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Homemade Scrapple (Pon Haus)

Makes two 9-1/2 inch loaves before slicing

I grew up in Pennsylvania with scrapple, a popular breakfast meat, all around me. I admit that I never acquired a taste for it. I just did not like the flavor, I suppose because of some of the seasonings commonly used. Additionally, I never really understood what was in scrapple other than pork and thought it was just overcooked, ground meat that had a mushy texture when fried. (Does not sound very appetizing, does it? But read on.) The only time I remember enjoying scrapple was as a young teenager on a retreat in the Po Valley region of Pennsylvania. It was purchased from a local butcher. I can only guess that he used different seasonings. (I hesitate to mention that I spread peanut butter on it. I must have been on a peanut butter 'kick' at the time because, as I recall, I also spread it on hot dogs during that trip.) When I posted the Pennsylvania Dutch Recipes page, I knew I would have to make scrapple that I could enjoy and that would please others, especially my mother, who was always a scrapple fan. I did my research, found several recipes, gathered ideas from all and, lo and behold, what I came up with is good. To best describe scrapple, it is something like fried polenta, cornmeal to which seasonings and relatively lean cooked meat, usually pork, have been added. The cooked mixture is poured into loaf pans and refrigerated overnight to stiffen. Then it is sliced and fried in a little butter, oil or bacon grease. Scrapple recipes can vary greatly in ingredients, seasonings and methodology. In some versions, the tongue, liver and/or kidneys are used, just as they were in the original scrapple recipes, which were created to eliminate waste and use as much of the butchered animal as possible. Other recipes incorporate buckwheat or regular flour in addition to the cornmeal. See the links in the similar and related recipes for several different versions submitted by visitors to the site.

Ingredients

Place the pork and water in an 8-quart stock pot. Add salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer until pork is tender, about 2 hours. Place the meat on a large plate; reserve the stock. When the meat is cool enough to handle, remove it from the bones and discard excess fat. Chop the meat very finely; set aside. (See the variations below for chopping methods.)

Place 2-1/2 quarts of the stock in a 5-quart pot. Add the thyme, sage, savory, allspice, nutmeg and cloves. Bring to a boil and gradually add the cornmeal, stirring or whisking rapidly until it is all combined. Reduce the heat to medium or medium-low and continue to cook, stirring often, until the mixture is very thick, so that a spoon almost stands up by its own, about 15 minutes. (If it gets too thick, just add a little more of the broth and stir well.) Add the meat and stir well to combine. Reduce the heat to low and cook for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. After a couple minutes, taste for seasoning and adjust as desired. Scrapple must be well-seasoned or it will taste very bland when fried.

Place a piece of waxed paper into the bottom of two 9x5 loaf pans so that the ends extend over the two long sides. That will make it easier to lift the refrigerated loaf out of the pan later. Pour half the mixture into each pan. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight or until chilled and solid.

To fry, remove the loaf from the pan and place on cutting surface. Slice into about 1/4 to 1/2-inch slices. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add some butter and, as soon as it melts, add the scrapple slices. It is critical with scrapple to let each side brown thoroughly before attempting to turn it over or it will stick and fall apart, so be very patient. Serve as is or, as many PA Dutchmen would do, with ketchup or apple butter.

Notes: You will have to learn, as I did, what degree of thickness to cook the cornmeal. On my first attempt, it obviously was too thin because the chilled mixture did not get as stiff as expected. If that happens to you, do not panic. I was still able to slice and fry it, although it fell apart easily. You will need to play with the seasonings, tasting and adjusting until you get what you want. Many people dredge scrapple in a light coating of flour before frying. Scrapple freezes very well; just slice and wrap individually in waxed paper and then place in freezer bags. Take out as many slices as you want and fry them, with or without thawing, reducing the heat slightly if frozen to allow more cooking time. Remember, everything is previously cooked so it only needs to be browned and heated through. Serve instead of bacon, ham or sausage for breakfast, lunch or dinner.