Scrapple is a great family favorite that comes from my wife’s heritage. Although she grew up in Texas, she was born in Wilmington, Delaware where many of her family still reside. Wilmington is on the edge of the scrapple epicenter which lies in the Pennsylvania Dutch communities of southeastern Pennsylvania and extend into nearby New Jersey and Delaware.
One of our favorite family breakfasts remains scrapple fried in butter (nothing else will do), sunny-side-up eggs so that the scrapple can be sauced with runny egg yolk, and ketchup. (You may want to take an extra dose of your cholesterol medication that morning – just kidding, of course.)
The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink (Oxford University Press, 2007, page 529) has a comprehensive treatise on scrapple. The dish is the descendant of European pork puddings. What makes it American is the use of cornmeal, but grits and buckwheat may also be used. The Pennsylvania Dutch called it pawnhas before it was called scrapple, and the origin of the word “scrapple” remains cloaked in mystery and controversy. For a long time it was a regional specialty, but more recently it has been distributed throughout the country.
There is also some discussion about ingredients. Traditional recipes call for pork neck bones cooked until the meat is ready to fall off, or pig knuckles, and other pig parts. I discourage you from reading the ingredient list on packages of commercial scrapple; it is reminiscent of the ingredient list for Mexican chorizo. If you can’t find commercial scrapple, it is easy to make a close semblance of the real thing in your own kitchen. If you have a favorite sausage recipe, you can make the scrapple even better by using your home-made sausage. After you have eaten your fill of freshly made scrapple, you can freeze any extra and use it whenever you have a craving for fried eggs and scrapple with ketchup.
A technical note: I used two large (9×5 inch) bread pans but medium (8½x4½ inch) would also work.
- 2½ quarts water
- 1 pound sausage, homemade or commercial
- 2 cups cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground sage
- red pepper flakes (optional)
- additional salt and pepper to taste
- butter for greasing bread pans
- In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Break up the sausage into chunks and drop into the boiling water. Return to the boil, and with a wooden spoon break up the sausage into fine lumps as it cooks. Fat will float to the top, but don’t worry. It will get incorporated into the mixture and help it to hold together when it cools and when it is fried.
- When the sausage is cooked and well-dispersed, whisk in the cornmeal very slowly . With a wire whisk, whisk vigorously to prevent lumps from forming. Reduce heat to the simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and the cornmeal is well cooked.
- Add salt, sage and optional red pepper flakes. Adjust seasoning and remove from the heat.
- Pour the slightly cooled mixture into two buttered bread pans ( large or medium will do)
- Completely cool the scrapple-filled bread pans. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill overnight in the refrigerator.
- The next day, run a knife around the edge of the chilled loaves of scrapple to remove from the pan. Cut into blocks to be wrapped in plastic film and aluminum foil for freezing.
- Use fresh, or thaw the appropriate amount when you are ready to use. Cut into ½ inch slices. Fry in melted butter until browned on both sides.
- Serve while still hot with fried eggs and ketchup.