It was another beautiful day for the annual 2014 Chester County Restaurant Festival held in West Chester, PA!
I was first introduced to scrapple at my boarding school in Middletown, Delaware. I was told, that it had been brought to the school, by a faculty member who grew up in western Pennsylvania.
When scrapple was served, it was on large baking sheets, thrown into the oven to broil until the surface was brown… any number of shades of brown, venturing into black upon occasion.
When presented, there were generally few takers of these darkened trapezoids, but for a few, this mystery meat was very welcomed!
Over the years, and mostly through social media, I have been engaged in many conversations about this ridiculed ‘food’, and have decided to stand up for this wonderful treat brought to us by the Pennsylvania Dutch, also known as panhaas or “pan rabbit”.
The following is my Review of the various Scrapples that I have been able to find, and I look forward to try more!
There are several different ways to cook scrapple, and as mentioned earlier, I was first introduced to oven baked, which if not done right, one is trying to eat brick slabs.
For these reviews, I took a scrapple loaf, and cut into 4 equal slabs, roughly 1/2 inch thick, and pan-fried them.
Over the years, I have switched from a dry pan, to either margarine, oil (corn & olive) or butter, depending on what else I am eating or how decadent I am feeling.
In these reviews, I have used margarine and half of a loaf, including side piece.
Why a side piece? – Try it with a lot of butter in a small pan some time! The uneven shape can cook very differently! (I did mention decadent…)
“Habbersett brand has been around since 1863. The original facility was located in Media, PA” – Habbersett website
I have eaten, by far, more Habbersett then any other.
I have cooked, grilled, broiled pan and deep-fried this stuff!
It is my “bread ‘n butter” scrapple.
In terms of the loaf, Habbersett reminds me more of a bread loaf than others I have seen, and when cut-up there are more trapezoid shapes. This is the inter geek in me speaking.
Side Piece – Most folks aim for uniform slabs, and miss one of the more tricky parts to cook, but if done right, you can more textures with the finished piece!
Spices – For most, Habbersett seems to be the most peppery of the three that I have tried so far, and because of this, goes very well with scrambled eggs or cheddar cheese!
One reader commented –
“I found Habberset to be very greasy and “popped” a great deal when I cooked it. Maybe the grease is what gives it the extra flavor that you like, but I found it to be a mess.” – Peter S
I agree there does appear to be more fat/greasy, which would add to the flavor, but no one can say eating scrapple is healthy! With my 50th right around the corner, I can’t be eating this stuff everyday!
“In 1926 two brothers from Bridgeville, Delaware founded the RAPA Scrapple manufacturing plant.” – Rapa website
Several of my Delaware based friends have mentioned Rapa, and when I tried this, the first thing that struck me, was how square the loaf was, and a course texture on the outside.
The squareness of the loaf, made cutting the 4 slabs equally, very easy, but for some reason they did seem smaller.
Noting to mention about the pan frying, and I was easily able to get a golden brown crust.
Taste test – The general flavor was rather bland to me, and I did eventually add more salt and ground black pepper to it, but I did like the courser grade of cornmeal.
“Over 110 years ago John C. Clemens began Hatfield Quality Meats’ tradition of satisfying customers with quality, delicious pork products in the Philadelphia farmer’s markets. ” – Hatfield Quality Meats
I have seen the Hatfield name most of my life when shopping, and they do have some good meats, but I can not say the same for the scrapple.
One of the first things you notice about the package, is “Lean”.
When I first mentioned I was trying Hatfield, a Facebook friend commented “What’s the point in scrapple?!”
I have to agree.
When I unwrapped the loaf, it was also fairly uniform, but with rounded edges. Cutting into quarters was easy, with the cut edges a little but rougher then normal.
Cooking time seemed longer to get the medium brown crust I like, but it could have been that I was hungry.
Finally when I tried my first bites, the spices mixture was very nice, with my pepper than Rapa, but not as much as Habbersett, a nice middle ground for some.
The cornmeal mixture was smaller than Rapa, but for some reason the interior texture did not seem to firm up during cooking, there for a little bit more mushy than the other three.
What did get me was the interior texture, that had not firmed up during cooking.
I was on my way back from my parent in Lancaster, and first stopped at Intercourse Canning Company to pick-up some items, and right across the street is Stoltzfus Meats & Deli.
The Stoltzfus Scrapple is as Homemade that you can get, and to say it is fresh, is such an odd statement!
What was also odd to see, were the huge slabs of scrapple (20+ lbs?) just sitting there in the refrigerator case.
I bought a simple pound, namely because I’m only about 30 minutes away, and I don’t think they are going to run out any time soon!
Anyhow, how was it?
I liked it!
I was easily able to get a nice even crush on both sides, mostly from a higher fat content.
As for taste, it is a top contender to Habbersett, with a little less black pepper.
The single biggest difference between the various scrapples I have tried in the Black Pepper amount.
I also have to tell you, I like Black Pepper a lot, and I’ve been known to unscrew pepper shaker tops because it does not come out fast enough…
So your personal Black Pepper level is going to be your guide.
Another factor, is the dryness of the loaf, and this seems to be due to the coarseness of the grinding of the ingredients, the denser loaves, with a finer mush seems to hold up better during pan fry cooking.
With this elementary Review of Scrapples done, I have more to seek out.
So far, the single biggest difference that I have tasted is the black pepper level. I for one like, so…
I’m also learning to refine my pan frying techniques to be more consistent, but I have learned the corn to fats & water ratios play an important part when preparing!
In my refrigerator, I have an unopened Kunzler scrapple loaf…
And friends suggesting some of the following:
If you know more, please let me know, and if you are a maker of scrapple and would like to be added to my review, please contact me!!
BTW – It should be noted, that some of these scrapple producers, do NOT make it easy to find their scrapple products on their websites!
A small collection of images taken at the 33rd Annual Chester County Restaurant Festival held in West Chester, Pennsylvania (PA).
This is a family event, and both Madison and Logan joined me, and as soon as they saw the sign for Funnel Cake, we had to get some!
Then they saw the Popcorn…
My eye was more on the meats being offered…
We also spent some time watching an Artist using spray cans to create various scenes, while bopping to the music.
There where also several bands playing…
I love oysters, but it was hard to get the kids to stop and let me get some…
I also had to take a look at some crab cakes… What a wonderful smell!
We can’t wait for next year!
On Friday night, it was Oktoberfest at Exton Beverage Company in Chester County, and was well attended throughout the evening.
The great music was provided by the local band, Holt 45!
One of my favorite shoots of the night, was this view of these future ‘groupie’ girls, creating and holding up various signs of admiration of the band!
In one of the signs that you are getting old, and the torch is being passed to the next generation, these pre-teen fans started a very loud cheer when Holt 45 stated to play Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s classic “Sweet Home Alabama”, and then at the end, started to shouting “Free Bird”!
In the munchies department, there were Philadelphia Pretzel Factory’s nuggets, Pulled Pork shooters, Turkey Wraps and an awesome Crab Queso Dip provided by Riverstone Cafe in Exton!
Five sampling areas were setup for breweries to showcase their Oktoberfest lineups, and as any beer drinker knows, this is a great time to try something new.
Great Lakes Brewing Company was there, and was a first time experience for me, and many others.
I only got a chance to sample three of their offering, Eliot Ness Amber Lager, Currently On Tap Burning River Pale Ale and the Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, all of which were very good.
Both the Eliot Ness Amber Lager and Burning River Pale Ale had a pronounced hop taste, but had mellowed in tartness in the aftertaste, compared to local Victory’s Hop Devil (one of my wife’s favorites), and I very much enjoyed the chocolate tones in the Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. If you can find a variety case…
Another new company for me was Shock Top, and their Pumpkin Wheat was very nice, with nice citric tones.
Once again, it was great way to end the week, and I very much encourage you to follow Exton Beverage on Facebook for future events!