Most regions have their own signature food, something they are known for around the world. Maine has lobster. Alaska has salmon. California has wine. Florida, oranges. Boston, clam chowder. Wisconsin, cheese. New Orleans, beignets. Mmm. Here in the mid-Atlantic region, we are surrounded by such wonderful regional delicacies including Maryland crabcakes, Philadelphia cheesesteaks (and cream cheese), New York cheesecake (and pizza). I’ve always said Delaware was the best state because it’s within an easy drive of all these wonderful foods.A lesser-known regional favorite is scrapple. You’ve never heard of it? I’m not surprised. Scrapple is a Pennsylvania Dutch dish that is, essentially, mystery meat. But not gross, pink slime mystery meat. The term “scrapple” is a merging of the words “scrap” and “offal” which pretty much sums up this dish. After a pig is slaughtered and broken down, the scraps are boiled down into a stew. Scraps may include the head, heart, liver and any other leftovers. Grain of some sort is added to the broth to make a mush. Cornmeal is the standard, but wheat and buckwheat are also popular choices. The mush is seasoned, molded into loaves and left to cool.
Is anyone’s stomach turning yet? Mind kind of is and I love the stuff. I’m sorry. It really is delicious. I promise. But there just isn’t a pleasant way to describe the process. Waste not, want not, right? If you need further evidence that people really do eat and enjoy it, check out this photo of the line of people waiting for samples at Reading Market’s Scrapplefest back in November. Also, Delaware hosts the annual Apple Scrapple Festival that’s been running for 22 years with upwards of 25,000 visitors. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.
So now you have a loaf of congealed mash. What do you do with it? You slice it very thinly – no more than a quarter of an inch thick – and fry it over medium heat. Be sure your pan is hot before you put the scrapple on it. Cook it for 10 minutes (don’t touch it during this time), flip it over and let it cook for another 5 minutes. Top it with apple butter or maple syrup. Some people like it on sandwiches with savory condiments like ketchup and mustard, but I prefer the sweet contrast of maple syrup. Some people also dredge it in flour before frying it, but I find this is unnecessary. If you heat your pan up properly, it will crisp up nicely on its own.
Scrapple is pretty common in this area and can be found at most grocery stores, though you all know how I feel about conventional meat products – how the animals are raised and all the lovely preservatives they contain. If you want the real deal, get yourself some Stryker Farm scrapple. Someone once described it to me as “gourmet” which made me laugh because how could you possibly make something gourmet from a pig’s head? After months of hearing about this awesome scrapple, I finally got my hands on some last week. I don’t know about gourmet, but it really is incredible scrapple. Pick some up at Reading Terminal Market in Philly or, better yet, go visit the farm!
On a completely unrelated note, meet Ryan & Laurell’s new puppy, Cash. I’m in love. Pearl left him some big shoes to fill, but judging by the size of his paws, I think he’s up to the challenge.