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Hog Scrapple

Written By Culinary Pen on Thursday, May 28, 2009 | 11:35:00 AM

This past Memorial Day, Carla and I went to visit her family in Pittsburgh. Last year we roasted a small suckling pig, but this year her Dad picked up a 125 lb hog through a coworker. This coworker primarily raises sheep, and loaned us his motorized spit for turning the hog over a bed of coals. Using the motorized spit saved us a huge amount of labor, as the pig roasted from 10 am to 7:30 pm. The meat from the pig was really delicious; moist, tender, and wonderfully smokey. Then we chopped off the head. And the work began!

I only recently saw a recipe for scrapple in my Time-Life Variety Meats cookbook that really made me interested in making it myself. Wegmans sells a similar product that's rather gummy, but the Time-Life version seemed much more appetizing. As far as animal heads go, most recipes I'm familiar with are for gelatinous terrines of head cheese, or carefully boned-out head meat wrapped into a cylinder and gently poached. They seemed interesting, but never quite sent me into action. Although in retrospect, a Norwegian colleague once told me that it was a tradition to barbecue a sheep head, which sounded cool...if sheep heads weren't banned by the US FDA.

But using the rotisserie'd pig head would be a great way to use that section of meat, as well as giving the scrapple a slight smokey flavor. So what is scrapple? To sum it up, you simmer a pig's head in water with stock vegetables to tenderize the meat and create a porky broth. The meat is removed and shredded, while the broth is used to thicken up cornmeal, just like polenta. The thick, porridge-like cornmeal is spiced with nutmeg, sage, cayenne and thyme, then the chopped head meat is stirred in to create a mosaic of pork suspended in a medium of cornmeal. Pour all this into a loaf pan and chill overnight to set it into a firm block.

Come morning, slice generous slabs of scrapple, give them a quick dusting of flour, then crisp them up in a frying pan. Served with maple syrup and a side of scrambled eggs with scallions and you have a delicious and filling breakfast! While I admit the idea of using head meat might be a bit much for the squeemish, this dish didn't have any organ-like overtones in it. The crispy cornmeal crust gave way to a warm and tender center of porky bits and gooey cornmeal. Like cream of wheat with bacon and toast mashed up in it...although that may actually sound less appetizing than what I'm trying to accomplish.

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mfb said...

AWESOME! Wish I was there.

Anonymous said...

Well, I was there, and I can tell you it was delicious, the best scrapple I ever had. If fact, I fried up some more later in the week.