Here’s my 2022 peppernut haul!
Those peppernuts are made with the One True Peppernut Recipe, my mom’s and my grandmother’s.
The One True Peppernut Recipe
- 3 cups sugar
- 3/4 cup molasses
- 3/4 cup lard
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
If you’ve got them:
- 1/4 teaspoon each ground cloves, ground nutmeg, ginger and cardamom
Even more optional:
1/2 cup each raisins, coconut shreds and nuts
6-7 cups flour
Cut sugar into lard.
Process raisins, nuts and coconut.
Mix everything but the flour into the lard and sugar mixture.
Mix in the flour in several batches, about a cup at a time, The last cup should make the dough very stiff.
Wrap in plastic, refrigerate overnight.
Roll out hunks of dough into ropes about 3/8 inch in diameter. Cut ropes into 3/8 inch long pieces.
Bake pieces in 350F oven for about 10-11 minutes. Cool.
My own notes:
This recipe makes an enormous amount. You can halve it and still have a large bowl of them.
Maybe 3/8 inch diameter and length peppernuts are too big. You can definitely make them smaller in both directions.
You can replace the lard with shortening. The shortening gives the peppernuts a more refined mouth feel.
The raisins, nuts and coconut do help, but you should grind them or process them very finely. My mom used a cast iron hand grinder that appeared to be of medieval origin. I use a food processor.
The cloves, ginger cardamom and nutmeg aren’t really optional. Maybe you’d make these without the extra spices if you were a peasant in 1816 (The Year Without a Summer), but hopefully you’re not.
You can tell this is an old recipe. There’s the lard, of course, something that hog butchering peasants would be able to make themselves.
It uses buttermilk and baking soda to leaven the cookies, so it originates before baking powder, which seems to have been developed in the 1840-55 time frame.
It uses some molasses to sweeten. Molasses can be made from sugar beets, which are a pretty common central European crop. My mom remembers that when she was a kid, some older women would make pink peppernuts. Apparently Alexanderwohl Mennonites used to make sugar from watermelons, a beloved crop. That sugar was pink. When processed sugar came along, the older women would use red food coloring to get peppernuts to have the color they were supposed to have.
Bonus 2021 Peppernut haul!
Remember, it’s just not Christmas if there’s no peppernuts!