A German Spice Cookie Just Like Grandma Used to Make

November 12, 2015

I've been making these Pfeffernusse cookies for maybe twelve years. Prior to that, my mom, Phyllis "née Bohlmann" Skiff made them for probably fifty years. She got the recipe from her mom, Hilda "née ZumBerge" Bohlmann who made them for many years.

I still have the original recipe card from Grandma Bohlmann. I see that it says in the corner that Grandma got the recipe from Mrs. Kloth, who later became an in-law.

Photo by James Ransom

I've modified original recipe a bit. Some family members prefer more cloves, some less.

The original recipe card. Photo by mary beth

All of these folks were German and lived on farms in Carver County, Minnesota. They grew up speaking German and even attended church services in German at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Hamburg, Minnesota, where Reverend Dr. H. J. Bouman was pastor for 32 years.

His son, Herman, painted this picture to depict how the church may have appeared after a Christmas Eve service in the mid-1920s:

The depiction of Emmanuel Lutheran Church, by the reverend's son. Photo by mary beth

Another local German gastronomic delight was gritzwurst, a spicy hash-like concoction made from beef "parts" and steel-cut oats. I still drive miles every winter to buy this from Mackenthun's meat market in St. Bonifacious, Minnesota.

I'll bet you don't have a recipe for that on Food52! But I can provide one if the Food52 community is interested...

Do you want mary beth to share a recipe for gritzwurst? Tell her in the comments!


Sören K. December 19, 2015
Hi,<br />the following german recipe is a "Mooskuchen" (moss cake). It's a chocolate cake with a white layer and on top of it there are finely grounded coffee beans, which change their color to green.<br />To make this cake you will need 250g butter, 6 yolk, 300g sugar, 300g flour, 50g real chocolate, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1/4l sour cream for the dough. Mix the ingredients carefully and put it into a bowl.<br />Afterwards put it for 40 - 50 minutes in a furnace with 180 - 200 °C (360 - 400°F).<br />In the meantime stir 6 egg white with 6 tablespoon puderzucker (fine sugar) and beat in 150g liquid coconut fat (here in germany it's called "Palmin").<br />When the dough is cooled down you can put the white cream on top of the black dough and finally sprinkle 1 - 1,5 teaspoon powdered coffee on top of the cake.<br />Some hours later the cake should have a nice green finish.<br /><br />Bon Appetite, Sören Klein from Germany :D
Michelle W. December 7, 2015
my dad gets gritzwurst from the locker every year for Christmas or a special occasion - I'm from Huron, SD...German Hutterite background (not colony but Prairieleut). he also gets fleischwurst, which is made from a higher quality meat than a mere bologna ring. they are both delicious. i actually think he goes to a locker in Mitchell, SD to buy them.
manderjoy December 5, 2015
We make pfeffernuse every year, and they are my most essential cookie for Christmas! We call them peppernuts, and the recipe is different, but the idea is the same. Definitely make them at least a month in advance if you can; they only get better with age. :)
Kasey C. December 4, 2015
I don't know that I'd make gritwurst as it doesn't sound like my kind of food. I truly enjoyed your grandmother's recipe (tip o'the hat to Mrs. Kloth), though, and plan to try making the pfefferneusse cookies this year. :-)
LeeAnn S. December 4, 2015
My mother made gritwurst with a hand-turned meat grinder! She is from Minnesota, too.