Scrapple: It’s What’s For Breakfast…

Meet my new favorite breakfast treat. Sorry, SPAM… (But you’ll always be my first!)

Now, I admit I was slow coming around to Scrapple. I first noticed it in the chilled meat section alongside bacon, ham and sausages, when we first lived on the East Coast 10 years ago. The commercial variety did not look very appetizing in its vacuum-sealed package — kind of gray and stodgy. I took it for an evolutionary relative of SPAM — a colonial-era processed meat product. And since I was already a SPAM aficionado, I figured I did not need another processed meat product in my life. And so for the 2 years we lived near Boston, we never touched the stuff.

After we returned to the East Coast a couple of years ago, we attended a festival in Pennsylvania where the local Lions Club was selling fresh local bacon and sausage. And Scrapple, made right on site. The sight of the large vats of corn mush were enough to draw me in, but the heavenly aroma of spice and pork decided it for me — we had to try the Scrapple.

But what exactly is Scrapple? Well as you can see from the photo on the left, my earlier assumption about scrapple was wrong — it’s not a processed meat product at all, but rather a cornmeal mush mixed with heavily seasoned pork broth made with the offal from hog butchering (“everything but the oink”). The culinary ancestor of SPAM actually may be something that’s called “Country Pudding” around here — a loaf of seasoned pork bits strained from the offal broth, with little or no starch filler. So Pudding is the loaf-shaped pork bits, and Scrapple the pork-flavored corn mush (think “polenta”). What’s not to like?! And one can feel a little better about choosing Scrapple over SPAM (well, I do anyway) since it has half the amount of sodium (369mg vs. 767mg) and half the “calories from fat” (70mg vs. 137mg) than its more famous cousin.

Where did it come from? Apparently Scrapple originated with the German immigrants who settled this area in the late 17th and early 18th centuries and became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch (probably a corruption of the word Deutsch). You can also find scrapple sold as “Pon Haus,” a derivation of Panhasa meat and meal (usually flour and buckwheat, but sometimes rye) terrine or fresh Wurst that is a specialty of the Westphalia and Rhine regions of Germany. You can see from the German Wikipedia link that Panhas doesn’t look much like Scrapple!

I pan-fry Scrapple the same way I do SPAM — browned well and crispy on the outside and creamy/juicy on the inside. With warm apple slices and soft scrambled eggs, it’s a hearty, lick-your-plate-clean brunch with or without the maple syrup. I recommend “with”

If you’re not at a festival or hog butchering where it is freshly made, your next best bet is to try Scrapple from a local butcher. This one is sold by the slice as Pon Haus from Hoffman’s Quality Meats in nearby Hagerstown, MD, but is available at area grocery stores too. This came from Giant Eagle.


Want a bite?

A Plan (and Hope) for Spring

After days of temperatures in the 50s and 60s (Fahrenheit), yesterday’s forecast on my Weatherbug app read, “Cloudy with rain showers likely with a chance of snow showers in the morning… Little or no snow accumulation.” Wait, what?!… Snow???  Nooooooo…… Hasn’t anyone told Mother Nature that Spring officially started last Sunday? OK, we’re talking about flurries at worst and only during the morning hours but… *sigh*  And more snow in the forecast for the weekend…

Last weekend we began prepping for spring by tackling the yard. A neighbor loaned T. a limber and he pruned the lower limbs on the bigger oak trees in the front yard. There are 9 mature oaks on our small half-acre lot — good for shade and the environment but raking up the leaf fall in November and December was challenging, to say the least! Now it’s up to me to clear out the remaining leaves along the fence line and to plan some of the landscaping. Of course, we’re going to include as much edible landscaping as possible.

We haven’t had a yard in which to plant since we left Germany — and that was in 2005, so we’re really excited about having a garden this year. Our new house came with a raised garden bed, and the front of the bed is already planted with asparagus (from the previous owners), so it will be interesting to see what comes up from there this year. We also “inherited” some raspberry canes along the west side of the fence, and we’ve purchased 2 varieties of blueberries (the Reka, Arandano reka, is pictured left) to plant alongside them. Shortly after we moved in last fall we were gifted with two mature black currant bushes from a friend’s garden, and we intend to supplement those with red currants as well. The black currants are already budding (see, they were fooled by the warm weather too)… let’s hope there won’t be a hard frost any time soon. We’ve also ordered a sour cherry tree, which should ship sometime in mid-April and we’re on the look-out for a Nittany apple tree.

The house came with some terraced planters built in to retaining walls around the patio (east side of the house) and in front of the basement (west side). The west side planters have rhubarb and horseradish planted in, and we hope we’ll be able to move both to free up those planters for herbs. In border areas we’re planning to grow lots of lemon balm, lemon verbena and lavender. And I recently learned that lemongrass grows well here as an annual, so that will have to figure in somewhere too.

This week we also sowed some seeds. So far we’ve started rainbow chard (photo, right), spinach, zucchini, Tuscan kale, pumpkin, bell pepper, Italian romano beans (photo, left), blue lake beans, sunflowers, shiso, basil, borage, oregano, dill, flat leaf parsley, and donne (Guam) peppers. We’re not sure yet about planting tomatoes this year. After only 3 days, some of the seeds have already already sprouted. Don’t you love starting seedlings — there is so much promise in such a tiny package!

One big thing we have to consider in our landscaping plans is mitigating rain runoff. A couple of weeks ago we had a torrential downpour and discovered exactly where rain runs off and pools around the backyard (and, unfortunately, into the crawlspace… yuck). Much of the backyard is on a slope so we have to think about planting hardy ground cover to prevent erosion and trenching to direct the worst of the run-off into a rain garden. It’s going to take some work (and $$$) but we’re looking forward to doing it ourselves. Fortunately we just happened to find one our favorite ground covers at a local garden show last week — sweet woodruff, which we know better by its German name, Waldmeister (Galium odoratum)As its name implies, Waldmeister is a shade-loving plant found in wooded areas (Wald is German for woods) and is perhaps best known as the key flavoring agent in May wine. We bought a dozen and they should feel right at home beneath all those oaks in the backyard…

Should we or shouldn’t we?
The state of Maryland encourages residents to plant native trees and offers $25 coupons towards the purchase of preferred native trees. Since we already have so many oaks (I think they’re pin oaks and black oaks, the former are natives), we’re planning to use the coupons to get a couple of paw-paws (photo above, courtesy of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture) — the only natives on the approved list that produce an edible fruit (for humans). What is a paw-paw? Not being a native myself, I had to look it up too! According to the all-knowing Wiki, the common paw-paw (Asimina triloba) belong to the same family as soursop and cherimoya, and is the only member of that family that can grow outside the tropical zone. It does look kind of like a papaya (hence the name, which is Spanish for papaya), but is said to have a banana-like flavor and texture. What do you think?

Besides the cold rain (and snow) forecast for much of this week, perhaps the biggest obstacle to spring yard projects will be the competition for T’s attention now that he knows that the ponds and lakes around us are stocked with bass and full-grown trout! On Saturday, our next door neighbor stopped by while he was outside pruning to tell him the lakes around the county had been stocked earlier in the week. First thing Sunday morning we were at the nearest pond (1 mile away), he with his fly rod. Since there is a stocked pond so close, he was back Tuesday evening after work, and plans to fish after work regularly.

And you know how friendly fisherfolk can be… T. has since learned where the key fly-fishing spots are within a 20-mile radius, so I may be a fly-fishing widow until May. I don’t have a problem with that as long as there is fresh trout to be had. So far, no such luck. So that leaves us warming ourselves by the fire, waiting on our seeds, pampering our starter plants, and designing a rain-friendly landscape.

Help us forget about the weather outside… tell us what you’re planting this spring!

Grapefruit 3 Ways: Lamb Khoresh with Potatoes & Grapefruit Peel

Note: This is long overdue. Cleaning out photos and recipes archived but not posted yet…

This was inspired by a wonderful gift we received for Christmas a couple of years ago — a bushel of gorgeous ruby red grapefruit from Pittman & Davis, an orchard in Texas specializing in mail order delivery.

Now we LOVE fresh grapefruit, and devoured these beauties in no time — they were sweet and incredibly fragrant. So much so that it made me sad to simply compost the rinds after the fruit were peeled.

What to do, what to do…. I tried grating some of the rind into sugar for a grapefruit scented sugar — it smelled heavenly, but quickly clumped up as the oils from the rind wet the sugar. So that was not a long term solution to preserving our bounty…

The next step was to try preserving the rinds in sugar. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of candied citrus peel. It’s one of the reasons I don’t really enjoy fruitcake — the sticky-sweet candied lemon and orange peel are generally too cloying for my taste. If we were going to candy these rinds, it had to be a drier and less sweet candy peel, one in which the grapefruit flavor came through and in which just enough sugar is used to preserve without taking over.

Basically, the peels were cooked over low heat in a simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water) until the water slowly evaporated and the peels had absorbed the sugar and been left coated in a light glaze. Simply Recipes offers a simple candied citrus tutorial that I found very instructive.

The grapefruit peels were blanched after the white pith was removed, just to give the thick rinds a chance to soften and better absorb the sugar.

After the rinds had cooked in syrup for about 1½ hours , they were dried on a rack placed on a cookie sheet and left in a cold oven. Since these were made in winter, our house was very dry and the rinds dried very quickly — in just over 24 hours.

These were great for nibbling, but I knew they would not last by the time summer came around since the weather around metro DC is notoriously humid starting around late May. As much as I enjoyed nibbling these with tea, I began to consider if I could use them in a savory dish. Then I remembered a stew that was on our to-try list from one of our favorite recipe books, “A Taste of Persia” by Najmieh Batmanglij. This collection is the same one from which we made the Khoresh with Eggplants. One of the reasons we had yet to try the Khoresh with Potatoes and Orange Peel is that it called for candied orange peel, something we never had in the pantry. With a substitution of grapefruit for orange peel, this was our chance to try this stew.

In addition to the candied peel, this khoresh has another citrus ingredient — one that is unique to the cuisine of Persia and the areas around it. It is whole dried lime, also called loomi, black lime, or limu omani. You may find loomi in Middle Eastern groceries, especially if the grocery serves a Persian community, and sometimes in well-stocked Indian groceries as some recipes from the Parsi communities in the north call for dried limes. Loomi are limes dried whole, and their color can range from light to dark brown. As long as the limes do not show any evidence of mold, they are suitable for cooking and in fact the darker colored limes are said to have a better flavor.

Loomi are used as a souring agent, and add a very pleasant puckering-sort of sour — we find it quite addictive. When I open a bag of loomi, I am reminded of the distinctive aroma of Pixie Stix! (For Americans of a certain age, Pixie Stix were a childhood treat — wax straws filled with sour, fruit-flavored sugar dust that were the precursors of Pop Rocks.) To use loomi, I was taught to puncture the skin with a sharp knife and add the limes whole to meat curries. The unique flavor of dried lime cannot be easily substituted with fresh lime juice or even fresh zest. Once dried, the limes seem to continue to age and the flavor grows quite complex as well as intense. They are worth seeking out or ordering online if necessary.

This stew was a truly inspired combination of citrus flavors — the intense lime permeates the meat and legumes, while the candied peel punctuates each bite with a bright sweet note. We really loved this khoresh. I would make the candied grapefruit peel just to be able to have this again.

So this was the third and last use of our Christmas gift of fresh grapefruit — preserved and enjoyed well into spring. It was a lovely present from first to last!  Our love and thanks to Dad Rob and Mom Jo for these thoughtful and long-lasting treats!

Adapted from “A Taste of Persia” by Najmieh Batmanglij
Serves 4 persons

4 TBL ghee or unsalted butter
1½ lb (680g) lamb stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large onion, sliced
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp sea salt
1½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 cups (474 ml) tomato puree, about 4 fresh tomatoes
2 cups (474ml) water
4 loomi (Persian whole dried limes)
½ cup (80g) dried yellow split peas
1½ tsp advieh**
3 TBL (24g) dried diced candied grapefruit peel
1 TBL raw sugar
i large pinch of saffron threads soaked in 4 TBL warm water
3 TBL fresh lime juice

For Garnish:
2 large russet potatoes (about 1lb)
2-4 TBL olive oil

** Note: Advieh is to Persian cuisine what garam masala is to South Asian cooking, or Chinese five spice to Chinese cuisine: an essential blend of spices varying from kitchen to kitchen, and dish to dish. One key ingredient that seems to distinguish advieh is rose petals, but the other spices vary from cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, coriander, nutmeg, angelica, saffron, sesame, dried limes, or star anise. I bought advieh as a spice blend from a Persian grocery, but here is an interesting thread on with suggestions for making advieh mixtures at home.

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, melt ghee over medium high heat. Working in batches, brown lamb on all sides and remove each batch to a separate bowl to hold.

When all lamb cubes have been browned, add sliced onion and turn heat down to medium. Cook onions until they begin to turn translucent, about 6-7 minutes. Sprinkle with turmeric and stir to coat onions. Cook another 2-3 minutes. Return meat to pan, and add salt and pepper, tomato puree and water, then increase heat to medium high. Pierce each dried lime in several places with the tip of a knife and add to stew. Cover pan and bring to a boil. Once broth comes to a boil, turn heat down to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add split peas, advieh, diced candied peel, sugar, saffron water and lime juice. Cover again and simmer for about an hour, or until meat is tender.

Meanwhile, prepare garnish. Wash and peel potatoes. Cut into matchsticks about 3-4 inches long. Pat dry with paper towels to ensure even browning.

In a separate skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Working in batches, brown potatoes in oil, adding more oil as necessary. Remove each batch to paper towels to soak up excess oil. When lamb and peas are cooked through, add fried potatoes over khoresh.

We love khoreshes served with saffron basmati rice and Persian style yogurt salad with minced cucumber and fistsful of fresh herbs.

Mmmm, might be time to make this again….

Spotted Dog: Raisin & Caraway Teabread

This is a recipe I got many moons ago from a friend when we lived in Cambridge (that’s Massachusetts, not UK). She called it Irish Soda Bread, so I called it Irish Soda Bread for all these years. Until I started reading about Irish soda bread last year. Evidently real Irish soda bread does not have raisins or currants, and definitely does not have caraway seeds. These additions are more American than Irish. Like fortune cookies are to the Chinese.

At it’s most basic, soda bread is flour, butter, milk and leavening, period. The addition of sugar and flavoring agents makes this more of a cake or large scone, and sometimes goes by the colorful moniker, Spotted Dog. Whatever you call it, it’s one you will want to have in your recipe files for a fast and tasty treat. One deserving a large gob of butter and a steamy hot beverage. Enjoy!


For a more traditional style soda bread, check out Mikaela’s version @ Baguette Taste, Wonder Bread Budget.

Adapted from D’s family recipe
Makes one 1 pound loaf

2 cups (200g) all-purpose flour
4 tsp (15g) baking powder (not a typo, that really says 4 teaspoons)
½ tsp sea salt
1 TBL sugar
3 TBL (43g) cold unsalted butter
½ cup (75g) raisins or currants
1 TBL caraway seeds
â…” cup (160 ml) cold milk

Pre-heat oven to 425F/220C, and place rack in the middle. Dust baking sheet with flour.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a medium sized bowl, and whisk together to aerate dry ingredients. Cut cold butter into small dice, then cut into flour mixture with pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture resembles petite peas. Work quickly so butter remains cold. If butter begins to soften, put bowl in refrigerator to chill butter again.

Add raisins and caraway seeds and toss to distribute through the flour. Dribble half of milk into dough and start to bring dough towards center. Dribble remaining milk around edges of bowl to moisten dry flour mixture clinging to sides of bowl. Bring dough together — handle dough only enough to pat it into a large circle, about 6 inches across and 2-3 inches deep. (Note: the less the dough is handled, the happier and more tender this Dog will be.)

Place dough on prepared baking sheet. Cut a deep cross over the top and down the sides of the dough circle. Prick the dough with a fork or knife in each quarter.

Place baking sheet in oven and reduce temperature to 400f/200C. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown. Test after the first 30 minutes: tap the bottom of the loaf — a hollow thump means you better have your butter ready! Otherwise, bake for another 5 minutes. Do not overbake or you will have a St. Paddy’s Day doorstop!

This is best eaten the day it’s baked, and best within the first 30 minutes it comes out of the oven — all the better to barely warm your “pat” of butter without quite melting it…

Don’t be shy about the butter!
And yes, please do use real butter…