- Hardcover: 192 pages
- Publisher: Stackpole Books; 1 edition (August 1, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 081170064X
- ISBN-13: 978-0811700641
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,385,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Country Scrapple: An American Tradition Hardcover – August 1, 2003
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William Woys Weaver traces the origins of an American culinary oddity in Country Scrapple. Few twenty-first-century Americans recall their forebears' scrapple, a hearty mixture of seasoned ground meat and grain that made delicious the scraps left over from butchering. Served sliced and fried, scrapple fed farm families heartily through dark winter months. Each immigrant group had its own scrapple recipe, and the Pennsylvania Dutch version made from pork and cornmeal came to dominate the scene. Ohioans still revel in goetta, which substitutes oats for corn. Weaver documents recipes for the many regional American variations and deftly explains the differences among them. The book even has a directory of German museums with scrapple-related displays. A comprehensive bibliography documents written sources. Mark Knoblauch
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Now here is a teaser - My wife and I had always believed Scrapple was named from the meat scraps used in its production. It is NOT! Read to book to see how it received its name.
Real American regional cooking exists, maybe not in the New York Times or foodie magazines, but in farmers markets, family kitchens and the remaining locally owned restaurants. Scrapple is a backbone of traditional American country cooking, basically fried mush made of ground meat, meat broth, spices and corn meal. It has a history stretching back into medieval Europe, and was brought over by immigrants, revised and adapted to American country life. It's not "Philadelphia" scrapple although thats where many tourists sample it for the first time -- it is a staple of eastern and central Pennsylvania and stretches down through the farms and country restaurants of West Virginia and the Appalachians.
This book is recommended for anyone who is curious about traditional foods. It contains a number of excellent recipes, although I usually buy scrapple at the supermarket ("Rapa" brand scrapple is my favorite), or at local farmers markets.
This should come as no surprise to anyone who has read Weaver's best known book, `Sauerkraut Yankees' on the more general subject of Pennsylvania Dutch culinary traditions. Weaver has a touch that rivals the very best culinary scholars such as Elizabeth David, John Thorne, and Paula Wolfert. He is the mid-Atlantic answer to Thorne's New England perspective and the Southern culinary voice so loudly heard from Jim Villas and others.
The most revealing statement I found in this book is that scrapple can easily be seen as simply a `black polenta', as two of its most important ingredients are corn meal and a meat stock. To back up this perspective, Weaver begins with the story of scrapple's European beginnings in northern Germany and its strong similarities to another high-falutin' food preparation, liver pate. Unlike polenta and pate', scrapple has never lost its humble associations as a poor man's dish, garnered from the very last remains of hog butchery.
Part of the great charm in my reading this book lies in the fact that much of the action takes place within a 65 mile radius of my home in Bethlehem, the land of the Moravians, Quakers, Mennonites, and the Amish, and the site of scrapple central, the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. On top of this is the charm and interest of Weaver's linguistic research, citing one of my major personal heroes, the bard of Baltimore, H. L. Menchen. This is also a clue to the fact that scrapple, under several other names, has a much broader range than southeastern Pennsylvania. It has also gone under the name of Panhas, Pon-hoss, and Panhaus in the lands beyond Lancaster County and while grits has entered the pantheon of classic American foods, scrapple and its close relatives such as Pashofa have been a staple of low-cost eating in the south for as long as hogs have been raised and slaughtered there.
The book is so rich in detail that I even picked up an obscure fact about hog butchery in that the pig's viscera are actually divided into `haslet'; the heart, lungs and liver and `offal', everything else in the viscera. This is probably not arbitrary, as the heart, lungs and liver are probably the three most blood rich organs, and blood is a common ingredient in many types of German sausage, of which scrapple is a close relative.
About half of this book is dedicated to this scholarly introduction. The second half is dedicated to recipes for cooking and making scrapple. Being a native of the Pennsylvania Dutch outskirts and a fairly able home cook, one would think that knowing the right technique for cooking scrapple is in my genes. It isn't. I follow James Beard's recipe whenever I make it and wonder why I'm unhappy with the result. The natural instinct is to fry it as if it were a veal cutlet. Unfortunately, it simply doesn't have the backbone of even a very thinly pounded cutlet. The secret is in bringing the thinly greased pan to a high heat, turning the heat way down, and then adding the scrapple. Unlike Beard, Weaver makes no mention of flouring the scrapple, which, if his low heat technique is used, is probably unnecessary.
Now we get down to the business of making scrapple and its condiments. Weaver provides twenty different recipes, fifteen of which are for scrapple and five are for scrapple condiments, leading off with the all time Dutch favorite, apple butter. The fifteen recipes for scrapple include both vegetarian and kosher recipes so everyone can get into the act. While about half are from scrapple central, several are from the south and the mid-west.
The book ends with a set of notes and a bibliography that would make John Thorne envious. It also has a list of suppliers for both scrapple and scrapple making supplies that make most books on oriental cooking look stingy.
This book may not be for everyone, but if you are a serious foodie with an interest in American cuisine, this book is easily the equal to better than Villas works on Southern cuisine.
Very highly recommended.