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Pepperoni Rolls


ludja
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Have you ever had a West Virginia Pepperoni Roll?

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It's a great regional dish very specific to West Virginia and a few neighboring areas. They are perfect and a classic for football tailgates which is where we had the rolls above before an exciting WVU-Marshall game. The versions above have some whole wheat in the dough but they are typically made with white flour.

They are a great snack because the delicious pepperoni (and sometimes cheese) is neatly enclosed within the roll. They are perfect with beer as well.

Here is a better description from wikipedia: click

The pepperoni roll is a snack popular in West Virginia and some nearby regions of the Appalachian Mountains. Ubiquitous in West Virginia (particularly in convenience stores) but little known elsewhere, it is arguably the food most closely associated with the state. Fairmont, West Virginia, claims the title of 'Pepperoni Roll Capital of the World.'

The classic pepperoni roll consists of a fairly soft white yeast bread roll with pepperoni baked in the middle. The pepperoni can be either in the form of a stick or of several slices folded together. During baking, spicy oil from the pepperoni suffuses the bread. Most people prefer the rolls to be moist but not soggy; thus, the texture of the bread is an important factor in the rolls' quality. A typical pepperoni roll weighs about three ounces, and can be eaten as a snack or as the main dish of a lunch. Pepperoni rolls can be eaten cold, or can be warmed slightly in an oven or microwave.

Some variations on the original pepperoni roll contain cheese and/or chile peppers

A popular legend holds that the pepperoni roll was invented in the 1920s by Giuseppe Argiro, owner of the Country Club Bakery in Fairmont. Some historians have disputed this claim. However, it seems highly likely that the dish originated among the coal miners of north-central West Virginia in the first half of the twentieth century. The pepperoni roll bears a resemblance to the pasty and sausage roll, which originated in the mining communities of Great Britain, as well as to the Italian calzone. All these foods allow a miner on a break from a tiring and dirty job to eat a full meal with a minimum of fuss. Pepperoni and other Italian foods became popular in north-central West Virginia in the early 20th century, when the booming mines and railroads attracted many immigrants from Italy.

(bolding added by me)

I want to find a good recipe and try to make these at home. They would be perfect Superbowl food as well.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Strangely enough, just like some nations, there is a "north" West Virginia and a "south" West Virginia, ludja.

You might guess which part is considered more "sophisticated". :biggrin:

Never saw a pepperoni roll in the south-western part of the state in the four years I lived there nor in the four years since, traversing it, living next door in Va.

It does remind me of a home-made calzone, though. A recipe for that might be a good start.

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Strangely enough, just like some nations, there is a "north" West Virginia and a "south" West Virginia, ludja.

You might guess which part is considered more "sophisticated".  :biggrin:

Never saw a pepperoni roll in the south-western part of the state in the four years I lived there nor in the four years since, traversing it, living next door in Va.

It does remind me of a home-made calzone, though. A recipe for that might be a good start.

It is an interesting and beautiful state. I was surprised initially to know about the Italian and other non-Scotch/Irish immigrants in parts of the state but I guess it isn't that surprising giving the job opportunities in mining earlier in the century. I have a very good friend from the more Southern part of the state, near Huntington, so I have gotton to see different areas of the state.

Pepperoni rolls aren't sophisticated but are rather a great humble regional dish! As far as I can tell they originated in the northern part of the state in the town of Fairmont which is about 20 miles south of Morgantown. The origin is from Italian immigrants up there who came over to work in the coal mines in the beginning of the century.

So--I think pepperoni rolls are more common in the central and northern part of the state because that is where they started. I'll check with my friend whether or not they can be found in the Huntington/Charleston area nowadays or when he was growing up there.

The dough is definately not a pizza/calzone dough; it is more like a soft bread roll with a small to medium crumb.

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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There are also the sausage roll and stromboli but they are definately nice chewy pizza dough products......in NJ at least

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Here's a webpage with a lot more information and photos of pepperoni rolls. There are a bunch of recipes as well: click

What is a Pepperoni Roll?

A pepperoni roll is a few thin slices of pepperoni baked in a soft, golden oval of slightly sweet dough, smaller than a dinner roll. They aren't 'bready' and they aren't tough and hard like pizza crust. Pepperoni grease seeps out of the ends of the roll as it's baked, leaving an orangish-red soft spot at either end.

The contrast between the soft, sweet roll and its spicy filling is very satisfying. They are great while warm, just fine a day later. You usually just eat them out of your hand, although some restaurants (like Colasessano's in Fairmont) split them open and serve them hot from the oven topped with marinara sauce and melted cheese.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Ahh...I shouldn't poke around here before dinner -- I'm drooling in my keyboard again. :raz: I'd try to make some at home, but I'm the only one who likes pepperoni, so I'd have to eat the whole batch myself...now, wait a minute... :wub:

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“A favorite dish in Kansas is creamed corn on a stick.”

-Jeff Harms, actor, comedian.

>Enjoying every bite, because I don't know any better...

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interesting....my wife's Italian-American grandmother makes them (their clan is from Abruzzo), but she calls them pepperoni buns, and she's lived in Ohio most if not all of her life. i'll have to find out where she got the recipe so we can trace the migration.....

and now that i think about it, their family were miners as well.

hers have no cheese, no sauce, just pepperoni. and just like pizza, they're good hot or cold, but i almost always have them at room temperature. hers are smaller than the ones pictured, and it's real easy to eat too many of them without realizing it. i try to draw the line at 5 or so. And usually stop around 7 or 8.

mem

Edited by markemorse (log)
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I grew up in southern WV but had my first pepporoni roll in 6th grade. Someone's grandmother made them for a trip to Washington, DC and I was hooked. They are predominate in the north-central part of the state and originated in Fairmont. In that part of the state, you can find them everywhere. The Sterns actually have a write up on a place that makes them in one of their guidebooks. Goldenseal, the state history magazine, did a whole issue on pepperoni rolls, but there was no recipe! Based on my experience, Tim's recipe sounds most authentic. Some sugar is needed to get the right taste. It really just isn't pizza dough but more of a roll type dough. I am so excited I might have to make a batch tonight! BTW, Italian Peppers, a mix of tomato sauce and banana peppers, are also popular in the north-central part of the state. I am also looking for a recipe for them if anyone has one.

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Strange. It never would have occurred to me that this was a regional thing. My mom made a batch on Labor Day for lunch. We make them all the time but we take the cheaters way out and use Rhodes frozen bread dough. Thaw, portion, roll, stuff, fold, raise, bake. We also like to brush the inside with a little red sauce (could be fresh, maybe not... might even be leftover spaghetti sauce) and we do like a little cheese on ours. (Mostly because it oozes out and then we get to fight over the baked cheese on the baking sheet. :biggrin: ) When they come out of the oven she brushes them with a little melted butter and sprinkles half of them with parmesan. God they're good. It hasn't even been a week and I've got a jones.

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Fascinating -- never eaten, seen, or heard of this stuff before. The bread-like dough and salami makes me think "Italian," but since there is mention of links to British miners, I'm wondering if there could be some relation between this, and Cornish/Devon pastries?

I'd like to try make some of this stuff... Not being a master baker or cooker, I know it isn't a good idea to change a recipe around on the first try -- but I can't help thinking that a slightly crispy crust would be better... Any thoughts?

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The plot thickens: my wife's grandmother DID in fact live in West Virginia in her youth (1928), and her dad was a miner...it looks like she was most likely one of these original Italian mining families mentioned upthread. Amazing the national treasures you find underfoot :smile:

Haven't had actual contact with grandmother Alverta yet, but my wife's text-messaged recollection of the recipe is:

"basic pizza dough recipe - let rise. after first rise - roll out and cut into

pieces of about 1 inch by 3 inches - lay cut pieces of pepperoni inside -

close sides and long seam and place with seam down to rise for a second

time. then bake according to dough recipe - probably 8-10 min at 375F."

She's normally a bit more articulate than that. :wink:

The family is reunited next week so hopefully I can be more precise about both the recipe and Alverta's history.

mark

EDITED to include 2nd text message.

Edited by markemorse (log)
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Fascinating -- never eaten, seen, or heard of this stuff before. The bread-like dough and salami makes me think "Italian," but since there is mention of links to British miners, I'm wondering if there could be some relation between this, and Cornish/Devon pastries?

I'd like to try make some of this stuff... Not being a master baker or cooker, I know it isn't a good idea to change a recipe around on the first try -- but I can't help thinking that a slightly crispy crust would be better... Any thoughts?

Well Grub, I think that the soft outside is pretty critical to pepperoni bun/roll enjoyment. They're nice and chewy the way I'm used to them, and the main payoff is the chew and the spicy center, lightly soaked with "oil" from the pepperoni....

When you mention a crispy outside I start thinking of the various "sausage broodjes" available here in amsterdam (sausage wrapped in croissant dough or puff pastry), and that's a very different creature from the pepperoni roll.

That said, I've never had a crispy one, so by all means...fire up the lab and report back with your findings!

mark

Edited by markemorse (log)
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I make something that seems really similar; you'd just assemble it a bit differently. I use my focaccia recipe, roll it out into two big rectangles, and let them rise once (barely letting them double.) Then I press down the "poof" with the palms of my hands to flatten the rectangles back out smoothly. Next I cover the surface with chopped pepperoni (not sliced,) and sprinkle with a mixture of whole milk mozz & grated parmsan or the like. Not a really huge layer of cheese. Then I roll the whole thing up like I was making cinnamon rolls, and slice them the same way, pop them onto baking stones, let 'em rise a second time, then bake them off.

I figure it'd be easy enough to cut the dough into fillable roll shapes. I devised my method when my son came home from a friend's house wanting "hot pockets." I found it was a lot easier to do the rounds than the pockets when I was making enough for a horde of teenagers. Now they're a movie night favorite.

I sure wouldn't mind having a go at one of the "original" ones, though. Will have to ask my (WV native) mother if she's ever had one...

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  • 14 years later...
2 hours ago, Shelby said:

Been reading about these.  Anyone have a tried and true recipe?  Sauce or no sauce?  Cheese or no cheese?  @Kim Shook are you familiar at all?

Jessica has a friend who makes them to sell.  We've gotten them.  They are more of a WV than a VA thing, so I haven't had them a lot, but they must be getting more popular because Kroger now sells them.  I don't think that they are traditionally served with sauce since they are a bakery/convenience store item, but lots of people serve it with marinara.  Traditional ones don't have cheese, though it is a variation.  Adding cheese and marinara kind of steers it into the Stromboli realm.  The beauty of the pepperoni roll is the fat melting into the bread during baking and spreading that flavor around.  Here's pictures of the ones that Jessica's friends sell (obviously, they go with cheese on the top, but I cannot remember and can't tell from the picture if there's cheese inside):

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IMG_3292.jpg.b76689a0730bac182be8def34ee7d165.jpg

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