I think one of the travesties in mainstream American food culture is the kneejerk revulsion towards offal. For those of you unfamiliar with offal, it typically refers to edible internal organs and entrails of animals. Liver, intestine, myriad glands, brains, the list goes on. These animal parts span across the taste and texture spectrum, and pervade almost any culture. Some preparations and parts are considered delicacies (Foie Gras, Sweetbreads) while others are known as being “poor food” (Tripe, tendon).
As I’ve mentioned before, I love odd animal cuts. If we truly want to be more responsible consumers of animals, we have to go beyond eating organic, local, and traceable. Knowing how and where your animals come from is of the utmost importance, but there’s more to it. We need to open ourselves up to eating more than just filet and hanger steak. Call it the snout-to-tail movement, if you will.
Once you open your mind (and palette) up to eating odd cuts and offal, you’ll find that there are so many different types of flavors to work with. Eating Offal was largely born of necessity; after all the prime, expensive cuts were sold, butchers would sell off scraps and offal at lower prices for lower-class families.
One of the more ingenious uses of leftover animal parts is scrapple.
Scrapple, or as I like to call it, “The Foie Gras of Pennsylvania,” is “a mush of pork scraps and trimmings combined with cornmeal and flour, often buckwheat flour, and spices. The mush is formed into a semi-solid congealed loaf, and slices of the scrapple are then panfried before serving. Scraps of meat left over from butchering, not used or sold elsewhere, were made into scrapple to avoid waste.” (Wikipedia)
While Wikipedia’s description might sound awful, let me tell you that it’s one of my guilty pleasures.
Scrapple is delicious. It’s rich, fatty, and when cooked properly, simultaneously crispy and smooth. Its taste is the essence of pork (in the same ways that oysters taste of the ocean) it’s the black sheep underdog of breakfast meats. It’s powerful, unrefined, a bit greasy, and unapolagetic.
That being said, it’s got a bit of stigma to it. Since the late 1800’s, scrapple has been a source of heated culinary contention, inciting debate reminiscent of message board flame wars in the pages of the New York Times: The Great Scrapple correspondence of 1872.
Even then, scrapple polarized the nation as a food product, with comments ranging from the eloquent compliment of “a positive luxury, throwing the Frenchman’s pâté de foie gras entirely into the shade,” to perfunctory insults, such as referring to the meal as a “culinary fraud upon the stomach.”
Try as I might, I know this blog post probably won’t convince you to try real scrapple. As with many things, perception beats and seemingly defines reality. I did, however, find a more palpable gateway to trying this delicious breakfast meat:
West Coast Scrapple (pictured above) has made it their mission to make scrapple more approachable. It’s scrapple in terms of preparation, but its makeup is markedly different. For one, there’s no offal- No organ meat. It’s also made with high-quality cuts of pork instead of unsellable scraps. Additionally, the cuts they used to make it are much leaner. What you end up with is scrapple that’s healthier and more accessible.
The folks at WCS were nice enough to send me a package to try out for myself. There’s nothing I love more than getting pork products overnighted to me. Does this mean my food blog has made it to the big time?
The scrapple arrived packaged in a freezer pack, ready to go. The next morning, I slapped some on the skillet.
It still has the comforting look of something you would want to eat as part of a greasy hangover treatment. The spices they’ve added to it give it depth that more than compensates for the lack of stronger-tasting body parts. And while it’s quite lean (only 1 gr of saturated fat per 2 oz. serving), it tasted quite rich.
The Scrapple browned rather well, and it was a fantastic accompaniment to an eggy breakfast. I’ll definitely be buying from them in the future.
I really appreciate WCS’ take on this traditional NorthEast breakfast meat. My hope, though, is that it serves as a gateway meat for people so that they might be more open to consuming a wider variety of animal cuts in the name of responsible butchering and meat consumption.
Remember kids, Offal is Awesome! Especially for breakfast.