Mennonite Heritage and
Let's take a Look into the Past
Peppernuts, called "pay-pa-nate" in Low German and "pfeffernusse" in German, are associated with Christmas and grandmothers. They are tiny spicy cookies, much smaller than other cookies, and are traditionally baked for Christmas. In the olden days, some grandmothers made peppernuts the year round a special treat for their grandchildren and, oh, how we enjoyed grandmother's peppernuts !
Peppernuts are not exclusively Low German or American but are also baked in a number of European countries, such as Holland, Germany, Latvia, Denmark and others.
Our great grandmother's peppernuts were very plain, flavored mostly with pepper and a few other spices. As these recipes were handed down from generation to generation, the peppernuts became fancier. As time went on, various combinations of the following ingredients were being added: nuts, dates, raisins, citron, coconut, and gum drops, as well as different combinations of spices and flavors. Peppernuts may vary in size from large pea size to almost the size of a small cookie. Colors may range from almost white to dark brown. They may be round, square, or oblong. Some are hard, some are soft, and others are crisp and crunchy.
Museum Store sells cookbooks, aprons, and ready made peppernuts. Be sure to check Museum hours.
This is what Irma (Mrs. Jake) Koehn had to say about peppernuts: My grandmother baked her peppernuts around Thanksgiving time. On Sunday afternoon when we visited grandmother, a few were given to us children to taste. The rest were for Christmas. The Peppernuts were stored in a huge tin bowl-like container with a dome lid. Grandmother thought they were better if aged a few weeks. She had only one kind of peppernuts. My children also consider this the only kind of peppernuts--all others are just Christmas cookies, they say. In memory of Mrs. H. J. A. Voth.
Memory taken from the Mennonite Heritage Museum cookbook From Pluma Moos to Pie
Available at Museum Store
To read more memories of
Mennonite life past, go to :
This discription of peppernuts taken from the Mennonite cookbook OFF THE MOUNTAIN LAKE RANGE published in 1958 (no longer in print). (These Low-German Mennonite immigrants came from the same Colony (area) of Russia as the Goessel Mennonites, but settled in Mountain Lake, Minnesota).
Peppernuts, no doubt, not only received their name from their small size, shape and texture, but also from their nut-like, spicy flavor and from the fact that some are flavored woth peper, peppermint, and molasses.
There are a variety of peppernuts. Some become hard while others are very soft. In order to keep them from becoming too hard they are often kept in a closed jar. Raised peppernuts are made with yeast while others contain other leavening agents. Some are baked as tiny buton-like pieces while others assume the size of small cookies.
For the smaller kind the dough is usually rolled into long strips 1/2 inch in diameter or less. With scissors or knife small pieces are cut off. The pieces are placed quite close together onto a flat baking sheet and baked only a short time. Care must be taken not to bake hard. Larger peppernuts may be formed into little bals and baked.
Peppernuts are often baked for special occasions, such as Christmas, or Thanksgiving. At Christmas time they are often included in the children's treats. They are also served at lunch and eaten as snacks. "Pfeffernusse" is the High-German term while in Low-German the are "pay-pa-nate".
Christmas in years past
From THE HOMEMAKERS CLUB cookbook Henerson, NE first compiled in 1951 and reprinted and revised in 1970
The Henderson, NE community was part of the original group of Low-German Mennonites, from the Alexanderwohl village that emmigrated from So. Russia.
On Christmas Day, after the forenoon church service, we were off to grandma and grandpa's house. What a joyous occasion ! There was the pleasant aroma of coffee coming from the house. The house was crowded: children were mingling everywhere ! There was excitement, noise and commotion ! Soon came the call for dinner. The menu usually included pluma moos, shinka flaash (ham), zwieback, fried patatoes, bologna and other good things to eat. These had been prepared the day or two before, so that no one needed to miss the morning service at church. The grandparents and dads ate first followed by the children. The women, who waited on the tables and washed the dishes are last.
After the tables were cleared and the dishes were done, the youngsters all filed into the living room. The little children all had to say a piece or sing a song. Grandpa and our uncles then presented us with shining new coins, usually pennies. Then came the distribution of gifts . . . . Besides the gifts, we children would each receive a "tootya" (a sack of nuts, peanuts, candies, and an orange or apple).
After the excitememt of the gifts had worn off a bit, faspa was served. Included in this meal were leftovers from dinner, paperneata (peppernuts), more candy and peanuts, and lots of other goodies. After the usual clean-up from faspa and a little more visiting, everyone went home to do the chores.
The next day, called Second Holiday, we had Christmas Day repeated at the other grandpa and grandma's following the morning church service.
To read more memories of
Mennonite life in the past, go to :
Moos (rhymes with dose) traditionally was served for dinner on Christmas Day, along with cold boiled ham, fried potatoes, bread and peppernuts, or other Christmas cookies. Moos also was served on other holidays such as Easter and Pentecost. Often it was cooked on Saturday and then served for Sunday dinner along with cold meat and zwieback. Moos was served from a large bowl in the center of the table and eaten from individual bowls with a soup or dessert spoon. It was eaten with the main meal as you would a salad.
Moos is easily prepared. A thickening made of flour, sugar and cream or milk is added to some cooked fruit. Some people add spices such as a stick of cinnamon, star anise or cloves, according to taste. If spices are added, place a small spice bag and cook with the fruit, then remove the bag before thickening is added.
Any tart fruit may be used: sour cherries, plums, prunes, gooseberries, apples, articots or raisins. The amount of flour, sugar or spices used varies according to taste and preference. Cream can be sweet or sour. If the finished product is too thick, dilute with sweet milk while the moos is still hot. Moos should have the consistency of medium thick gravy. Moos usually is derved cold but may also be served hot.
Memories are from the Mennonite Heritage Museum cookbook From Pluma Moos to Pie Available at Museum Store
1 qt. fresh or canned sour cherries
1 cup sugar
5 cups water
1\2 cup flour
1\4 to 1\2 cup sugar
1\2 tsp. salt
3 cups milk
Add water to cherries and cook until cherry skins crack. If canned cherries, heat until boiling. Add 1 cup sugar the last minute of boiling period.
Make a paste of the flour, salt, 1\2 cup sugar, and milk. Add thickening to fruit slowly, stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil and starts to thicken or coats a spoon. If soup seems too thick when cooled, add milk or a small amount of water.
Mother used gooseberries instead of cherries sometimes. But then she added more sugar. This was called Gooseberry Moos. Good served with fried ham and fried potatoes.
Mrs. Jacob S. Schmidt
From the Mennonite Heritage Museum cookbook From Pluma Moos to Pie
2014-2021 Mennonite Heritage
and Agricultural Museum
Created by Fern Bartel nee Schmidt