Hey, scrapple. It’s been a while.
I consider this the end of the European history of scrapple. Soon I make my move on to the American history of scrapple. If any of this is unclear, please comment and let me know so I can fix it. I had some conflicting sources with this one. The most important thing is that you, dear reader, understand what’s going on.
Also, quick note about citations for this particular project. In every article I post I will always cite the pictures, but I’m going to cite my sources for all the research at the end of the project.
And let’s begin.
Scrapple has many different names. Kind of like the way some people called soda “pop” or other people call sprinkles “jimmies.” Or they call a hoagie a “sub.” It’s a hoagie people. A giant sandwich. Hoagie.
Scrapple’s original name is pannas, spelled panhas in modern German. It’s same spelling the Pennsylvania Dutch use in Pennsylfaanisch and the name is often attributed to the PA Dutch. In truth, it originated in the Lower Rhineland in Germany. Southwest Germany, where the PA Dutch are from, did not know the word or the dish.
There are several different modern spellings of panhas, depending on where you are. Like Europe, American names vary from region to region as well. Two examples are ponhoss or pawhoss. These are more common in western Maryland, Virginia, and southern Ohio. If you want to do your own scrapple research, look for panhas as well as scrapple. Indexes of books list panhas, but not necessarily scrapple. I kinda wish we’d put together a giant scrapple convention and pick one name.
You might be asking yourself “Where did the word panhas come from?”
A Celtic linguist by the name of Pierre-Yves Lambert pointed out that the word panna, where the term panhas most likely sprang from, is found engraved on Gaulish serving bowls, suggesting that the word panna does not refer to the food item or any type of ingredient, but rather to the type of utensil used to make the panhas.
The word probably began as a generic meaning for pot pudding, a meaty gruel allowed to set in a pan or bowl. The Germans who settled among the Gauls borrowed the word and it stuck. Linguistic evidence traces the word back to the Lower Rhineland region in Germany. The only immigrants who could have introduced the word to the PA Dutch and America at large were the Crefelder Quakers and Mennonites who settled in and around Philadelphia in 1680. But more on America later.
There are innumerable variations of scrapple that are found mainly in Germany and Holland. They all have their roots in Middle Age recipes that have been passed down through generations of butchers and, eventually, housewives. The term in use varies depending on the variation. Two examples of this are the Dortmund and Münster regions in Germany.
In Dortmund, scrapple was referred to as potthas, meaning crock sausage or pot pudding. It was also a word for the food gift that was distributed among people who helped with the butchering that day. If a neighbor helped you out with, well, killing your pig, you would thank them by sending along some sausage. When you returned the favor of killing their pig, they were expected to send you some sausage too. It’s the neighborly thing to do.
Around Münster, the dish was called pfefferpotthas. It was a little more than just potthas. It’s a sour meat stew thickened with fine white breadcrumbs. In the Middle Ages, it was thickened with gingerbread (pfefferkuchen). Ginger, being hard to come by as well as expensive, was not a spice peasants could afford. Therefore, this particular type of scrapple was meant for wealthier consumers.
The word “scrapple” was not put into use until the 1800s in America. Before then it was referred to as black pudding, pot pudding, or meat pudding in several different languages (among other things). Scrapple is an Americanized word that stems from the Dutch word scharpel. It’s a long story for another time.
The main differences between north and southern German version of panhas were the use of buckwheat flour. Buckwheat is now considered the traditional thickening agent for Dutch and north German scrapples. Buckwheat, however, was not introduced as a widespread agriculture crop in the Lower Rhinelands until the 1400s. Plus, “traditional” is a completely subjective term, like “natural” or “authentic.” Historically, scrapple is so diverse that it’s hard to pinpoint the number one traditional recipe. Frankly, it’s because there isn’t one.
But I digress.
Buckwheat originates in the Yunnan province in China and was spread westward through Europe during the Middle Ages.
It was imported as early as the 900s, but this also varied from region to region (not sure if you’re picking up on this, but scrapple is like the number one “varies from region to region” dish of all time) and it did not become a common part of the rural diet until the early 17th century. Once it was in use, there was a huge surplus. Buckwheat could be used as cow and pig fodder as well as green manure for agriculture. It could also be used to thicken scrapple.
Buckwheat replaced the traditional grains used to make scrapple, such as oats, barley, and rye. The particular switch from rye to buckwheat was made because rye was more profitable when used in distillers to make whiskey and gin.
Buckwheat could also be used as a status symbol. The hull was removed from the seed, making a whiter flour when ground. Peasant food was largely brown or some shade of grey, so the white flour gave it a lighter, pleasanter look. It made their scrapple look delicate (I know, right?). But of course, removing the hull decreased the nutritional value.
There are few written recipes for scrapple from the Middle Ages to the early 1800s, nor are there any pictures other than images of fall butchering. This is most likely because it was a traditional part of the butchering process and everyone already knew how to make it. Besides which, what was the point of writing it down when most of the population couldn’t read.
Again, recipes varied depending on the type of scrapple. One recipe that does exist is for a “traditional” scrapple from the Netherlands called balkenbrij. The recipe is written in a mixture of Dutch and Flemish. The title is “Om bulinck te maken van vercken op sin Limborchs.” For the tiny percentage of us who don’t speak Dutch or Flemish, it means “To Make Blood Pudding the Limburg Way.”
The recipe did not use barley flour, but grated rye bread and white bread soaked in cream. It also included raw suet (beef or mutton fat located around the loins and kidney of the animal), cream, pepper, onion, saffron, and pork’s blood. Regular country scrapple’s ingredients list was much less decadent, indicating that this particular recipe was a farmhouse recipe developed for wealthier families. The addition of pork’s blood made the food look more like black pudding. The transformation of this recipe over time became the scrapple you get if you visit the Netherlands now.
Everyone ate scrapple. Recipes from wealthier families were made more elaborate with the addition of spices such as cloves, ginger, and cinnamon, dried fruit, and white bread or wheat flour. The ingredients of scrapple recipes are a good representation of who ate what type. Scrapple made with pork blood, white stock, bits of meat, barley meal, and buckwheat flour were a sign of wealthy peasants of low nobility.
In the late 1800s, scrapple made a comeback. It became identified with Westphalian and Lower Rhineland cuisine by most of German speaking Europe, giving it enough importance to be written down. Recipes began to spring up that had been adapted to modern kitchen technology, such as the cook-stove. The first recorded recipe for scrapple appeared in Johan Jakob Weber’s Universal-Lexikon der Kochkunst. Weber was a butcher, but the recipe he presented was a sophisticated one.
While the recipe is fairly straightforward and easy to make, it is the ending that is significant. It mentions that the prepared dish should only be kept for a week in hot weather, indicating that by the late 1800s, pork butchering had become a year round event. Scrapple was originally eaten only during the cold months. Butchering was now happening 12 months out of the year, rather than only in the fall and winter. This was in part due to the meat packing industry in Germany. They produced fresh meat all year round and, while this particular recipes was aimed towards butchers, wealthy housewives could purchase meat whenever they liked to make their own version of kitchen scrapple.
From here, scrapple made its move to America.
(Have I mentioned I specialize in terrible Photoshopping?)
There’s still more. Stay tuned for when I tell you more about the word “scrapple” and it’s development in America. And don’t forget, cheese making and Easter eggs are up next.
Keep eating and asking, my friends.
Photos, in order of appearance: