I'm a Mennonite. I know, I know: how is that possible, since I wear make-up and
jeans and don't have a little black beanie pinned on my braids? My path branched
away from that of my ancestors but there is much I cherish about my heritage.
For instance, the food: Wareneki, rollkuchen, cabbage borsch, plumi moos, that
cold, sweet pudding-y soup filled with prunes and raisins and cherries...
Anyway, since I don't spend my days hitched to a plow, I rarely indulge my
The Mennonite love of music, however, is a different story. Especially at Christmas.
Despite a deep suspicion of the arts, it's a culture that embraces music as form
of worship. (Nothing you might want to dance to, though. Dancing is Very Bad.
There's an old joke among us Mennos: why don't Mennonites have sex standing up?
Because it could lead to dancing.)
So although we do not dance, most Menno kids grew up with music lessons of some
sort; most of us sang in the church choir. Some of us sang in chamber choirs
that even went on tour.
We did not sound like this:
I can still sing along with The Hallelujah Chorus
of Handel's Messiah and it remains one of my favorite pieces of music,
especially at Christmas.
In SAVING THE SHERIFF, I
tell the story of Red, who has lost his love of music and irrepressible Frankie,
who loves to sing. I had a wonderful time putting a new spin on the Christmas
carols they grew up with. I hope you sing along with them!
And here, just for you, is another Christmas treat I grew up: spice cookies
called Peppernuts. (or Pfefferneussen, according to my low German relatives, who
liked to dip them in coffee)
These are an understated cookie, plain, nut-sized (hence the name!) and
deceptively addictive! Traditional wisdom says these must be made weeks in
advance, as they slowly increase in flavor. But truly, there is nothing like a
handful of peppernuts, hot out of the oven.
Here's my take on this old favorite:
Â¾ c butter
Â½ c white sugar
Â½ c brown sugar
Â¼ c corn syrup
Â¼ c dark molasses
3 tbsp sour milk (or plain yogurt)
2 tsp baking powder
Â½ tsp baking soda
Â¼ tsp salt
Â¾ tsp cardamom
Â½ tsp allspice
Â½ tsp cloves
Â¾ tsp fresh-ground pepper (peppernuts, get it?!)
Â½ tsp ginger
Â¾ tsp cinnamon
3 Â½ c flour (I used a mixture of white, whole-wheat and spelt flours)
Cream together butter and sugars. Add syrups and sour milk. Mix dry ingredients
together in separate bowl, then gradually add to the wet ingredients mixture.
Roll into ropes (or "snakes," if you've got kids helping) then cut into Â½-inch
pieces and bake on a greased baking sheet at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or
until golden brown.
And for one final treat, here's the famous light show version of Handel's
6 comments posted.
Thank you for letting us into a small part of your life!! Being of Polish descent, there are a couple of dishes that sound very similar to yours. This year I just might make those cookies, along with the ones that I usually make. They really sound good!! I hope you have a very Merry Christmas, and I wish you all the best in the upcoming New Year!!
(Peggy Roberson 1:25pm November 16, 2013)
Thank you for sharing your cookie reciepe and writing such a great book. I remember all the baking of so many different cookies and candies that my mother, aunts and cousins did, and of course we ate lots of them too. May you have a wonderful Christmas and the memories for years to come.
(C Culp 3:43pm November 16, 2013)