same kettle, one may put a small fresh shoulder of pork, cut up in small pieces, and an equal amount of boiling beef if desired.
over the whole with cold water and cook gently for three or four hours until the meat falls from the bones. Remove all the bones with a perforated ladle.
Season highly with salt, ground black pepper, and ground sage. Carefully skim off all the grease as it rises to the surface.
Make a mixture of two parts of cornmeal and one part wheat flour and sprinkle the cereal mixture into the cooking meat while constantly stirring.
Continue to add the cereals until it is of the consistency of mush. Then cook for one hour more, very slowly, being careful that it does not scorch. Finally, pour into pans and put in a cool place to allow it to harden.
Corn meal or buckwheat flour?
In most recipes, corn meal only is directed. In the real Pennsylvania Dutch “Ponhoss” [panhas, panhaas] buckwheat flour is used in whole or in part.
To cook scrapple is one of those three-minute stove operations. All one has to do is to slice the scrapple about one-quarter inch thick.
Dip the slices into flour and sauté them in hot fat, the latter about one-quarter inch deep in the frying pan. Or it may be fried in deep fat, though this is unnecessarily elaborate.
The “farmer’s” scrapple is very rich in fat and fries in its own grease. No addition is necessary. Fry to a light brown and serve garnished with parsley or celery tops.
What goes with scrapple?
If breakfast is the meal that must be planned, serve first baked apples which have been cooked with a generous supply of butter, sugar, and cinnamon. Then with the scrapple and hot steaming coffee have cornmeal griddle cakes. It will be a substantial breakfast and one that well fits the out-of-doors man for a strenuous morning.
If lunch is the meal at which it is to be served, try hot baking powder biscuits, with a salad of lettuce hearts or endive and French dressing. Or, if the vitamins interest you, substitute coleslaw, well-dressed, for the lettuce.
An old-fashioned scrapple recipe from the 60s
From The Philadelphia Inquirer (March 27, 1969)
Q. For a number of years, I lived in the Philadelphia area and became acquainted with Philadelphia scrapple. We can get the canned variety out here (Billings, Mont.) but it is something less than satisfactory. I would appreciate it if you would provide a recipe so I can make some scrapple that really tastes as it should. — Mrs. W.G.H.
A. Here’s an easy recipe from Edna Eby Heller’s “The Art of Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking” (Doubleday).