Peppernuts

If you were to ask twelve women, with a German/Mennonite background, for their recipe for peppernuts, you would get at least thirteen different variations. Peppernuts are as individual as families. A good peppernut is labor intensive, spicy, some include nuts and fruit, others are quite plain. Some are hard and crunchy, others soft and chewy. Some are large, others tiny. See!! Just like a family.

But the one constant in all of this is–anise! Anise can be purchased in oil, seed or powdered form (although the powdered form is the hardest to find). It is the delightful licorice flavor in the cookie. And this is the one thing that can, and is, adjusted to unique family taste.

If you’re unfamiliar with this delightful little cookie, chances are you will try the recipe once. Only the strong and dedicated make them a Christmas tradition!! Nearly thirty years ago I sold them…for $4.50 a pound even way back then. A friend now gets $9.00 a pound and she knows some are getting as much as $15-16 a pound. After you make them you will appreciate why some are willing to pay…and not play!!

Recipe:
1 1/2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
1 cup dark syrup
1 cup cream (I use heavy whipping cream)
1 teaspoon of the following: soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger.
1 tablespoon of the following: baking powder, powdered anise

Cream butter and sugar, add syrup, cream and spices (I stir my baking powder into the flour before adding)…then add flour.

The result will be a soft dough. Much like this:

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At this stage you will want to chill the dough a bit to make it easier to handle. The next step is to roll the dough into ‘snakes”. If the dough is chilled enough you should be able to do this without adding a lot of flour to the rolling surface. I rarely need to use flour, but do often put the dough back into the fridge for a bit as the warmth of your hands will soften it to the point of being too sticky. You don’t need a lot of dough to make your ‘snake’

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I roll the entire batch of dough at one time, fitting the rolls into a cake pan with wax paper separating the layers. I don’t like for the snakes to touch!! Because after I get them all rolled, I then stick the pan into the freezer. It makes the next step much easier if the snakes are frozen.

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The freezing step doesn’t take as long as you might think. They don’t need to be rock hard–just set enough you can handle them without them sticking to your hands. Also, it will make a cleaner ‘slice’ when you do the next step. I remove the snakes, one at a time, from the freeze, and cut into slices. If you use the part of the knife closest to the handle, and not the tip, you will be able to cut the entire snake without the slices separating. Even though they might not cut clear through, it is easy to pick up the entire roll, even after being cut, and put them on your pans.
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How you place them on the pan is also individual. I just put them wherever I can fit them, but you will want the flat side down. Others prefer to make nice clean rows. They bake just the same.

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Baking time will depend on your oven. Temp is 350 and time is anywhere from 7-11 minutes. You will notice, in the next picture of the finished product, that some are darker. That’s because I always tend to forget from year to year and overbake the first pan. They aren’t burned, just a bit browner. You want to take them out while still a bit soft, and they will not be a golden brown, but because there are so many, and you just ‘dump’ them into a pile, they continue to ‘cook’ a bit.

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The finished pile is the result of three pans, and it probably takes 3-4 rolls to fill a pan if you do it like I do. HINT: If you are doing these alone…..fill as many pans as you have before you start baking. Cutting and putting them on the pan takes time..however, it is a fun project to do with kids if you don’t mind them being a bit ‘smushed”. Mom do the cutting, though!!

This batch didn’t quite fill a one-quart ziploc bag. A one quart bag, filled tight, is pretty much one pound, though to sell them you’d want to be accurate.

Also–if you really get tired messing with these little cookies….the dough can be kept for a Looonnnnggg time if frozen and it will only enhance the flavor. And….even the little cookie itself never gets stale–I think it’s all the spices. But BEWARE—they can be as addicting as popcorn….or peanuts! A handful just calls for another handful.

Thus ends our week of recipe sharing. To each of you who faithfully ‘tune’ into us each week..Thank you and may your Christmas be as full of blessings as these little cookies are of spices. Next week we will be sharing a ‘Christmas Tradition”

God bless you, each and every one!!

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12 responses to “Peppernuts”

  1. Susan Mires (@susanmires) says :

    Julane, I love all your pictures and instructions! I’ve never heard of these, but it looks really neat. (And I see what you mean about the work!) Merry Christmas!

  2. Cherie Gagnon says :

    I believe that those could be addicting. I have the recipe from a year or so ago and intend on making them one day. I think we would really, really like peppernuts 🙂

    • pagesfromstages says :

      I’m sure you’d like them, Cherie. But it’s not something you can whip up quickly. Gotta plan. Almost like baking bread. I’ve been baking for the past hour and still have two layers of ‘snakes’ to kill!!

  3. Sara Meisinger says :

    Mom and I made peppernuts every year. I remember her setting that huge bowl on the table with all the dough needing to be rolled into snakes. Ours were lined up on the pan–so much work for such a little bite of wonderful! When the boys were little I mixed up a batch and the boys sat on the kitchen island and rolled the snakes. I don’t think I’ve made them since–think they’d be as cute sitting on the counter now? The boys I mean!! I might have to try another batch. Thanks, Julane. You always make me see the value of even the ‘not-so-fun’ traditions.

    • pagesfromstages says :

      I think the more ‘precise’ you are about things, the more you tend to line them up in neat little rows. I don’t do that–however, I defy anyone not to ‘count’ them as you cut and put the on the pans. I purposely put on music or something to distract that silly habit!! Like–who really cares? 🙂

  4. Jeanie Berg says :

    I will definitely be adding your peppernut recipe to my stash! I have many but there are three that our family really loves. One is a darker molasses dough, one is a white dough made with 7-UP, and one is a light dough with lots of spices. We’ve made 4 batches this year already. If grandchildren are here they help cut, otherwise hubby sits at the table and rolls, cuts, and fills pans while I’m in charge of the baking and dumping and bringing him more empty pans. We don’t make all our little snakes and freeze them–just cut them into bits as soon as they appear!! All of ours have anise because we love it…the molasses recipe has anise seed and the other two anise oil. For many people that seasoning is the deciding factor——you either love it or hate it!! Julane, is your powdered anise from star anise or just ground up seeds? Star anise is more difficult to find….I usually save that for when I make Pluma Moos……Yum! I am just constantly amazed that there are still people who have never heard of peppernuts!! (No offense, Susie!)

    • pagesfromstages says :

      Jeanie…I got my powdered anise at that store on Meridian in Newton…I think it is a Mennonite store? It’s pricey, but the only place I could find it close. Up here they don’t have a clue what I’m talking about. 🙂 You are SO right…you either love or hate the anise, and even if you love it it will vary in degree as to HOW much you love it. I think the powdered anise gives you a milder taste.

      I didn’t know about peppernuts until I married into Bob’s family. His mom made them very large…more like a regular size cookie. She didn’t like to roll and cut. I think if you have someone working with you, the chilling/freezing step could easily be skipped, but it’s a job to keep up when you’re doing it yourself!!

      I should have said that one batch will make a little over four pounds. I finished baking my first batch this morning. Usually have them mixed up and start baking by Thanksgiving–but didn’t this year. Also–if you are working with frozen ‘snakes’ it may up your baking time just a hitch…I noticed that by the time I got ready to put my last pan in, I could cut the time by one minute.

      I have used molasses in place of the dark syrup, and the original recipe calls for Mace and half and half. We cut out the Mace, upped the…well, I don’t know what we upped. 🙂 I may have added a bit of allspice. Who knows!! Whatever. And, we think the heavier cream makes a nicer cookie, too. May be just our imaginations but it works for us. 🙂

      Merry Christmas to you and hours. Glad Rodney is better again, and hope you are able to enjoy a great family time!!

  5. Berneda Jewell says :

    I’ve been stalking your blog and enjoying it. I’m Sara’s aunt and had to comment on the peppernuts. I love them but always thought they were too time consuming to make — until my sister-in-law introduced me to the peppernut press! It’s a homemade inventioin by some Mennonite guy around Moundrige. Made from a PVC pipe with 10 little holes drilled around the bottom edge, a cap on the bottom by the holes, a wood plunger and a ring that slips over the pipe that is given a sharp edge on one side. Make your recipe, no refrigerating necessary, fill the PVC pipe with dough and plunge and cut away! You have peppernuts ready for baking in no time. When they come out of the press they might be a bit rough looking but if you are a perfectionist (I am!) it’s easy to smooth in little ball with fingers as you place them on cookie sheet, and yes,I also have to line them up in rows and know there are 80 per cookie sheet! If you’re interested in this peppernut press, talk to Sara and I’m sure she can put you in touch with the Moundridge relatives that can tell you where to buy it. Well worth the $20 I paid for it several years ago! I buy anise in liquid form through the pharmacy.

    • pagesfromstages says :

      Thanks, Berneda. I do know about the press, but really hate to give up the ‘hands on’ kind of thing that goes with the tradition of making peppernuts. My sister-in-law uses one, she purchased it at the Mennonite restaurant in Durham. Still, guess I’ll opt to do it the hard way for awhile. 🙂 There are just some things I hate to give up, even for the convenience. But your comment will be a huge help to others who might want to give the recipe a whirl. It may not be as intimidating if they know there is an easier, faster way to get those little cookies on the pan!!

      Thank you so very much for following us. I grew up with your sisters…Twylah and Beulah, in Burns!!

  6. Susan Hollaway says :

    I only made one Christmas treat this year. I wanted to do something else, but time did not allow. Maybe if I plan it WAY AHEAD of time next year, I’ll get to make some goodies for friends and neighbors. Your recipe sounds yummy, Julane!

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