Upper Hanover butcher crafts PA Dutch favorite as it was made decades ago
Gehman, of Upper Hanover Township, holds a pan full of the scrapple mixture, which will be refrigerated to solidify after three hours of cooking.
There is just something, people will testify, about the smell and taste of old-fashioned scrapple frying up that brings back a flood of warm memories – many of them harkening back to grandma's kitchen.
And Scott Gehman, who has made old-school butchering his art and business, is taking up the decades-old practice of making pork scrapple by the batch.
It is a lengthy process, spent huddled over a steaming metal kettle with a wooden paddle, but it promises to be worth the wait.
Gehman, of Back Home Butcher Shop in Telford, started making scrapple last year using methods passed on to him first by his late grandfather, Warren Gehman, who started making pork scrapple back in 1941, and then by his father, Ernie, who specialized in turkey scrapple.
"I can just barely remember my grandpa making it but after he poured it he would scrape off the sides of the kettle and I'd eat that. It's one of my earliest memories," the Upper Hanover resident said. "It was a different way to use as much of the animal as they could back in the day."
The dish came from the Pennsylvania Dutch, who called it pon haus, and their desire to avoid wastefulness and use all parts of the pig. It is popular with many in the Mid-Atlantic states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.
But unlike many old scrapple recipes, which used kidney meat and cheap scraps, Gehman's product uses only a few simple ingredients – 80 percent lean pork, whole wheat flour (no corn meal), salt, pepper and a secret blend of spices that give it a unique flavor.
"Most people say it's tasty. There are people who know what scrapple is and have tried it, and there are those people who have it in their mind they don't like it. But it requires tasting it and getting over your fears. It's very mild; there's not a whole lot to it."
The process of turning out handmade scrapple is not a complicated one, but one that requires time, patience and muscle.
Ground pork and a little pork liver, added mainly for color, cook for about an hour in an oil-fired boiler. It is mixed by hand using a large wooden paddle – providing a healthy upper body workout – until it is cooked through. The flour is then added in small amounts.
"You eyeball it for consistency and don't add too much flour at a time so it doesn't get lumpy," Gehman said. "Each batch can be different."
The mixture is ready for the next step when the meat doesn't stick to the paddle, and then the spices are added.
The whole concoction takes about three hours to cook before it is ready to be hand-poured into metal molds. It is refrigerated overnight, where it solidifies, and is cut into approximately 1-lb. blocks. Gehman sells 1- and 5-lb. blocks to his patrons.
There are a variety of ways to enjoy scrapple, Gehman said, with the most popular right now being deep frying it. Many people also like to pan fry it, giving it a crispy exterior and a soft interior.
And the toppings are seemingly endless. Apple butter, which Gehman says he believes was made to be eaten with scrapple, is enjoyed by many, but some also top the meat dish with vinegar, mustard, ketchup or maple syrup. Grape jelly is also a favorite in Maryland.
Whether you enjoy your scrapple as a main dish or on the side with eggs and potatoes, Gehman says it's a classic.
"People say, 'Now that's how I remember scrapple.' Over times things change, but this is definitely your grandparents' scrapple," he said.
And that's how it should be.