Friday, May 13, 2011

In the Kitchen Part 1

I have been bequeathed a great gift. Grandma gave me her recipe for Päpänät!
Will anyone know what that means? Of course not. It’s a Low German word, so even German nationals probably won’t understand it. Growing up I thought “Low German” just meant “low-class German,” but it doesn’t. Low German is entirely different. Very few of the words carry from one language to the other. Take “Päpa” for example. It means “pepper” in Low German. In German it means nothing, or “dad” without the little dots over the A.
This isn’t news to me today, but it was quite the revelation when I finally moved out of Mennonite-land and into the rest of the world. (Remember, this was before the internet and the global village, so if you didn’t know something, you often remained ignorant.)
Anyway, Päpänät translates into “peppernuts.” It was the best thing my grandma ever made, and she made a lot of good stuff. Being Mennonite, though, she also made some things that made me cringe, but that’s not what today is about. No, today's a celebration of a tasty treat, which I will hereafter refer to as “peppernuts” because typing those A’s with the dots is a pain in the butt.
To make peppernuts, you chuck a bunch of stuff into a mixer:
5 cups Roger’s Golden Syrup (if it sounds like a lot, it is)
1 cup white sugar
1/4 pound butter
1/4 pound lard (it isn’t Mennonite cooking without at least a little lard, believe me)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cardamom
3 eggs
That’s what the recipe said. “Flour.” Grandma was unable to be more specific. She just knows what the dough should look like. It took some experimentation to discover that it takes 12 cups of flour.
Then you take the dough and leave it in the fridge for at least 14 days, but not more than 20. What mysterious chemical reaction happens during that time? I have no idea. It didn’t rise or change colour or do anything particularly noticeable. But Grandma said “Do it,” so I did. Then you roll out the dough, cut it into small rectangles and arrange them in a pleasing pattern on a baking sheet. Don’t leave any space between the rectangles. Throw it into a 350 degree oven and bake for about twenty-five minutes, depending on your oven.
This recipe was huge. Enormous. The dough filled an ice cream pail. My freezer is full of peppernuts. In future I will be making a smaller version. But the end result was more than moderately successful. For the first time in my life, I have my own supply of peppernuts. No longer will I have to curry favour with Grandma just to get a taste of the good stuff. Did my Grandma realize she was a peppernuts dealer?

Peppernuts. The first one’s free.

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