A Flavor Remembered (Scrapple)

This week I recieved an e-mail from my daughter Rachel reminding me that November 9th was National Scrapple Day, little did she know that during the weeks prior there had been a flow of postings about scrapple on Linked-in. It is funny how those flavors from the past just suddenly become the in food or trend of the moment. I am not saying that scrapple will become the trending restaurant concept of tomorrow, but it is if a flavor that many people might enjoy.

Now for those who don't really know me I was born in Philadelphia and moved to New England at a very young age. I remember we would return to Philadelphia every year and visit our family. As a child I thought we were returning to eat scrapple and have French vanilla ice cream at the Reading terminal. So scrapple and I go way back, but the origins of scrapple predate me considerably.

Scrapple is a unique breakfast meat that has a history in this country that dates back to the late 1600's when the Pennsylvania Dutch came, and as one of their gifts to the melting pot, gave us scrapple. These people were, and still are, great sausage makers and wasted nothing in their kitchens. Originally, as the name suggests, scrapple was made from bits and scraps, frequently the pigs head and other less saleable parts. This meat was cooked until it fell from the bone, then cornmeal was added along with a wonderful variety of spices to give the scrapple, sometimes called panhaus, a truly unique flavor.


If you happen to be a lover of James Michener novel's you may remember the character, Levi Zendt in the epic, Centennial. His family was from Germany and first settled in the Pennsylvania area around the 1700's. They were farmers but each generation of Zendts was also known for their skill as butchers and sausage makers. In the chapter about the families history you are told about the sausage and scrapple that they were so proud of making. Micheners description of the Zendt's product and their pride in its manufacture can only add to one's desire to taste real scrapple.


Now you can purchase scrapple in cans and I have tried it frozen in pound blocks but there is nothing like the flavor of fresh scrapple. My Philadelphia cousins Stan and Shelli Dunn usually bring me a supply every year when they come for Thanksgiving.



Some people use it for stuffed peppers mixed with rice or as an ingredient for turkey or chicken stuffing. Each of the above is delicious, but the one great way to enjoy scrapple is sliced about one fourth of an inch thick and coated with flour. Then this is fried in butter until lightly brown and crisp. This delicacy served with eggs and toast is unbeatable. At breakfast some people like to eat the scrapple with fried, spiced apples or maple syrup. Me, I just love it plain.


You may be wondering how I can satisfy the craving for this unique Philadelphia flavor, I can't fly to Philadelphia every time I get the yearning for scrapple so I had to develop a homemade scrapple recipe that satisfied me at least close to the degree that the Philadelphia scrapple does. I must warn you that it takes a little work. But there is a possibility that you could become hooked on this special flavor.



I have used a much fancier cut of pork then is necessary but I felt it would make you happier knowing you had high quality ingredients. Feel free to go out and get a pigs head if you like.


 1 1/2 pounds chuck-end pork loin (sliced),                                 1/2 cup flour,

3 1/2 cups water,                                                                       1 tsp.marjoram,

2 tsp. salt                                                                                  1/2 tsp. sage  

1 tsp. black pepper                                                                   1 tsp. thyme                                                

1/2 cup cornmeal                                                                      1/4 tsp. allspice


Combine pork, water, salt and pepper in a saucepan and boil for two hours or until the meat falls from the bone. Pour off the broth and allow it to cool. Once it is cool you may skim off the fat from the top. Remove all the bones from the meat and chop the meat fine. You will need 2 1/2 cups of broth to complete the recipe. If you do not have that much, add warm water to your broth to make up the difference. In a large saucepan, combine the cornmeal and flour with 1 cup of broth and blend the mixture well, add the other 1 1/2 cups of broth with the seasonings and cook for about five minutes. Stir in the chopped pork and allow to cook until thick, about one hour. While the scrapple is cooking the temperature should be low, simmering. Stir constantly during the cooking. When the hour is up, pour the mixture into a greased 9" x 5" x 3" loaf pan and chill.

To cook, cut slices about 1/4 inch thick and flour well, then fry in butter or margarine. Serve with eggs and pancakes or just eat it plain. Anyway you have it, ENJOY!





Secrets Of Sour Dough

I think the first secret about sourdough bread is that it was not discovered in California or Alaska.  I will admit that the tallest tales and most vivid history seem to come from those areas, but the use of wild yeast as a starter for breads and beer goes way back to Egyptian times.  The name "sourdough"  was a nickname for old miners who carried the starter with them wherever they went in their search for gold. Now it is important to remember that the East Coast was populated well before the West and most of those delicious sourdough creations had their origins right here in old New England.  So promise me one thing.... the next time one of your friends or neighbors comes from home from a trip to the West Coast and hands you a loaf of stale sourdough bread that was purchased at the airport and tries to tell you of the great new discovery let them know where it all began!
Some of the hardiest peasant breads brought to this country by immigrants from Europe use the same sourdough starters that were saved from one baking to another in the form of a bowl  of "Sponge" which was the starter mix with flour and water.  Great breads like Russian rye, pumpernickel and Italian Scali were all transplanted  to America this way.  A good starter mix with different types of flour can create these wonderful breads.
Once you have mastered the basics of sourdough you'll be amazed what that bubbly pot can do!  I am including recipes for both water and flour starters and for milk and flour starter I have found that milk gives a sharper flavor.
Once you have prepared your starter, try to use it at least once a week.  If it is not used for several weeks simply discard about half the batch mix together equal parts of Flour and milk  and add it to the starter let it stand a few hours until it's full of bubbles then cover and store in the refrigerator.
Many people have the same Starter working for as long as 20-30 years. The one I am currently using has been working for well over 40 years. By the way your Starter can be used for making wonderful pancakes, muffins, waffles and cakes in a future article I will  pass along some of those recipes.
Starter: yeast method
2 cups water                                                            2 cups flour
one package dry yeast                                              1 tablespoon sugar
Combine ingredients in a crock or glass container(do not use metal). Mix well.  Cover with a cheesecloth and let stand in a warm place for 48 hours.  Mixture will be full of bubbles and ready to work.
2 cups milk
2 cups flour
Place milk in a crock or glass jar.  Allow stand at room temperature for 24 hours.  Stir in the flour and mix well.  Cover with a cheese cloth and set outside for a few hours.  Return the mixture to a warm place inside and allowed to stand for 3 to 5 days or until it is full of bubbles.

To use the starters, always add equal parts of flour and water to them and allow them to stand at room temperature until they reach the bubbling stage.  Then remove a cup of starter ,add one cup water and one cup flour to it.  Mix well and store in the refrigerator for future use.  You are now ready to follow your favorite sourdough recipe with the remainder.
1 cup warm water                                                          3 Tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups starter                                                           2 teaspoons salt
4-5 cups flour (unbleached)                                             2 Tablespoons olive oil
Mix together the water,starter and 3 cups of flour.  Make sure they are well blended.  Cover the bowl and allow to stand overnight in a warm place.  The next morning the mixture should be very foamy, add the sugar, oil andsalt to the batter, then add enough flour to make a smooth dough.  Knead well by hand or machine.  Form two loaves and place in a greased and floured bread pan.  Allow to rise until doubled.  Bake in a pre heated  400 degree oven for about 30 -40 minutes.  Turn out the bread onto its side and allow to cool on a rack.





The Real Thing

From time to time I have been accused of being a day dreamer. I guess I deserve the title as I find pleasure in just getting lost in thoughts of food,Americana and New England.
Sometimes the title of a cookbook will conjure a wonderful image of yesterday. Names like the Blue Grass Cookbook, The Hotel St. Francis Cookbook of San Francisco, The Hearthstone Cookbook and the Epicurean.......all landmarks in our culinary history are an easy source of foods for thought. The basics were important as many titles will tell you. They dealt with the pure, practical, basic, domestic, economical and valuable
Food information of the day. We also became whimsical with titles like, The Birth Of A Cook, The Black Art Of Cookery, The Dyspeptics Guide To The Grave, Cupids book Of Good Counsel and dozens of books with something dainty in the title. Everything from Dainty Desserts For Dainty People to Dainties From Down On The Farm. I looked at a group of books with the word eat in the title. There was Eat and Be Happy, Eat And Be Well, then there was Eat And Be Wary. But then I found Eat Without Fears. so all was well again.

Now the past few moments may have seemed frivolous to some, but to those lovers of food and history I hope we hit upon a common cord. I don't think there is a subject in our daily lives that somehow is not touched upon by one cookbook or another. It is this wonderful wealth of knowledge that prompts me to suggest we pass on certain types of experiences to our children. It is only through experiencing something better that they can help create the demand for those services or products later on. Some of the things I am thinking about include a " real" hot dog. I don't mean those skinless, filler-ladened sticks we are sometimes reduced to eating. Make sure they try a natural casing, all beef frank. I know they cost more, but it is a small price to pay for an experience. Don't forget to pan grill the roll in a little butter.
What is cheaper than real lemonade? Nothing, really! But all we seem to see today is a bag with an ingredient list that reads like a pharmaceutical house order form. Frequently you don't even see lemon in the list.
Sometimes I am sure the negative attitude kids today have towards certain foods is derived from many of the poor quality "new and improved" products they eat. Compare the succulent flavor of a Vine ripened summer tomato to those pink things that often pass for tomatoes in the super market. If it is possible let kids try milk that is not homogenized. Some smaller dairies still produce that wonderful product with cream on the top. There are some important reasons for milk pasteurization, but everyone should get a chance to taste fresh safe raw milk. Give those kids a chance to taste home baked bread, real baked beans and just the concept of popping corn in a pot, shaking it over a stove top will seem like rocket science. Popping corn in a fire place with a screen shaker will bring the old time camping experience into the living room. Of course you must use real wood for the fire, not artificial logs.

I guess what I'm really taking about is enjoying where we came from and building bridges for newer generations to travel over, and enjoy the roads we traveled getting to where we are today. Often our food heritage makes a great bridge.


Changing Rolls

I am not sure about anyone else, but I am really getting confused by the mysterious changing rolls at the paper towel area of the supermarket and everywhere else that sells disposable paper towels. Do they think we are dumb? I guess so! They tell us that when you purchase their brand a certain magic occurs. Charmin, Scott, Viva, Bounty ect. ect. ect. tells us that 12 equals 24, 6 mega equals 24, 6 big equals 12, 4 big equals 8, 18 equals 36, 10 equals 14, 6 equals 8 ,6 equals 9 and 8 equals 12. Now; what do we do about this?

First we should look and see actually l how many sheets are in a roll and how long is the roll, are we talking about single or double ply(what ever that means) That’s big in toilet tissue also. What is the difference between a regular roll, big roll and jumbo roll.

The reality here is if you can’t easily compare the items to logically check the price we will opt for the low price or the largest magic number, which often is not the best buy.  I think it is time for a standard count and size rule to be established for the paper towel industry so we the consumer can figure out what is actually a good buy. This type of logic really scares these companies, I wonder how many people are actually employed to make up these magic counts just to confuse the consumers. Why don’t you fire them all and just lower the price for a standard roll. What ever that may wind up being.

Please pass this on so we can get this major problem resolved, so we all can spend less time in the paper isle.



What you didn't know about the Pomegranate

A while ago I was at the Concord Museum teaching a class on vegetable and fruit carving for the Concord Garden Club, at that class one of the members shared a unique method of removing the seeds from a pomegranate, it was very enlightening and with today’s interest in healthy ingredients timely as well. This is not the exact method demonstrated, but it is close and leaves a clean work area.

1. Cut off the stem end of the pomegranate.

2. Score the skin in several places.

3. Working over a large bowl filled halfway with cold water, use your fingers to pull apart the pomegranate.

4. Pry away the seeds from the peel and the membrane. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl; the pieces of membrane will float on top.

5. When you are finished, use a strainer or a small sieve to scoop up the pieces of membrane.

6. Drain the seeds in a sieve or a colander and pat dry with a paper towel. Eat the seeds out of hand or use them in drinks, jellies, or salads.

When I was back at my office I did some additional research and was surprised at one of the historical references to this ageless fruit which by the way dates back to ancient times and is referenced as one of the oldest Semitic symbols of life and marriage. Often in ancient temples there are carvings of pomegranates and their relationship with a fruitful marriage and the blessing of many children.

Then came the most interesting and surprising reference THIS IS MY BIG DID YOU KNOW?

The French around 1791 developed the munitions’ shell that explodes on impact and strews metal fragments over a wide area (today called shrapnel). They named the shell after the pomegranate, and called it a grenade named for the seed spreading attributes of the fruit, and the regiments of men who launched these weapons were called grenadiers. It is amazing how so sweet a gift could be the namesake of such a terrible weapon. I guess that’s life.