Why It Works
- You can customize the meat and which cuts you use.
- Cornmeal and buckwheat flour hold the meat together, so it can be sliced and fried.
Scrapple sounds like an insult, the name you call the runt in gym class. More likely it derives from the terms scraps and scrappy. And what a fitting name indeed for a traditional Pennsylvania-Dutch dish made from the odds and ends of the pig, stewed, chopped, or ground up, and mixed with cornmeal and flour. (Yum.) Often the cornmeal is cooked in the gluey gelatinous stock that comes from such a commingling of pig parts in a pot.
Once firm, scrapple is cut up and fried. It's a humble dish made with thrift in mind, just another instance of when eating low on the hog is a good thing. Think: a sort of fried polenta, were it injected with as much porky character as possible. (Although scrapple is traditionally made with pork, you could just as well use beef or lamb parts.)
What pig parts go into scrapple? That's like asking what used to go into hot dogs, and probably still does. Its contents most likely varied depending on what was at hand. After a pig slaughter, probably just about everything went into scrapple on the premise that as long it could be bound with mushy cornmeal and gelatinous meat stock, then it was fair game for the scrapple pot. (Meat and skin, tendons, liver, brains, little bits of stomach, ears, and so forth.)
I'm no advocate of tossing in just anything, in any amount. If you're going to use liver and/or brains, you don't want to overwhelm the sweetness of the corn and the fleshy flavor of meat with too much offal.
For my first batch of scrapple, I started with two trotters, some smoked pork neck, and some liver leftover from a liver and onions dinner. I simmered the trotters and neck and ears, then ground up the cooked parts with the leftover liver. Meanwhile the cornmeal was cooking in another pot. If the cornmeal started sticking to the bottom of the pot, calling for a little more moisture, I'd dip a mug into the stockpot to retrieve a little more of that porky broth. For my second batch of scrapple, I pretty much did the same thing, except I finely chopped up some stewed pig's ears I had on hand.
Mixing up scrapple is fun. Once the grains are cooked and the pig parts processed to your desired level of coarseness, the rest is entirely up to you. (And as for cutting up the bits of pork, I happen to like it when I can still see some meaty bits in the mix, but you could process it more or less finely and still get a blockish thing of scrapple.) Like making sausage, you get to choose what spice blend you want to use. And like sausage, a slab of scrabble makes for a great accompaniment to eggs, sunny-side up and still runny.
- 2 to 3 pounds pork butt, preferably skin on
- 2 pig trotters
- 2 medium onions, roughly chopped (about 2 cups)
- 6 medium cloves garlic
- 4 ounces pork liver (a slab about 1/2 inch thick)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
- 2 cups cornmeal
- 1/2 cup flour, preferably buckwheat
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Place pork butt and trotters into soup pot and cover with water. Bring to boil, skimming off scum that rises to the top. Cook for 3 hours or until the flesh is very tender and slipping off the bone. Let the meat cool down slightly in the pot, about 10 minutes. Remove meat with a slotted spoon and transfer to a large bowl. Allow to cool at room temperature until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Reserve cooking liquid.
When the meat is cool enough to handle, remove all the meat, skin, and tendons from the trotter.
Season liver with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add liver and cook without moving for 2 minutes. Flip and cook on second side until center is just cooked through, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a cutting board.
Finely dice liver and pork shoulder together.
Follow the directions on the package of cornmeal, replacing the water with pork stock. Add more pork stock or water as needed to prevent the cornmeal from sticking to the bottom of the pot. (Depending on the cornmeal, it will take 20 to 45 minutes to cook.) Towards the last ten minutes of cooking, add the flour and stir quickly to prevent the flour from clumping.
Place all the meat into the pot with the cornmeal and the flour and mix well. Add paprika and cayenne pepper and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Transfer the mixture to a loaf pan and smooth the surface. Cover with plastic wrap and let cool. Refrigerate scrapple until set, at least 3 hours. Scrapple may be kept in the refrigerator for several days, or frozen.
To serve: Heat a skillet with a few tablespoons of oil. Slice scrapple into slabs about 3/4 inch thick. Add to the skillet and pan-fry on both sides until the surface is brown and crispy, turning only once or twice. Serve immediately.
5 quart soup pot, 10 inch skillet, bread loaf pan