Food by Judy @ 1:41 PM

As far back as I can remember, my mother baked peppernuts at Christmas.

My mother came from a long line of Irish-American women who married Irish-American men. And, true to form, my father was also of Irish-American descent. My grandma (mamma’s mom) thought outside the envelope and fell in love with a German who had come from the “old country.” (I also married a man of German extract, but, unfortunately, not as happily as Grandma did.) Grandpa really loved the spicy little Christmas cookies that his family had made. And that is how a German Christmas cookie came to be a tradition in an Irish-American household.

I’ve seen many recipes for peppernuts, aka pfefferneuse, over the years, but none like the ones Grandma and Mama used to bake. Most recipes call for the cookies to be rolled in powdered sugar prior to baking or frosted afterwards. Mama would have none of that. No time she said when I asked. And, indeed, even sans sugar and frosting, these cookies are not quick to make.

Mama usually started in September. And she baked thousands of cookies. Thousands. All through the Christmas season there were little bowls of peppernuts scattered around the house. The cookie jar was always full of them. And, best of all (in my opinion) the fridge was full of chilling dough. I can still hear Mama to her resident cookie-dough-monster (me): “Leave my peppernut dough alone!” The cookies are so small that a dozen are barely a handful, and so crunchy and spicy that they will keep for a long time (if hidden from those who would otherwise eat them).

Kitchenaid Mixer

The dough for Peppernuts is very stiff. Grandma always mixed hers by hand (I think she kneaded it ), but Mama used a mixer. She burned several mixer out before I finally bought her a heavy-duty KitchenAid mixer one year for Christmas. The next year, Mama told me, “I love the mixer you gave me. Even peppernut dough hasn’t been able to kill it.”

Mama always included peppernuts in the Christmas boxes sent to far-flung relations. I can vividly remember the first Christmas that I was not able to come home for the holidays. Instead of using styrofoam peanuts as packing around the contents in my “Christmas box,” Mama used baggies full of peppernuts. She knew how to make home come to me when I was absent from it.

M has requested the peppernut recipe, and I have obliged. Follow the link to the recipe. Hopefully M will share! (Are you reading this, M?) If not, I may have to make a batch myself.

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