It's possible you have heard of peppernuts, but it's even more likely that even if you have, we aren't talking about the same thing.

Peppernuts are most commonly known as traditional German cookies and often times are given as gifts during the holiday. However, the peppernuts I'm talking about, while they may have German origins, they certainly aren't cookies. They look like small, red-colored rolls with a very slight bit of sweetness along with a distinct hint of pepper. It may sound hideous, but I assure you, it is not.

For the rest of this article, all references to peppernuts refer to bread rolls made with beets - and seasoned with black pepper.  I wouldn't blame the skeptics for being skeptical because I would be extremely skeptical at this point had I not grown up eating these deliciously spicy red rolls. Beets and pepper in bread??  I've never eaten beets in my life and I have no plans to start anytime soon. Let me explain.

My grandmother came to America from Germany when she was 13 years old. To make a long story short, she got married and raised 10 kids, mostly in northeastern Colorado. My dad tells the story of his mother making these peppernuts on the farm every year for New Year's Eve. It was a long-standing tradition- and I don't even know how or where it started, or where they got their name. As kids, my brother and I would typically spend part of our Christmas vacation on the farm with Grandma and Grandpa - and part of that experience involved eating lots peppernuts as grandma carried on the tradition year after year.

After grandma passed away in 1980, some of the aunts would make a batch of peppernuts for New Year's, but over the course of time, the aunts died and the tradition pretty much went away. However, the recipe was preserved in the family cookbook that was printed some 25 years ago. I tried the recipe once but never thought about taking up the annual tradition until now. I thought I would give it another try, and they turned out fantastic. These peppernuts are absolutely delicious and I have determined to renew the tradition of baking peppernuts for new years from now on.

I'm going to share the recipe with you and maybe you would like to give it a try. I haven't been able to find a recipe like this on the internet. I'm sure something like it is out there, but I think it is fairly unique. I'm curious to know if someone out there has ever had these and if they are known by another name.

Give this recipe for peppernuts a try and see what you think. Personally, I think they are excellent. I hope you enjoy them as much as my family has for the past 100 years.

INGREDIENTS
1 can beets
1 cup water, divided
1 cube melted margarine
3 room temperature eggs
2 packages active dry yeast (2 Tablespoons)
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 heaping teaspoons black pepper ( I do 3)
6-8 cups flour

HOW TO

Blend beets in blender with beet juice. Rinse blender with 1/2 of water and add to blended beets. Warm beets to a medium temperature, not hot, and put in large bowl.

Dissolve years in 1/2 of warm water.

Add dissolved yeast, sugar, eggs, and  4 cups flour to the warm beets. Beat with mixer or a spoon until smooth. ( I use a spoon)

Zane Mathews

Add margarine, 1 cup of flour, salt, and pepper. When the dough begins to stiffen add flour slowly. Finish needing by hand. ( I used a total of 8 cups of flour)

Dough should be firm, but not stiff. Let rise in warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Punch down the dough and let it rise for another 10 minutes.

Divide dough into 2 parts, rolling each into an 8 X 10 inch rectangle. Cut into 1-11/2 inch strips and then roll each strip into the shape of a large cigar. Cut into slices, place on pan, and let rise for another 10 minutes.

Bake for 9-10 minutes at 400 degrees.

This recipe makes about 4 dozen peppernuts and the best way to eat them is to stick one in the microwave for about 10 seconds. It comes out hot, soft, and delicious.  And, no, you don't need to butter it. (Though, I've never tried it)

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