Finally, a post for all the people who end up here having googled “eating assholes.” (Sorry, guy who keeps googling “eating candy from assholes” on a near-daily basis and for some reason clicks on this site EVERY TIME, you’re on your own.) I assume this is what you’re all looking for:
Farmers’ market scrapple! Farmers’ market scrapple!! Omg, has anyone ever been so excited about scrapple?!
Probably, somewhere, maybe even pretty often!
Even so, pretty exciting stuff. Scrapple (or pon hoss/haus, which is the Pennsylvania Dutch name) is one of those really polarizing regional specialties, despite the fact that something similar seems to exist in many places and traditions. It’s got European roots, it’s incredibly similar in taste to Irish white pudding, and I’m pretty sure I once saw some Southerners on tv (Bizarre Foods, maybe?) holding a festival to celebrate something they were calling “livermush” that looked awfully familiar to me, aside from the fact that they were eating it with grape jelly.
If you’re unfamiliar with scrapple, it’s usually made primarily of pig offal and cornmeal. It has a mushy consistency and comes in loaf or block form. In its simplest and most common preparation, you just cut slices and fry them up to develop a crisp crust. Flavorwise, it can vary a lot depending on who’s making it, but I’d say the primary seasonings in most versions are black pepper and sage. Around Philadelphia and in some other Mid-Atlantic locales, you can order it in any diner, just as you would order a side of bacon or sausage. I like it plain, but it’s commonly eaten with ketchup in this area, and sometimes with sweet toppings like maple syrup. It’s a breakfast meat, and it’s awesome. In its natural state, it looks like this:
Hey, it’s called scrapple. If you were expecting overt beauty, that’s on you.
Of course, not everyone agrees with me on how awesome scrapple is. To some, it’s just a sort of gross-sounding something eaten by people old enough to have been sufficiently hardened by the Great Depression. It’s got liverwurst status, basically. And just like when you’re seen eating a hotdog, there will often be that one dude who feels the need to chide, “You do know you’re eating snouts and assholes, right?”
I know. Those of us who could be labeled “foodies” (and, like, recoil at the very word of course, because ew) may have forgotten by now that eating snouts and assholes isn’t desirable to all people. At the same time, some would say scrapple doesn’t have quite the same cachet as a $75 severed head on a plate. (By the by, if someone can please hook me up with that delightful-sounding lady who went up to a complete stranger to announce that she and her “friends…are ‘snout-to-tail’ eaters,” at a place like Alla Spina no less, I can’t help but think she’d make an excellent guest blogger.)
No, scrapple is not about nouveau rediscovery and elevation of variety meats. It’s the sort of thing that people came up with a long time ago to stretch what little was left into something that could maybe let them forget they were eating snouts and assholes—not to mention yet more cornmeal.
That said, chefs love scrapple, too. It’s on the menu at plenty of places in Philly that are decidedly not diners, as evidenced by the duck version at a.kitchen in Rittenhouse Square (that photo is by Holly Moore, whose HollyEats.com is a must-follow if you’re in or around Philly). And while you’ll probably be hard-pressed to find it if you’re not around here, you never know: when I moved to the Bay Area years ago, I was pretty surprised early on to find Bette’s Oceanview Diner offering housemade scrapple in Berkeley. Scrapple has its admirers far and wide.
Once cooked, it looks a far sight more appealing than it does as a block of mush.
(The irregularity of the slices here speaks to my fervor for scrapple: I bought this frozen and wasn’t willing to wait for it to thaw. In my struggle to hack off a chunk, any consistency in slicing was a lost cause. I didn’t much care.)
The farmer I bought this from makes two varieties of scrapple. The one pictured in this post is not just pork, but a mix of pork, beef, and beef liver. Aside from the liver, he chooses not to elaborate on which parts of the pig and cow he’s using. This variety also uses a combination of cornmeal and buckwheat flour, though some producers use wheat flour in place of buckwheat.
The most widely-available versions use only pork products, but truth be told, the taste is not drastically different with this combination including beef. I think the best standard version that can be bought at the grocery store is Habbersett original (they have an all-beef version, too, which I haven’t tried). The ingredients are listed there for you to see, and they include pork heart, liver, and tongue.
Once I run through the supply from the market I’ve got in the freezer, I’m thinking it might be time to make some of my own. There are some truly hideous-looking recipes out there, but there are many others that look like more promising jumping-off points. I think that if you’re leaving out the liver, you’re making a huge mistake, but beyond that recipes like this necessarily offer a lot of leeway as to which actual cuts you use. Heart is commonly used, and it’s pretty lean, so I’m guessing you want to incorporate a healthy portion of skin and fattier cuts on the bone as well. (The bones and skin, of course, are strained out. In broad, sketchy terms, picture making a rich stock in which to cook the grain filler, with the remaining meat to be finely ground and incorporated.)
The spicing is also pretty crucial, and of course most producers would consider that a trade secret. As I said above, black pepper and sage are a given, perhaps rounded out with some other herbs common in German and other Central or even Eastern European traditions. We Poles like our marjoram, and I don’t think it would be unwelcome here. Thyme also sounds about right, and white pepper might be worth looking into. But then, if you’re not after replication, or if you want to explore using other meats, I suppose the sky’s the limit.
But the specifics on the homemade stuff will have to wait for another day and another post. Right now, I’ve got three pounds of farmers’ market scrapple to work my way through, and let’s call it research.