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A German Spice Cookie Just Like Grandma Used to Make

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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.

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Photo by James Ransom

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

The original recipe card.
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:

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

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Grandma Bohlmann's Pfeffernusse

23b88974 7a89 4ef5 a567 d442bb75da04  avatar mary beth
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Makes about 11 dozen
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 tablespoon ground cloves (see editor's headnote)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

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


Our magical menu genie will plan your holiay feast for you.

Tags: spice cookies, german cookies, christmas cookies