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Innards and out

April 07, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

Warning: The following story contains information that may be offensive to vegetarian readers and to those who may be a tad squeamish about the thought of eating meat products that contain animal innards.

If you've ever wondered what in the world hog maw is, though, read on.

How about pon haus, scrapple, souse or pudding?

No, we're not talking chocolate mousse here.

If you've lived in a city - or even a different part of the country - you may never have heard of some of these things.

Humans have been eating meat for some 2.5 million years, according to information on www.exploratorium.edu, the Web site of the Exploratorium, a San Francisco science museum. People have thought of many different ways to cook meat - roasted, stewed, fried, grilled.

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In earlier times, people grew their own vegetables, gathered eggs from their own chickens, milked their own cows and slaughtered their own animals for their own meat.

Nothing was wasted; everything was used.

The British have been eating steak and kidney - yes, kidney - pie for centuries. Haggis is a Scottish dish made of the heart, lungs, etc., of a sheep or calf, mixed with suet (the hard fat surrounding the kidneys and loins), seasoning and oatmeal - and boiled in the animal's stomach.

Eeeeyew, you say?

Hey, even a link sausage or a hot dog comes with natural casing.

There are several such items in the coolers of local meat markets, even in grocery stores. They may be carry-overs from the old days, but they still sell.

Pigs' feet - which are kind of gelatinous - are used to flavor foods, said Donald Hoffman, owner of Hoffman's Quality Meats on Cearfoss Pike west of Hagerstown. The business, started by his grandfather in 1923, butchers, manufactures and distributes a variety of meat products - 400 to 500 items. That's up from an original 30.

"You have to change with the times," he said.

Inspections and health regulations brought many changes to the meat business, but some things stay the same. People still eat traditional meat products - pudding among them.

Hoffman's makes pudding in huge kettles. Pork picnics (shoulders) are cooked down with pork jowls, cheeks, tongues, sweetbreads - that's the thymus gland, or sometimes the pancreas.

Harry Rohrer elaborated on pudding's ingredients - adding hearts and livers to the list. The cooked-down result is ground, seasoned and pressed into a loaf, Rohrer said. Sliced and fried, pudding can be served for breakfast.

Rohrer has been in his family's Hagerstown meat processing business for more than 60 years. The sign on the Brookmeadow Corp. on Security Road in Hagerstown says "Home Killed Meats," but that hasn't been accurate for years, Rohrer said. Brookmeadow no longer butchers, but cuts, processes and sells beef and pork.

So what is pon haus?

Pon haus is made by combining cornmeal with the broth that results from the above-mentioned pudding. It's very much a regional dish, Hoffman said, adding that some people like it on top of hominy - the traditional porridge of grits.

Still with us?

Scrapple - cornmeal boiled with scraps of pork and allowed to set, then sliced and fried - sounds similar to pon haus, but it is more a product of Pennsylvania. It has less meat than pudding, Hoffman said.

Next? Take souse. Please.

"We don't make it," Hoffman said. The dictionary defines it as pickled food, especially the feet, ears and head of a pig.

"It's vinegary," Hoffman said. He doesn't like it.

He does like hog maw, however. A pig stomach has a heavy lining, Hoffman said. Remove that, stuff the thin stomach, and enjoy. Hoffman likes it crispy.

Joy Beard doesn't eat the stomach casing that holds the stuffing. She manages Mamas' restaurant on Frederick Street in Hagerstown and has been making hog maw for the 22 years her mother and her friend have owned the restaurant.

Beard uses her mama's mama's recipe, and hog maw usually is on the family restaurant's menu every other week from October through January or February. She considers it a winter recipe, and she sells it by the pound.

Beard stuffs the pig bellies with a mixture of chopped potatoes, cabbage, sausage and onions.

"It has everything in it," Beard said, but people order spinach or coleslaw with the dish. She likes it served with fruit.

So now you know.

Bon apptit.

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