The Mystery and Appeal of Scrapple: The regional delight that’s loved or hated

Reed Hellman

The Apple Scrapple English Muffin was chef Ryan Cunningham’s entry in the 2015 Hometown Breakfast Battle, sponsored by Thomas’ English Muffins.

According to my unofficial poll, about half the people born and raised in Southern Delaware prefer their scrapple fried crunchy all the way through; the other half prefer theirs mushy (that’s the “official” term) in the middle. But, everyone I talked with, born and raised in Southern Delaware, enthusiastically extolled the virtues of this often maligned “meat.”

The Apple Scrapple English Muffin was chef Ryan Cunningham’s entry in the 2015 Hometown Breakfast Battle, sponsored by Thomas’ English Muffins.
The Apple Scrapple English Muffin was chef Ryan Cunningham’s entry in the 2015 Hometown Breakfast Battle, sponsored by Thomas’ English Muffins.

“It’s an acquired taste: You absolutely adore it, or you don’t,” said Patrick Staib, general manager of the upscale, oceanfront Bethany Beach Ocean Suites, and a self-professed scrapple lover. “Scrapple is a part of Southern Delaware heritage. … We just opened this hotel in July. I still have room on the breakfast menu for a protein, and think that I will look at scrapple.”

The earliest roots of scrapple grew from pre-Roman Europe and crossed to America via the Northern German dish called panhaas, made by colonists settling near Philadelphia and Chester County, Pa., in the 17th and 18th centuries.

“Every couple of months, I’ll go to a local diner in Millsboro and get my scrapple fix,” continued Staib, describing his guilty pleasure as “white Wonder bread, mayo, and scrapple.”

Traditionally, scrapple is made from a mush of pork scraps, trimmings, and offal such as the head, heart, and liver, boiled with any bones attached, and combined with cornmeal, buckwheat flour, and spices, typically sage, thyme, savory, and black pepper. People not raised with scrapple often have problems understanding its attraction.

“I like it crunchy on the outside, but it’s gotta be a little chewy,” said Anna Brady, a guide at Trap Pond State Park. She mentioned that Surf Bagel in Lewes serves a culture-bending scrapple on a bagel.

Competition recognition

Scrapple’s allure has gone beyond Delmarva and the Mid-Atlantic. In 2015, Thomas Breads, makers of Thomas’ English Muffins, invited 135 chefs from across the country to compete in the annual Hometown Breakfast Battle, cooking a signature breakfast dish using their muffins. Chef Ryan Cunningham, of Abbot’s Grill on Broad Creek in Laurel, entered his Apple Scrapple English Muffin and finished in the top five.

His award-winning breakfast sandwich starts with a split and toasted English muffin. He coats the bottom piece of the muffin with homemade apple butter then layers on thin slices of local apples sautéed with onions in bacon fat, a slice of Haas scrapple, melted Cheddar, a fried duck egg, and the top half of the muffin. The resulting breakfast sandwich, garnished with fresh greens, is hearty, filling, and offers several different and sometimes contrasting flavors and textures. If you intend to work hard before lunchtime, this might be the ideal breakfast for you.

“Scrapple is almost a country-style pate … it’s the scraps after the Cadillac cuts are taken away,” said Cunningham. Aside from his breakfasts, he also uses scrapple as an ingredient in a number of dishes including an apple scrapple flatbread, stuffed quail, and a scrapple hash with ligonberry.

“Scrapple is such a food group in Sussex,” said Sarah Dickenson, of 16 Mile Brewery in Georgetown. Kirby & Halloway of Harrington use 16 Mile’s Old Court Ale in a Courthouse Scrapple. “It’s a good pairing, malty and sweet,” said Dickenson. “The malty flavor of the beer compliments the scrapple’s flavor.”

In Bridgeville, Rapa is the world’s largest scrapple producer. Founded in 1926, the company still uses the same recipe for its pork product. Rapa makes other scrapple products including chile chipotle, bacon, Greensboro Brand, turkey, and beef. Bridgeville is also the home of the annual Apple Scrapple Festival on the second weekend of October.

Apple Scrapple English Muffin

Chef Ryan Cunningham, 2015 Hometown Breakfast Battle

1 Thomas’ Original English Muffin

11/4-inch slice Haas scrapple

1 slice white cheddar

1 farm egg

Apple butter:

1 pound butter

3 Gala apples, peeled, cored and diced

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean

1 tablespoon sugar

Apples and onions:

1 Spanish onion, julienned

1 Gala apple, cored and julienned

2 bunches scallions, cut on bias

1 tablespoon bacon fat

1 tablespoon sugar

Kosher salt to taste

Small squeeze of fresh lemon

To make apple butter, melt butter with apples and cook on very low heat until soft. Add vanilla and sugar, and blend until smooth. Refrigerate. This should make 1 quart and should be smooth and pliable.

To make the apple and onions, add bacon fat to pan. Sweat onions on low until soft. Add sugar and apples. Turn up heat to medium and cook until apples soften slightly, and then remove from heat.

Toss scallions, lemon, and salt, then reserve. Cook scrapple until crisp on flat griddle about 3 minutes on each side. Top scrapple with cheese and melt. Cook egg to desired preference, preferably sunny-side up or over easy.

Split and toast English muffin. Spread apple butter on muffin, filling all nooks and crannies. Top with scrapple and cheese, apples, onions, and the egg. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Reed Hellman is a professional writer living in Alberton, Md. Visit his website at reedhellmanwordsmith.com or email your questions and comments to rhway2go@yahoo.com.

 

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