Peppernuts, if you haven't tasted them, are spicy little holiday sweets about the size of a nut. They may be dark and peppery, soft and light, or crisp and crunchy. It is a tradition that comes down through the Russian Mennonites.
I married into this branch of the Mennonites, by marrying a Lousiana girl with Kansas roots. This tradition was preserved by those who came to the midwest from Germany and Prussia. The tradition (along with others such as zwieback and varenika) has made its way to our table through the Unruh-Loewer clan. There is nothing quite like a hot mug of Russian tea and a plate full of peppernuts.
Here is a story from Peppernuts: Plain and Fancy, by Norma Jost Voth (Herald Press, 1978).
"It was almost Christmas in our Berlin refugee camp after World War II," says Elfrieda Dyck. "Food was scarce; coffee didn't exist. We needed something special to brighten the holidays. So we asked our refugee ladies if they would like to bake cookies and peppernuts for Christmas. 'Peppernuts! Too good to be true,' they exclaimed." The camp had flour sent by American churches, but no ovens for baking. Then, thanks to goodwill, a "Christmas miracle" worked out. Peter Dyck was able to make an exchange of flour for the use of a bakery several nights--which meant from midnight to 4 a.m. "You should have seen those women," Elfrieda continues, "sifting, stirring, baking laundry baskets full of peppernuts and cookies. Of course, they were made with what we had--flour, a little sugar, dried eggs, a little lard. But those dear ladies stretched our simple ingredients so that on Christmas Eve each of the 1,100 refugees in camp had a sack of treats with his own name on it." (Later Elfrieda Dyck escorted four shiploads of refugees to a new home in South America. The Dycks served with the Mennonite Central Committee.)