Peppernuts, or spicy nuts, are inseparably linked to Saint Nicholas. This holy man brings them with lots of presents for the children on December 6. He would scatter them around and the children have to search to find them.
He makes these delicious cookies himself, but he was so kind to share his original recipe with me. So here you can find the one and only original recipe for the spicy cookies we all like to eat with Saint Nicholas.
Everybody knows them and everybody likes them. But where do these tasty cookies actually come from? And why just with Saint Nicholas? Why are they called "pepper" nuts when they contain no pepper at all? And what is the difference with spicy nuts? We'll find out.
The words peppernut and spicy nut are used interchangeably for these tasty little cookies. Yet there is a difference historically. Spicy nuts have the typical semicircular shape. Peppernuts are rather irregular in shape and have more of an anise flavor.
The first traces of peppernuts go back to the 17th century. At the time, it would have been a pinch of a spice cake. You known, when you can't wait to taste and start already taking a small bite when it is still cooling down.
But how about the pepper? Why do we all them peppernuts when there is not pepper in it? Well, that is not entirely clear. Pepper used to be very expensive in those times. So possibly it was a very exclusive cookie in its origins. Later these cookies became more popular, and the cheaper versions were made without pepper... Another story goes that pepper was a collective name for all kinds of exotic spices. So it used to be a cookie made of exotic spices.
And how did they become the typical cookies for Saint Nicholas? Well, that is even more unclear. But let us imagine that people made these exclusive cookies of exotic spices only on special occasions. Since children particularly loved them, I can imagine they were made on special occasions dedicated to the children. So it could have become a habit to make them with Saint Nicholas.
Some time ago, I suddenly started missing gingerbread. They don't sell it here in the German supermarkets, and because of lockdown I couldn't go over to Belgium. So motivation enough to start making it myself. I made it twice, once as a loaf and once in the form of muffins.
By the way, if this gingerbread comes out of the oven, you can already start tasting by pinching a bit of the crust. And then you will understand where these peppernut cookies have their origins.
If you speak Dutch, you can find the Dutch version of this recipe on gerechtenweb.blog.