Just because vegetarians are at your table doesn't mean you can't serve traditional Pennsylvania scrapple. This mock scrapple recipe from As American as Shoofly Pie: The Foodlore and Fakelore of Pennsylvania Dutch Cuisine, written by local food historian William Woys Weaver, is in keeping with the Pennsylvania Dutch spirit of making the most of what's at hand or hoof. Just substitute vegetable oil for the bacon drippings or lard when frying, and the dish becomes truly meatless. Penn Press staff member Sara Davis gave the recipe a try. In the essay below, she shares the results with you.
Mock Scrapple (Blinder Panhaas)1 quart (1 liter) reserved cooking stock from vegetables, peas, or beans
1 cup (200g) parched (dark roasted) cornmeal
1/2 cup (75g) buckwheat flour
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon summer savory (dried leaves)
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon powdered hot pepper (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt or to taste
Put the reserved cooking broth in a large saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil. Sift together the cornmeal and the buckwheat into a bowl and pour 2 1/2 cups (625ml) of the hot broth over this. Whisk smooth to remove all lumps, then pour this into the remaining broth. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring constantly to thicken the mixture. After cooking for 15 minutes, add the ground pepper, savory, allspice, and hot pepper if desired. Season with salt. Continue cooking and stirring until the mixture thickens (20 to 30 minutes). Pour this into a small, greased bread pan or an earthenware terrine. Set aside to cool and set. Chill overnight in the refrigerator.
The next day turn out the mock scrapple, slice, and brown in bacon drippings or lard in a hot iron skillet.
I didn’t grow up in Pennsylvania and never tried scrapple until I’d lived here for several years. To my great surprise, I love it. Never mind what’s in it: good scrapple is crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, savory and satisfying. So when I saw the recipe for mock scrapple, I knew I had to try it.
Blinder Panhaas is a great dish for the frugal cook to have in her repertoire: the recipe is essentially a means to turn leftover cooking stock and some basic kitchen staples into a tasty accompaniment. As it happens, I am already a committed maker and saver of homemade stock: I freeze vegetable scraps from cooking—carrot peels, onion tops, herb stems—and make a large batch of stock every few months. Furthermore, I had planned two consecutive nights of cooking with my neighbor, who hosts a big dinner party every March, so I had time and company to accommodate the two stages of cooking mock scrapple.
My neighbor and I didn’t have the recommended roasted corn meal and buckwheat flour, so we used oat flour and regular corn meal instead, feeling that it was appropriate to the waste-not-want-not spirit of the dish. But of course, swapping ingredients can change the taste and texture. If we had used the recommended dark grains and bean stock, the scrapple would have had an earthier, possibly nutty flavor; ours was lighter in taste and appearance, resembling a coarse polenta until we added seasoning. We had the savory, coriander, and allspice recommended by the book, which are spices often found in sausage and scrapple, but one could probably substitute other earthy seeds and green herbs (sage or thyme, fennel or caraway) to good effect. We also went with the optional teaspoon of red pepper, which tasted very hot in the uncooked meal but mellowed a great deal with cooking.
Texture-wise, our light flour and corn meal mix was possibly a lot thirstier than roasted grains would have been: my mix soaked up all the stock I poured into it, so it was difficult to whisk. I ended up stirring it with a wooden paddle until it smoothed. Once I poured it back into the hot stock, I found it easier to whisk, but I needed to add a little more stock while the grains cooked. (This also might be a problem with my technique, as I’ve had similar experiences making polenta.)
We poured the cooked meal into a square baking dish and left it in the fridge overnight to set.
The next day, after we’d wrangled a turkey into the oven and prepared several pounds of green beans and Brussels sprouts, I cut the cold, firm scrapple into thick triangles. This pan yielded about thirty-two thick wedges. We fried them in about a quarter inch of vegetable oil (to keep it meatless for visiting vegetarians), flipping each piece once to brown on both sides.
The finished triangles tasted pretty good—as most fried things do! We put some on a plate with apple butter, as the book recommends, and really enjoyed the contrast of crispy, savory scrapple with the sweet, tart fruit preserve. We weren’t trying to fool anyone with these, but interestingly, a few late guests supposed that they were eating traditional scrapple. I guess that the combination of savory spices and the familiar creamy cornmeal texture seemed close enough. Others figured they were eating some kind of corn fritter. In any case, the plate we set out as an appetizer was soon empty.
Sara Davis is the Direct Mail and Advertising Manager for Penn Press and the writer behind the scenesofeating.com blog.