Our beloved Pennsylvania scrapple

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jul 30, 2005



When we're not perusing hard-core porn or studying football databases, we're generally reading books with names like "Country Scrapple: An American Tradition" (William Woys Weaver, Stackpole Books, 2003).
 
Through no small coincidence, that's where we got this recipe for scrapple.
 
If you never had scrapple – or never heard of it – you are truly a sheltered tailgater. Scrapple is most closely associated with Pennsylvania Dutch country and it's still easy to find all over Pennsylvania, especially in the southeastern part of the state. In its most basic form, scrapple is pork mixed with spices and some sort of grain that is then formed into loaves. Think of it as bread made from ham. Pork and carbs! How can you go wrong?
 
We always pick up some scrapple for our Pennsylvania tailgates, whether it's the Eagles, Steelers or our beloved Nittany Lions.
 
The loaves are then cut into slices, fried in a skillet and served with breakfast – eggs, grits, gravy, hot sauce or whatever you have on hand. Scrapple kinda just goes with everything. Traditionally, it was made with all the parts of the pig that had no place in bacons, hams, chops, ribs or sausages. Think of that for a moment: scrapple was made with the stuff you wouldn't even put in sausage.
 
There are myriad incarnations of scrapple, each one beautiful and lovely in its own special way. This is a very easy and tasty recipe for ham scrapple. If you're butchering a pig and have left over scraps, you could use those in this scrapple. Otherwise, we suggest using a nice chunk of richly-smoked ham.
 
Yields about two standard bread loaves (or 18 to 20 servings).
  • 1½ pounds well-flavored country ham, outer rind removed
  • ¾ cup smoked bacon, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup country ham, finely diced (this is in addition to the previously mentioned 1½-pound chunk of ham)
  • 1 Tablespoon ground sage
  • 1 Tablespoon ground savory
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg (not in the book's recipe, but we think it adds to the aroma and flavor of the dish)
  • 3 cups yellow cornmeal
Cut the 1½ pounds of ham into large, irregular chunks. Fry bacon until crispy, set aside on paper towels. Bring 2½ quarts of water to a boil in a heavy 3- to 4-quart pan (a cast-iron Dutch oven works dandily). Add the irregular chunks of ham to the water, along with the chopped bacon. Boil gently over medium heat for 40 minutes, skimming off any fat that rises to the top.
 
Strain out the meat, leaving the stock in the stewing pan. Chop or grind the ham and bacon to a fine consistency (use a food processor or a mortal and pestle) and add back to the cooking stock, along with the finely diced ham and the spices. Mix well.
 
Gradually sift in the corn meal, alternating between sifting and stirring to avoid lumps. Then stir vigorously so that the scrapple becomes very thick and heavy (about 15 to 20 minutes). Once very thick, pour the scrapple into lightly greased bread pans. Set on a cookie rack to cool and then refrigerate overnight.
 
At your tailgate slice the loaves like bread and fry the slices in a very hot skillet (a little oil or bacon fat is optional; can also be fried on a hot, dry skillet). Serve with the breakfast sides of your choice.

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