Regular readers may have noticed I have a bit of an obsession with scrapple, but up till now I’ve only written about the scrapple served in restaurants. That changes today with the formalization of my method for preparing my favorite breakfast food in a Crock-Pot®.
Why use a slow cooker? For one, it is not necessary to watch the pot during the initial stock making phase. I can start the process before I go to work in the morning or before bed at night and have the stock ready when I’m prepared to proceed. The stock can also be held on the WARM tempertaure setting waiting for use. But the most important reason is the ease of cooking and cleanup after the cornmeal is added. Anyone who has ever made scrapple, polenta, mush or anything else with cornmeal knows what a pain it is to constantly stir it to avoid scorching and that even the most minor sticking is difficult to clean up. The even heat of the ceramic cooking vessel makes this concern a thing of the past.
Scrapple fanatics can skip this next paragraph, but a few words are necessary for the neophyte scrapple heads.
Scrapple in America originated with the Pennsylvania Dutch (Deutsch or German) residing in the farm country near Philadelphia. In the late fall or early winter the hogs were butchered and processed into hams, sausage and other products. Wasting nothing, the farmers took everything that was left over from the butchering (heads, feet, organs, etc.) and cooked them all together, removed the inedible parts and thickened the mixture with cormeal and flour. The mixture was then poured into molds and when cooled and set was sliced, fried and served primarily as a breakfast meat.
Scrapple making was a lot of work and my goal with this recipe was to create a process to cut down on the labor but still create an authentic product. The key to this authenticity is the quality of the stock, and unless you have a commercial kitchen or a huge outdoor kettle that can accommodate a pig’s head, your only option is pig trotters (or feet). One possible exception are fresh hocks, but these are rarely found as they are reserved for smoking. DO NOT use smoked hocks. Recipes on the net that call for chicken stock and ground pork will NOT create a quality product. What the trotters provide is gelatin. The gelatin creates a rich stock that sets up firm when cold. This allows the use of less cornmeal and thereby a moister product with a creamy interior when cooked. In the spirit of frugality, I do not purchase meat speciffically for scrapple. My method is to buy a bone-in pork butt and break it down for another dish (today Segedínský Guláš ) and then use the scraps and bone in the stock. Any cheap cut of pork will suffice though if you choose not to buy a whole butt. When it comes to liver, the historical choice is pork, but I have made scrapple with beef, veal and even chicken in a pinch with good results. Naturally beef gives a stronger offal flavor. One final ingredient that is significant is the buckwheat flour. The brand of scrapple I grew up with was made with buckwheat so I prefer it but you could easily substitute all purpose flour. It should be noted buckwheat flour is gluten free so keep that in mind if gluten is an issue for you.
SLOW COOKER SCRAPPLE
- 2 pig trotters(feet), cleaned and split
- 1 lb pork meat and scraps (add bones if you have them)
- 1 lb liver , cubed
- 1 onion, medium size cut in half
- 2 sprigs fresh sage (substitute 1 Tbs dry if not available)
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 Tbs whole dry)
- 2 celery tops
- 1 Tbs black peppercorns
- 1 Tbs whole allspice
- 6 whole cloves
- 8 garlic cloves
- 1 ½ Tbs Sea salt
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 3 C yellow cornmeal
- 1 C buckwheat flour
Make a bouquet garni of the sage, bay leaves, thyme, celery, allspice, peppercorns, allspice and cloves tied in cheesecloth.
Place all ingredients in a large (minimum 6 Qt. ) slow cooker and cover with water.
Cook until pigs feet or falling apart (6 to 7 hours on high or 10 to 12 hours on low)
Strain through a fine sieve.
Skim fat (reserve if desired)
Measure 3 Qt of the remaining stock (add water if necessary) and return to the slow cooker. Turn heat to high.
While the stock is coming to a boil, pick through the scraps reserving the edible portions and discarding the rest. Chop finely by hand or food processor.
Return reserved meat and liver to the slow cooker and bring to a boil.
When boiling, SLOWLY add the cornmeal and buckwheat flour stirring constantly. (You’ll note in the photo that I slipped a bit adding the cornmeal which resulted in a few yellow patches in the finished product)
Cook the mixture for at least 1 hour (after returning to a boil) stirring occasionally. The scrapple will begin to pull away from the sides of the crock when properly cooked.
At this point you may optionally add additional fat in small quantities and stirring until well dispersed. This is the old time way of using the reserved fat which I dispense with for health reasons. If you choose to add it, stop when you see fat collecting on the surface.
Taste and correct for seasoning. You may need more salt as the cornmeal absorbs a lot. I try to watch my salt intake so you may find the recipe a bit light on it. I always add some fresh ground pepper and a bit more cayenne, but season to your taste.
Pour into greased molds of your choosing. Most people use loaf pans. I use pint freezer containers as they are a more convenient size for a single guy and I can pop them right into the freezer when cool.
One final note on cooking scrapple. The goal is to get a crispy crust with a creamy moist interior. By far the best utensil to achieve this is a cast iron skillet. Nothing conducts as well for browning and the cooking surface is always dead flat. If you don’t have cast make sure the skillet is heavy and very flat. The preferred grease is lard or bacon fat. Butter works too but do not cook scrapple in oil. In addition, I always flour my scrapple slices to help with creating a nice crust. You’ll find may ways to serve scrapple on the net. As a kid I always ate mine with REAL local maple syrup but now prefer it with eggs. If you plan on doing something with this scrapple other than slicing it, I would add a bit more corn meal or cook it longer to tighten it up a bit.