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How to make scrapple from scratch

April 20, 2011 9 comments

WARNING: THIS POST IS NOT SUITABLE FOR THE SQUEAMISH

After 12 years of living in the southeastern United States, I consider myself a southerner.  But every once in a while, my Pennsylvania Yankee roots show themselves, usually in connection with my food preferences.  And one of my guilty food pleasures is a food that is loved by some and loathed by others: scrapple.  Also known by the slightly more appetizing Dutch name of Pon Haus, or “ponhaws”, or the more descriptive name “pork mush”, scrapple is a unique Pennsylvania delicacy that does vary somewhat region to region.  The common threads, however, are that it’s a food made from pork scraps, spices and cornmeal.  Variations include the specific scraps of meat used (more specifically, whether the recipes include organs), the specific spice melange employed, and whether grains other than or in addition to corn are used.

I might not have ever been possessed to make scrapple myself, but for “the Ossabaw Project” I embarked on with a friend a couple years ago, and which is still ongoing.  To make a long story short, we bought a couple Ossabaw gilts, which my friend raised on his Orange County, NC farm.  Ossabaws are a heritage breed swine from Ossabaw Island, GA, and they are reknowned for their spectacular flavor and texture.  We bred our gilts with a Duroc boar, another breed with wonderful eating characteristics.  The resulting piglets have been some of the best pork I have ever tasted.  In keeping with my desire to minimize waste and respect the animal, scrapple is a perfect food to make from scratch.  It also happens to be exactly the kind of food that should be the focus of this blog: something that utilize “unusual” ingredients that people generally don’t know how to handle any longer.  Including me, as it turned out.

Because even though I’ve eaten my share of scrapple, I really had very little idea how to make it.  So I started where I usually start when I’m stumped: with a Google search.  It turns out there are as many scrapple recipes as their are scrapple recipe authors.  What I usually do in that situation is read as many as I can stand, and start to mentally construct my own recipes and techniques from the best of what I read.

The common threads I kept coming back to were some of the spices.  Many of the recipes leveraged one or more of three spices: salt,

Pork head. I warned you, not for the squeamish.

coriander seed and sage.  I knew my recipe would include those in some way.  I became very enamored of one recipe in particular, from the Food Network, of all places (I’m a big enough man to admit when I admire a Food Network recipe), and even more surprisingly, from Bobby Flay (I say surprisingly only because scrapple seems so unlike Bobby Flay’s usual cuisine choices).  The thing I liked about the Food Network recipe was that it specified the use of roasted cornmeal, which is exactly what we make at our coffee roastery.  Score!  I also knew that any recipe I made would have to include pork liver (because what else would I do with it), and pork head, because while many other variations are possible, using the head for this purpose is very traditional.

Here’s the recipe I ultimately concocted:

1 lbs pork jowls, trimmed of fat
1 lbs pork liver
1.5 qts water
2 bay leaves
10 whole peppercorns
1-1/2 TBSP smoked sea salt
1-1/2 TBSP sea salt
1/2 TBSP dried sage
1/2 TBSP coriander seed, toasted and crushed
1/2 TBSP ground black pepper
3-1/3 cups roasted cornmeal

Here’s the photo tutorial on how to do it:

My spice melange. Toast the coriander seeds in a skillet until highly aromatic, then smash them in a mortar.

Here is the trimmed jowls and liver, about 1 lb each. You can use whatever you want in yours - a shoulder roast will do nicely, or you can add other organs, too.

Adding the water to my pressure cooker. I absolutely LOVE my Russel Hobbs electric pressure cooker, i.e., could not live without it. If you do not have a pressure cooker, you can braise for a couple hours, instead.

Add the bay leaves and whole peppercorns to the pot. Pressure cook for about 15 minutes, or if you are doing an oven or stovetop braise, cook for a couple hours.

After the meat is cooked, allow it to cool. Strain and reserve the cooking liquid. Then grind the cooked meats.

Add all the ingredients to a large skillet, including the reserved broth, and simmer gently until the mush is stiff enough for a spoon to stand in it, maybe 10-15 minutes.

Spoon the mush into a mold. Traditionally, bread pans are used, but I wanted smaller units. So I used pencil baskets, and lined then with parchment paper. It worked great and was a perfect size. Once in the mold, refrigerate long enough to set up. Once set up, you can freeze for at least several months.

Here is my molded loaf. Perfect size.

Cut a slice about 3/8" thick, and pan fry on each side till golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Here is what it looks like when finished.

I wish that this challenge would be raised by the charcutepalooza women, so I might actually be ahead of a challenge for a change!  Mrs. Wheelbarrow, are you listening?

In any case, if you make your own (and I highly recommend you do – like everything else of this type, making your own is infinitely superior to what you can buy), be sure to share the recipe here.  And make sure you’re drinking some fine Muddy Dog coffee when you eat it.

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Rabbit and Kale Pie from scratch

January 24, 2011 4 comments

Great book. Author is from the UK, so the book is mainly European-style pies (savory), though there is a chapter dedicated to American pies (sweet).

Meat pies are under-appreciated in the USA.  Rabbit (as food) is under-appreciated in the USA.  So you can imagine how much rabbit pie is under-appreciated in the USA.  When I had the opportunity to pick up a couple fresh rabbits from In the Red Farm at the NC State Farmers’ Market last weekend, along with some beautiful fresh kale, I was inspired by Tamasin Day-Lewis’ fabulous book, Tarts With Tops On, to turn it all into a rabbit pie.  I did a mash-up of a couple recipes in her book to come up with this.  Of course this entire procedure is in keeping with the purpose of this blog: to take under-appreciated ingredients that people think are difficult, and show you how easy it is to do something spectacular with them.

Start by making a shortbread pie dough. It's as easy as pie (ha!). Seriously, 300g flour, 150g butter. Pulse till it's crumb. Turn the processors on and add 2-3 TBSP ice water slowly till it turns into dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refirgerate at least 30 minutes, longer is better.

Here's the finished dough. The pinch was my oldest daughter sampling the goods.

Joint the rabbit just like you would a chicken - cut the carcass at each joint. After legs are removed, split it down the spine, then quarter it. The liver in the photo made an excellent pate, by the way, or you could just use it in the pie.

I carmelized some red onion I bought from the market at the same time, then added the rabbit to the skillet with salt, pepper, herbs de provence and some dried orange rind. you can use any herb mix you like. Once it was browned, I added a cup of water, covered tightly and slid into a 400F oven for 45 minutes, then removed it, uncovered, and rested till it was cool enough to handle.

Reserve the jus (you'll need some for the pie, and the rest is just delicious stock), then pull the rabbit with a couple forks.

While the rabbit was cooking, I pan sauteed the liver, then put in the processor with a couple rings of red onion I took from the rabbit pot, and drizzle of balsamic, some parsley, sea salt and pepper. A few quick pulses made this fabulous pate. A drizzle of peppery EVOO finished it in spectacular fashion.

We have a vegetarian in the family, so I whipped up a veg pie while the rabbit was cooking. Blanched some baby tuscan kale that I got from Ben's Produce @WWFM, sauteed with red onion, then folded that into a small bowl and topped with hard cooked eggs. The girl likes crust so I gave this tart a bottom as well as a top. I used a shallow cereal bowl as a pie plate in this case.

Into the pie dish goes the rabbit, about a cup of the jus, a couple cups of blanched kale, a few hard-cooked eggs, and parsley.

Top the pie with a crust rolled to about 1/8" thick. Make sure the dough is cold and the surface well dusted with flour and it'll be easy, otherwise it will be a mess. Brush the top with a beaten egg. Bake the pie(s) at 400F for about 20-30 minutes or until nicely browned. remember, you don't need to cook the filling in this step, just the crust.

Here it is. Nutritious, delicious and beautiful, too. A wide range of wines complement it; I selected a cabernet.

Now here’s the thing: you could make this pie from any meat, and traditionally it’s done from a leftover Sunday roast.  It would be equally great with chicken.  You can also substitute any green veg – turnip, mustard, chard, etc will work just fine.

Cost per serving is admittedly higher than I like it.  The rabbit was $19, which I consider to be a bargain for an animal of that quality, properly processed (I got the liver, heart and kidneys along with the visceral fat, which yielded an appetizer for my daughter and I and a meal for my 2 dogs).  The butter for the crust was about $2, flour maybe 25 cents. I used a buck’s worth of greens, and about $1.25 worth of eggs.  Plus $2 for the onion, plus the Marco Polo ingredients.  $24.50, total.  We got 12 servings from everything you saw, so just north of $2 per serving.  We aren’t large portion people, so if you are, your cost might be $3 a serving.  Still pretty good for a meal of this quality.  Of course I added a $4 glass of wine to mine 😉

My after diinner espresso was the Sweet Jane espresso from
http://www.muddydogcoffee.com

Categories: Dinner, Lunch, Meat, Recipes, Techniques Tags: , , , ,