Pork – it’s what’s for breakfast

March 1, 2024

Why is it that almost all the breakfast meat listed on restaurant menus is pork-based? Whether bacon, sausage, scrapple or ham, as well as pretenders made from ingredients like turkey or tofu, the flavor base is pork-centric. From the smokiness of ham and bacon to the signature seasonings in sausage and scrapple, all of the most common menu options begin with a pig.

In this country, many immigrants in the 17th and 18th centuries came from Europe, where pigs were the most common animal raised for family consumption. Because pigs could be fed table scraps (giving them an undeserved reputation for a lack of cleanliness), they wouldn’t compete for grazing land. Most families would raise one or two a year for slaughter.

Some parts of the animal would be smoked or cured into ham or bacon. We’re familiar with the American version of bacon – strips cut from the belly and available in thick or thin slices. These are called “streaky bacon” in the UK because of the stripes of fat and flesh along the length of the pieces. Canadian bacon comes from the loin and is sold as thin rounds with very little fat. British bacon includes both the belly and the loin in single slices called rashers.

Popularity of the breakfast combination of bacon and eggs can be traced to the man considered the father of public relations, Edward Bernays. Today’s social media influencers’ techniques began in the early 20th century, when Bernays successfully convinced the public that women should be allowed to smoke cigarettes, and breakfast was healthier if it included bacon. And these are just a few of his PR campaigns.

Back to the family pig – any remainders from the slaughtered swine will find their way into sausage or scrapple. Sausage has been around for centuries and comes in a wide range of styles, textures, flavors and forms. To begin, sausage is made by grinding the meat, combining it with spices and tightly stuffing it into a casing. Each style of sausage has its own specific name and ingredients. The most common sausages on the breakfast table are small links or patties, sometimes flavored with sage or maple.

Scrapple, which originated in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, is based on German and Pennsylvania Dutch traditions. This dish represents the tag line “everything but the oink,” as it combines all the remaining elements that might not otherwise be eaten, including the head, heart, liver and tongue. These are boiled into a meat-infused broth that is strained to remove the bones and fat. The meat is retained and stirred back into the broth, to which cornmeal and spices are added. Once the mixture becomes a thickened mush, it’s poured into loaf pans to firm up for slicing. 

To give you an idea of how this is done, I’ve included a modern take on the traditional scrapple recipe. It calls for the liver and the jowls, which would be trimmed from the snout. Alternatively, you could substitute a fatty cut of pork, such as a shoulder. 
Scrapple is usually served as a breakfast meat: Thin slices are cut from the loaf and browned in butter until crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside. These are sometimes served with syrup or alongside eggs and toast with a splash of ketchup.


1 lb fatty cut of pork (jowls or shoulder)
1 lb pork liver
1 1/2 qts water
2 bay leaves
10 whole peppercorns
3 T salt
2 t dried sage
1 t ground coriander
2 t pepper
3 C cornmeal

Combine pork, water, bay leaves and peppercorns in a large saucepan. Heat just to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Braise until completely tender, about 3 hours. Once the meat is cooked, remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Strain and reserve the broth; set aside. Grind the cooked meat in a food processor and place in a skillet with the reserved broth. Add remaining ingredients and cook over medium low until a thick mush forms, about 15 minutes. Line two loaf pans with parchment paper and spoon the mush into the pans, packing tightly. Refrigerate until firm before using or freezing. To serve, cut slices about 3/8-inch thick and pan fry on both sides in butter until golden brown.

Scrapple Breakfast Pizza*

8 oz scrapple, sliced
2 T maple syrup
1/4 t pepper
2 T butter
8 eggs
1 prepared pizza crust
2 T maple syrup
1 C shredded Gouda cheese
2 sliced scallions

Preheat oven to 450 F. Place scrapple slices in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes, then turn pieces and break up with a wooden spoon. Cook another 5 minutes. Drizzle with syrup and sprinkle with pepper; set aside. In another skillet, melt butter over medium. Whisk eggs in a mixing bowl until combined. Pour into the skillet and cook until still quite damp; set aside. Place crust on round pizza pan and bake for 7 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with 2 T maple syrup. Spread eggs in an even layer; top with crumbled scrapple and shredded cheese. Bake for about 3 to 5 minutes to melt the cheese. Garnish with scallions before serving. Yield: 4 servings. *Adapted from Jones Dairy Farms.

Breakfast Sandwich

1 English muffin, split 
butter for the muffin 
2 slices breakfast meat*
1 egg
1 slice American cheese

While the muffin toasts, cook the bacon or scrapple until crisp. When muffin is toasted, cover the inner sides with butter. Fry the egg in a nonstick skillet. Place the cheese on one side of the muffin, top with cooked egg and breakfast meat. Cover with remaining muffin half. Wrap in foil to melt the cheese and keep the ingredients intact while you eat the sandwich. *Use bacon, ham, Canadian bacon or scrapple.


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