Grandma’s Pebbernors

1471962_10203251695968246_2895649435291095102_n

(Above: Grandma Myrna and four of six of the Hustoft children. My father was the only boy.)

When I was a little girl, I remember receiving a special package from Grandma Myrna every Christmas. Inside were all sorts of tasty treats that she had baked herself, of course, but my eye was always drawn toward the tin carefully packed with my favorite Christmas cookie: Grandma’s Pebbernors.

39315_1270982749726_6872680_n_Fotor

(“We called this cow, “The blue one.” it was sort of dark grayish, blackish mottled. You could see a sort of blue if you were imaginative enough. An easy milker!”- Grandma Myrna)

Grandma is the unofficial family historian. My mother gave me her copy of the recipe and from it comes the voice and wise advice from Grandma herself:

“Mother made batches and batches of this, sending it to each family, to each grandchild as they got married and moved away from home… I think she changed Grandma Otthea’s recipe somewhat. She used the large recipe, made it at least four times every year. Maybe more. How did she ever do it?

I have heard that the recipe used to include pepper, therefore the “pebber”. They are small and you can grab a handful to eat, as you would nuts, which translates to “nor”, so we have pebbernor. Whether it is originally a German or a Danish recipe, I don’t know. The southern part of Denmark was influenced more by German tradition, perhaps, as it was sometimes under German rule, and other times not.”

DSC_0035

She continues on to write variations and tips from other bakers in the family, as well as sentimental anecdotes:

“How to play ‘Mouse’. Spread a bunch (not too many) of cookies on the table. Everyone except ‘it’ decides which peppernut is ‘mouse’ while ‘it’ hides her eyes. The person who is it takes as many cookies as she can, one at a time, hoping to avoid the mouse. She gets to keep every cookie until she touches the mouse, then everyone else yells, ‘MOUSE!’ and she jumps because she has been so intent on the game that she is startled when everyone yells.”

***

Grandma Myrna always made Christmas special. When we would come and visit for the holidays it seemed like magic. Walking into a warm house that smelled of Grandma’s baking, seeing the tree with family ornaments, many of which were homemade, all our stockings above the fireplace- handmade by Grandma out of red and green felt with each of our names so carefully cut out, and then filled with chocolate and oranges and thoughtful toys, and to everyone’s delight- Grandpa Ted’s train set. Pure magic. Maybe she’s responsible for my Christmas obsession.

DSC_0031

Ingredients:

Small Batch Big Batch

1

1

1

1

2

1

½

½

1

4

cup lard

cup sugar

cup molasses

tsp. baking soda

eggs

tsp cloves

tsp salt

tsp allspice

tsp cinnamon

cup flour

4

4

4

4

8

4

2

2

4

16

DSC_0032

Ok, let’s address the elephant in the room: ingredient number one… LARD! I know, it sounds wretched. No modern day recipes call for it anymore. Believe me, I am an advocate for alternative oils and fat sources (i.e. coconut oil, grass-fed Kerrygold Butter, grapeseed oil, Earth Balance for baking, homemade vegan butters, etc.), but the truth is, you cannot substitute out the lard. I have tried. It just does not taste like Grandma’s cookies. Pebbernors have a certain satisfying crispness to them that one can only get from using lard. So, head to your grocery store’s baking section, find the little blue box, and pull your hood over your head as you run to the checkout.

Behold, lard.

DSC_0039

First, cream together your lard and sugar.

DSC_0047

DSC_0048

Next, mix in your eggs and molasses.

DSC_0033     DSC_0049

The molasses are appropriately named, aren’t they?

DSC_0051

Next you are going to stir in the rest of your dry ingredients.

DSC_0059     DSC_0060

Once your ingredients are combined, your dough should look like this:

DSC_0061

Now, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. I gave the dough a good knead, just enough to make it come together.

DSC_0063

Look how pretty it is! A good lump of dough is so satisfying. Here is where you wrap this baby in some plastic wrap and freeze for an hour. When you are about ready to pull the dough out, go ahead and preheat the oven to 375°.

DSC_0064

Roll a fistful of dough into small “snakes”, about the size of a penny in diameter.

DSC_0065

Then slice the snakes into 1/2″ pennies.

DSC_0067

Tray the cookies onto either a silicone lined baking sheet or parchment will do. Bake for 8 minutes (I would recommend doing a test batch with only a few cookies on a tray. I prefer the traditional crunchy cookie, but if you want a softer cookie or if your oven runs hot, try 7 minutes). I let the cookies rest once they are out of the oven for one minute. Then move them onto a cooling rack.

DSC_0068

Now get ready to wash, rinse, and repeat because this recipe alone makes a couple hundred cookies.

DSC_0073

I like to finish them off with a parchment lined cookie tin, just like Grandma. Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you enjoy this cherished family recipe.

38080_1270983149736_7829637_n

4 thoughts on “Grandma’s Pebbernors

  1. Merry Christmas Liv! I’m one of the handful of east coast Larsen cousins you have never met. My father was your Grandma Myrna’s brother, Wilmer.

    I just wanted to share that I loved reading about your recollections of Christmas traditions and pebbernors. What a beautiful tribute to your grandmother. I too remember getting those packages from my “Granny,” your great-grandmother, filled with Danish pastries, handmade Christmas ornaments, and dozens of pebbernors. Although I was never a fan of that treat, I still looked forward to their arrival each year as it meant Christmas was almost here. I’m happy to see that the pebbernors tradition continues.

    I wish you and yours a very merry Christmas!

    1. Well hello cousin Paula! So sweet of you to give my post a read. It is truly amazing just how many family members remember these special Christmas packages. I hope to carry on this cherished tradition. Merry Christmas!

  2. When Brian and I got married back in 1977, we started receiving pepperners (that’s how his part of the family said it) from Grandma Wilma (Myrna’s mother). She sent pepperners and meringue kisses. That package was always a Christmas highlight. We have photos of our older children eating their first pepperner — a big event!

    Brian and Kari tried making them one year. Fail! The dough looked like trays of dog poo in the freezer. Yours look lovely, Olivia. Good job! Maybe you can come make them with Brian sometime and show him how it’s done.

    1. Hi Debbie! Thanks so much for taking the time give my post a read. So sweet. What a funny memory about Brian and Kari’s try at pepperners! Maybe they will want to try again sometime! Merry Christmas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *