Few things in the culinary world evoke as much emotion as scrapple. Scrapple is in the company of natto, durian, Limburger cheese, and uni when it comes to how upset some folks get at its mere mention. I believe that anyone who reacts to scrapple with such disdain must not have ever tried scrapple, much less good scrapple.
Scrapple phobia has its roots in a fear of the unknown. No one seems to know what is in scrapple, and they have heard some horrific stories of its elements. Based on this, not only do they not want to try scrapple, they do not even want to hear the word scrapple.
Well I am here to put those fears to rest. Scrapple is what you make of it, and when you make it yourself, you control the full palette of ingredients to your own liking. Afraid of liver or heart, leave them out. Heard tales of eyeballs, lungs and brains in scrapple? Don’t use them. Make it yourself, and you can add what you like to make it yours.
There is a lot to like about really good scrapple, like the kind I am about to tell you how to make at home. By far the best thing about it is its crisp meaty goodness. At its best, scrapple is a simple mix of meat scraps, grains, rich stock, and herbs and spices. Scrapple is at home in a sweet bath of warm maple syrup, or can be part of a savory breakfast when a crisp slab of scrapple is cooked into a fried egg with some roasted green chilies.
I started making scrapple at home because we eat a lot of spare ribs at our house. I like to trim the racks of ribs to remove the chine bone and to look nice after their turn on the Porkulator. I used to hack up and brine all of those bits, cook them along with the racks of ribs, and serve them as a warmup before digging into the main slabs of ribs. They were good, but soon they were piling up. Good for pots of beans and such, but there is only so much of that you can do. So I started saving all of these cutoffs in bags in the freezer.
Turns out they are perfect for scrapple. I save all of my pork trimmings from making sausage and chili, too. Once I have about two 2-gallon bags full of scraps, I am ready to make scrapple.
If you like heart and liver, get one of each. Pork heart and liver, but you can use beef if you prefer. If you don’t like offal, then leave it out.
Since I’ve added meat curing to my repertoire, I now butcher a few pigs each year. Scrapple is an excellent way to make sure nothing goes to waste. All the bones and rough trip can be used to make scrapple. It always amazes me how much meat is left clinging on the bones that otherwise would discarded. I even made a batch of smoky scrapple with the bones left after a pig roast! Honor the pig, and don’t let anything go to waste.
Put all of the bones and meat scraps into a large stockpot and cover with water. Add a carrot or two, a celery stalk or two, an onion cut in quarters, a small handful of garlic cloves (more if you like more), a bay leaf, 1t black peppercorns, 2t coriander seed, and 1T of minced sage. Add other herbs as you prefer. Bring the pot to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Add 1T salt. Simmer the pot until the meat is very tender and coming off of the bones.
Clean the heart and liver to remove any bits that do not belong. When the meat in the stock pot is tender, add the heart and liver to the pot, making sure they are submerged, for the last 30 minutes.
Using a large slotted spoon, lift all of the solids out of the pot. If you have another large pot, you can just set a colander over the clean pot and pour from one pot into the other. Discard the bay leave, and peppercorns. Mince the other veg and add it into the meats. Allow the meats to cool in a large bowl or bowls.
While the meats are cooling, continue to cook the stock. Taste it and adjust the flavor to your liking. If you prefer something other than coriander and sage, go for it. You may want to add more coriander and sage now. You may add hot peppers, savory, marjoram, thyme, or other herbs and spices that you want to flavor the finished product. There will be more stock than you need, so let it reduce.
When the meats are cool enough to handle, set the liver and heart aside (if using), and pick through the meat to remove any bits of bone, cartilage, or connective tissue. Place all of the meat bits and the soft onion, carrots, (chop them up a bit, if needed) and garlic into a stand mixer bowl. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment, and turn it on low speed. Let it run until the meat is well shredded (this is the same technique used for rillettes). When the meat is well broken down, almost paste-like, add it to the stock in the pot. You can also pick through everything by hand and pull out any tiny bits of bone while you hand shred the meat and vegetables.
Finely dice the heart and liver. Add them to the pot as well.
If not already boiling, bring the pot to a low boil. The mixture should be fairly meaty. If not, let it reduce a bit more. Taste for salt and pepper once more and adjust if desired.
Get your scrapple pans ready. Disposable foil loaf pans work great. We happen to have a lot of glass, ceramic and metal loaf pans here, so I set them out on the counter ready to be filled with the hot scrapple from the stove. My batch usually fills 3-4 loaf pans.
Now you want to have some good corn meal on hand. I like to use corn meal that says “roasted” on the label because it has a richer flavor. You can get some interesting corn meal here. We always have cornmeal on hand, but if you don’t, then I would say to get at least two pounds to make sure you have enough. Start adding corn meal to the pot. Add two cups to start, and then less as you go. After each addition to the pot, stir to let the meal re-hydrate with stock. If the boiling pot starts to pop and throw hot stuff at you, cut the heat a bit. Keep stirring. Do not let it scorch. When the mixture seems like it is too thick, that is the time to add buckwheat flour.
If you have trouble finding buckwheat flour, try a store that caters to Japanese or Korean customers because they use buckwheat to make noodles and special pancakes.
Add buckwheat flour, a ¼ cup at a time. Keep stirring it in. Keep adding more until the mixture seems like it will not take any more and is in dire danger of burning to the bottom of the pot. You have to go past your comfort zone here or the scrapple will be mushy. It’s still OK if it’s mushy, but not exactly what you want. When the scrapple is ready, it will appear to puff up in the pot and will come away from the sides of the pot.
Remove the pot from the heat and immediately fill the loaf pans. It is best to over fill and scrape off the top because if you fill part way and then add more, your slices of scrapple will come apart in your fry pan where the layers met. Again, that is OK, but not ideal. I hold my spoon vertically and chop down through the loaf at various angles. This removes air pockets and keeps layers from forming. If you have a small amount left, just fry it up now or fill a smaller container and cook it for breakfast tomorrow.
The loaves of scrapple can be frozen for up to a year in a deep freeze. I usually cut a loaf into 2-3 pieces and vacuum seal them. That is more than enough for the scrapple lovers in our home to have a nice breakfast with a few pieces left over.
To cook scrapple, slice the loaf into slices about ¼ to ½ inch thick. If your scrapple is fatty, you will not need to add oil. Mine is usually lean, so I start with 1t grapeseed oil (whatever neutral flavored oil you like) in a well-seasoned cast iron or carbon steel skillet. Pre-heat on medium heat. Place the slices of scrapple in the pan and cook until you can see they are browned. Flip and brown the other side. You want it to be very crisp on the outside and soft and warm on in inside.
Delicious, and there was nothing to be afraid of.