Don't turn up your snout: Scrapple Trail celebrates love-it or loathe-it breakfast meat
You either love or loathe the loaf.
Scrapple, the breakfast meat made with pig parts not often talked about — like snouts, livers and hearts — a thick layer of cornmeal mush, and sprinkles of herbs and spices, is not for everyone.
But devout scrapple fans are steadfast in their belief these greyish, brick-like blocks of mystery meat are better than bacon, and maybe even more satisfying than sausage.
And no more proof is needed than a quick scroll through the Scrapple Trail, a year-old, public Facebook page that now counts more than 7,200 members.
Scrapple haters, don't yuck on this regional yum. The Scrapple Trail Facebook page celebrates and sings a passionate love song for the porky loaf that admirers seem to like best when it is sliced, fried until crisp, but still has a tender center.
"How is scrapple not like EVERYWHERE AND ANYWHERE? That stuff is amazing and I would stand behind it!!!!" wrote one fan on the page last December.
The Scrapple Trail page was started as a lark by three Maryland residents Clayton Mitchell, Bunky Luffman and Robert Zimberoff, who serve as its administrators.
The men, who know each other through Maryland political circles, got to talking about regional foods while attending the 18th annual Taste of the Eastern Shore on Feb. 13, 2020.
The gathering featured classic Lower Eastern Shore regional foods such as fried chicken, soft-shell crabs, locally grown oysters and Smith Island Cake.
But all three men were surprised not to find a trace of scrapple, a dish Mitchell and Luffman grew up eating in Maryland and one that Zimberoff discovered, and fell in love with, after moving to the area from Chicago.
A day after the event, Valentine's Day 2020 appropriately enough, the trio created the Maryland Scrapple Trail Facebook page as an ode to the breakfast meat most popular in the Mid-Atlantic region.
A month later, they changed the name simply to Scrapple Trail.
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While they gave themselves jokey titles — Luffman is the Scrapple Trail's "commander," Mitchell serves as "consigliere" and Zimberoff is "the deputy secretary" — the men are serious in their pursuit of most varieties of scrapple, a staple of diner menus in Maryland and Delaware.
Well, maybe not vegan scrapple. "Blasphemy," Mitchell said, laughing.
Where's the scrapple?
The plan for the Scrapple Trail was to highlight and create a guide to area restaurants, cafes, local butchers and stores that make or sell scrapple. Members could follow along virtually or in person.
Initially, scrapple lovers planned Sunday meet-up meals. The first was at Twinny’s Place, a family-style restaurant in Galena, Maryland, that goes back to the 1950s. About 40 people turned out to eat everything from scrapple gravy to scrapple sandwiches to scrapple fries.
The next stop was Cindy's Kitchen, a casual restaurant in Cambridge, Maryland, where high praise was given to the Old Bay Hot Sauce that adds spicy sass to slabs of scrapple that's usually seasoned with sage and pepper.
But, about a month after the Facebook page was created, the coronavirus pandemic began shutting down restaurants and area events. Fans now mostly post photos of their own scrapple meals along with places to find the breakfast meat.
Shout-outs are given to scrapple finds. One member recently gave thumbs-up to the $16.95 breakfast burger at Two Stones Pub in Middletown that combines scrapple, bacon and scrambled eggs on a garlic brioche that's slathered with sriracha ketchup. The restaurant also has scrapple nachos, the fan wrote.
Haass Family Butcher Shop in Dover gets frequent compliments for its homemade scrapple that's been a part of the store since it opened in 1955.
Dogfish Head's limited production scrapple stout, Beer for Breakfast, first made in 2014, still gets mentioned, though it's not among the Milton brewery's 2021 releases.
And Off the Hoof, a scrapple-flavored vodka from Painted Stave Distilling in Smyrna, has intrigued brunch lovers who are looking to beef up a Bloody Mary.
Members also talk about places where they've discovered scrapple tacos, scrapple maki rolls, scrapple cheesesteaks, scrapple Wellington and, yes, even vegan scrapple.
Mitchell who likes scrapple's "earthy" taste and jokingly calls it "the candy of gray meat" said he never anticipated the Facebook page's popularity.
About two weeks after its creation, the Scrapple Trail had 600 members, he said.
"It just escalated," Zimberoff said. "We really just thought it was going to be friends of friends."
But members have been growing steadily.
"We thought it was just going to be Maryland people. Now, we have someone on a Army base in Oklahoma asking where to get scrapple," Mitchell said.
Everything but the oink
The allure of scrapple is in no way new. Scrapple, an Old World delicacy, likely dates back to hog butchering days in 16th-century Germany, according to The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.
Every part of the pig, except the oink, as the old saw goes, was used by thrifty cooks and all leftovers scraps, including offal, were made into an early version of scrapple, then more closely resembling blood pudding.
As German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania near Philadelphia and Chester County in the 17th and 18th century, they re-created the dish, but also began adding cornmeal and sometimes buckwheat, along with herbs like sage. The ingredients were cooked in broth until mushy and then poured and cooled in loaf pans.
In 1863, Isaac S. Habbersett opened Habbersett Pork Products in Middletown Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, the first company to mass-produce scrapple, according to the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.
Delaware has since become one of the world's largest scrapple producers. The breakfast meat has been a part of the state's economy since 1926 when brothers Ralph and Paul Adams opened the RAPA manufacturing plant in Bridgeville, Delaware. The brothers created the original scrapple brand recipes still in use today.
It's not hard to miss the distinctive, almost livery-aroma of scrapple throughout the tiny Sussex County town of Bridgeville when RAPA is cooking up batches.
Zimberoff jokes he can smell it in Maryland "when the winds are blowing in the right direction."
RAPA now makes scrapple with smoked jalapenos, beef, bacon and a turkey version. Since 1998, RAPA also has produced Greensboro scrapple, a brand with a combination of pork and beef that's popular in Maryland's Eastern Shore and is sometimes called “the prime rib of scrapple.”
Mitchell, whose favorite scrapple brand is Greensboro, said debating which brand is the best is part of the fun of Facebook page.
"It's like rooting for sports teams," he said.
Conversation about scrapple condiments – ketchup versus maple syrup – is a welcomed hot topic, as is the argument whether scrapple is better sliced thin or thick.
What is not allowed, and will likely you get booted off the page, is any mention of politics. Go somewhere else. The administrators say they get enough of that in their day jobs.
Clayton Mitchell's roots run deep in Maryland's Eastern Shore political scene. He is the son of the late R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., a gentleman farmer and former Democratic legislator who became speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates.
Mitchell's father was so well-known, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan renamed the former Kent Narrows Bridge, a part of U.S. routes 50 and 301, in Mitchell's father's honor a year before the legislator's death in 2019.
Bunky Luffman of Delmar, Maryland, is the special advisor to the Secretary at Maryland Department of Natural Resources. And Robert Zimberoff, a former journalist and legislative director of the Maryland House of Delegates, is now the Eastern Shore Apprenticeship Navigator at Maryland Apprenticeship and Training Program.
When coronavirus pandemic concerns ease and restaurants are allowed to open at full capacity again, the Scrapple Trail administrators say they would like to see a return to brunch meet-ups. They want to post about future road trips to restaurants serving scrapple in Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
A bus trip to Bridgeville's annual Apple-Scrapple Festival also might be in the works if the celebration resumes this October.
But, for now, scrapple cooking will continue at home.
"I cook 2 pounds at a time," said Luffman, who eats the breakfast meat weekly and seldom has leftovers. "It never goes back in the fridge."