It is Pennsylvania Dutch country’s mystery meat.
Crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside, scrapple is a meaty, thrifty and filling comfort food.
Scrapple is a Lancaster County tradition. It was created as a way to use what was left over on butchering day and consists of pork mixed with cornmeal and pepper. Depending on where you live, you might add a little sage or buckwheat flour. You might use venison, beef or chicken instead of pork.
For some, the love of this odd meat product can be traced to childhood. When you grow up eating scrapple, it’s a comfort food wrapped in nostalgia. It’s synonymous with a family breakfast.
“Without starting young, I’m not sure I could even bring myself to taste crisped, fried, mushy animal innards,” says Judy Sandt of Lancaster Township.
Not everyone is a fan.
Laurie Brahl remembers her mother often serving fried scrapple for dinner often because both her father and grandmother liked it.
“My brother, sister and I hated it,” says Brahl, of Quarryville. “We would cover it in ketchup, but there’s not enough ketchup in the world to hide the taste.”
Scrapple has its roots in colonial times, when folks didn’t let much go to waste. Making use of the butchering scraps would yield breakfast meat for months, writes Amy Strauss in her book “Pennsylvania Scrapple.”
The tradition continues today. Sixty-five percent of scrapple-lovers who responded to a LancasterOnline survey say they like scrapple for breakfast; 6 percent say they like it for dinner; 3 percent say they like it for lunch; and the rest say they will eat it all day long.
When it comes to their favorite scrapple toppings, 22 percent say they favor maple syrup; 17 percent like ketchup; 13 percent say they eat it with syrup; and another 13 percent mention King syrup.
And 40 percent of readers chose eggs as the best food to pair with scrapple, with 25 percent favoring potatoes.
Whether fried up at deer camp or at home, scrapple is a filling meal to start the day.
“My mother would fix it for breakfast a few times a year, especially in the winter,” says Richard Sherer, who now lives in southern California. “I hardly ever get it. But I still can taste it and look forward to trips to Pennsylvania and the chance to have at least one helping of scrapple.”
Traditionally, butchering day on the farm happened as temperatures cooled, in November or December.
Jeremy Weinhold makes his own venison scrapple with friends and family a few times a year, usually starting the week before Christmas. That gives them plenty of time to bring a deer home after a day of hunting.
His father-in-law, Jody Walters, has been making scrapple for more than 20 years, and Weinhold is now part of the scrapple-making crew.
“It’s pretty much an excuse for a bunch of guys that hunt to get together,” the Ephrata man says. “We don’t see each other all year long. At that time of year, we get together in the garage and make scrapple.”
A different person hosts the event every year. They start Friday night by boiling the deer bones. Saturday morning, the crew arrives to strain, grind and mix the meat with cornmeal and flour before pouring it into pans so it can cool. They get together again in January and perhaps in March until the venison is gone.
Weinhold likes to slice up his scrapple and then freeze it, making it easy to grab a few slices for breakfast all year round. He prefers the venison version over pork scrapple.
“I can definitely taste the difference,” he says. “You can taste the venison, and it’s darker.”
On a much larger scale, Shady Maple Farm Market makes more than half a ton of scrapple every week, says Nate Good, smoked meats manager. The scrapple is sold wholesale and in its market, as well as being served as part of its smorgasbord, where breakfast cook Cindy Brown fries 18 pieces at a time in butter on the grill.
“Marvin (Weaver, Shady Maple’s founder) likes it really crisp, so you let it fry until it’s nice and crispy,” she says.
On a rainy weekday, the traffic at the smorgasbord is light enough for her to handle the scrapple one batch at a time. But on a busy Saturday, with three breakfast bars to fill, there often is one cook who is dedicated to just cooking scrapple.
“We always have pork scrapple out,” she says.