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Wednesday, December 9, 2009


When our boys were small, we moved back to my husband’s childhood community, about half of which were German Mennonites. Max didn’t grow up in their church, but remembered that the people who went there were loving, generous people who lived out their faith as neighbors. One day soon after we’d moved in, someone called and invited our boys to summer Vacation Bible School, and at the parents’ night, Max said, “This is where we should go to church.” What a blessing those folks were to us. And, I might add, they ARE THE BEST COOKS IN THE WORLD.

Every fall, the ladies had a work day devoted solely to making “peppernuts” – a traditional sweet treat - which were then taken to the area Mennonite relief sale ( for missions) where all sorts of German food and beautifully crafted handmade items were sold. Let me just say, the Amish quilt makers have nothing on these talented Mennonites!

I was indoctrinated into the fine art of peppernut making, and ever since—even if I bake nothing else at Christmas—I do make peppernuts. There are variations on the recipe, but my family’s favorite is the Plain Peppernut recipe. So for your enjoyment, here it is.

Traditional German Treat

2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
1 cup milk
3 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. ground cloves
Enough flour to make a stiff dough (about 5 cups)

Mix all ingredients in mixer. Chill 2-3 hours or overnight. Pinch off walnut-sized piece of dough and roll by hand on a floured surface into a long rope, a little larger than a pencil. Cut into ¼ to ½ inch pieces and bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until light brown. Cool and store in airtight container (ziploc bags work great).

Christmas and peppernuts – thanks you, ladies, of the Mennonite church for your willingness to share your faith and a piece of your heritage with a young mom. I always think of you when I make my annual quota of peppernuts.

Have any of you been privy to a special person who shared a secret recipe? Are there any ethnic foods you make at Christmas?


Erica Vetsch said...

I remember having these when I was a kid in central Kansas. Thanks for the great memories!

Patti Lacy said...

Now I've heard of everything.
My Southern momma will be mad that she didn't teach me this...

carla stewart said...

Once you've had peppernuts, you never forget them. Addictive, that's what they are :-)))

Cecelia Dowdy said...

You know, I've never heard of peppernuts until you mentioned them on Facebook! Until I read the recipe, I just assumed they were nuts, like walnuts or chestnuts or something and you roasted them in the oven! Look how wrong I was! They sound good! I might try some!

carla stewart said...

Hi Cecilia! Peppernuts are crunch like nuts, but are delicious little cookies with a spicy punch.

Good luck w/ making them. We love them.