I just returned from a family visit in South Carolina where we celebrated my wonderful mother and step-father during the week marking their 25th wedding anniversary and his 80th birthday, where we were surrounded by so many dear old family friends. It made me very nostalgic and thankful for a small loving community that nurtured me as I grew up. In fact, it wasn’t until the moment I was surrounded by these beautiful friends of my parents, some of whom I have known my whole life, that I even realized how really special it was to have had this opportunity and how incredible it is to have these connections that hold so many of my memories and link special family life moments together.
I am especially thankful for Mom’s 55 year old friendship with Mary Bauld. Mary is her first name, Bauld her last name but I don’t know of a single person who doesn’t always call her, “Mary Bauld.” Mary Bauld and her husband Bob met Mom and Dad in West Virginia back before any of them lived in South Carolina. They became best friends and have never strayed. They are very different from each other yet have a long history and a strong bond. They live one street apart. They have shared all important life events, good times and bad, and always been there for each other. They talk a couple times a week and go bowling every Thursday morning with a women’s bowling league, always followed by lunch and grocery shopping. Mary Bauld has four children and now many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Growing up, I spent many hours after school and many summers hanging out at the Bauld house. Janet, the youngest of Mary Bauld’s children is two years younger than me. We learned to swim together and let me tell you, we owned that lake at the Clemson YMCA! We spent countless hours playing Barbies and watching the Bionic Woman. At my house, we became experts at furniture gymnastics and created all sorts of culinary delights as my Mom sat quietly reading in the next room, allowing us to experiment. It was common to compare our mothers’ cooking- they each did things slightly different. They both made delicious meatloaf- Mary Bauld always served hers with fried potatoes and Mom always served hers with Succotash. They both bragged about their sweet tea and dared us kids to say whose was better. Mom’s cooking was slightly more southern and Mary Bauld sometimes cooked up special Spanish recipes from her family such as Cabbage Rolls. One time, Mary Bauld served me a peanut butter and lettuce sandwich for lunch which was weird and I have never let her forget it. One recipe Mom learned to make from Mary Bauld was Pepperoni Rolls, a favorite from the area of West Virginia that Mary Bauld grew up in. I didn’t realize what a regional food a Pepperoni Roll was to West Virginia until a couple of years ago when I read an article about it. And I have even discovered that there is a website dedicated to the Pepperoni Roll here.
Well, I grew up and stopped eating beef and got particular about all meat really. It wasn’t until we started shopping at our local Porter Road Butcher that I even really thought about eating Pepperoni Rolls again. They make their own version of pepperoni they call Porteroni from local grass-fed beef with no funny stuff in it. I had a brilliant idea to take some home with me on one of my recent visits so Mom and I could make Pepperoni Rolls together. She humored me.
She had just recently started making one of our very favorite relatives, my great aunt Judy’s yeast rolls again so we used that recipe, too. (I found out that the childhood Pepperoni Rolls were usually made with Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix.) Here’s the recipe we followed…
The instructions aren’t so clear to me and I couldn’t remember exactly how she made it all happen so I had to get some clarification from Mom and I made a minor change in my version as I don’t particularly like to use vegetable shortening (I just don’t understand it and it kind of freaks me out.), so I substituted butter here. I think you could also use the Spectrum organic vegetable shortening or coconut oil just fine.
Here is the recipe I came up with, hopefully easier to understand with a few pictures for better clarification. By the way, those are Mom’s hands and my Nana’s rolling pin in those photos.
2 cups Warm Water
2 packages Dry Yeast
½ cup Sugar
2 tsp Salt
¼ cup Unsalted Butter, softened
6 ½ – 7 cups Flour
1 lb Pepperoni (roughly)
Place the warm water (not hot, just tepid) in a bowl and add the yeast. Dissolve the yeast. Stir in the sugar, salt, butter, and the egg. Use an electric mixer to mix gently. Add 3 cups flour to the bowl. Make sure all ingredients are incorporated. Then, stir by hand and add 3 ½ more cups flour. The dough will be sort of sticky and loose. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth (or a lid with a small hole in it) and place in refrigerator. The next day, take the bowl out and uncover. Let it come to room temperature and rise a little.
After the dough rises, place the dough on a floured surface, kneading to bring together. Cut the dough into about 20-24 pieces (this recipe makes many for sharing!). Gently form each piece of dough into a ball, incorporating more flour as needed. Cut the pepperoni (or Porteroni) into strips, about 2 ½”- 3” long and ¼” wide roughly. Preheat oven to 350. Roll each ball out into a circle, about ¼” thick. Place a pepperoni stick on the round, about one third of the diameter and fold the dough over. Then place another pepperoni stick on the dough and fold over again. Tuck the ends under gently so the ends will be all sealed. Place rolls on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for approximately 20 minutes, or until golden brown and done.
If you don’t eat meat or aren’t interested in Pepperoni Rolls, this recipe makes great dinner rolls, too. Mom always serves them at the holidays. Simply use a round biscuit cutter to cut circles and then fold them over, in half, before baking. That’s the way Aunt Judy always did it.
And of course, you can use any pepperoni you choose. This is not necessarily a healthier version but just one I feel better about because it was made with all real ingredients that I trusted by people I know. Sometimes, you just need to revisit those great old recipes you grew up on.
And I couldn’t think of any better music to represent this post than this wonderful new release, Picnic in the Sky, from our friends Jeni and Billy because their music has been described as Appalachain Folk Music which precisely describes the music from the area where Mom and Mary Bauld grew up in the hills of Virginia and West Virginia.
I first met Jeni and Billy at our Red Barn Round-Up parties and love running into them in the neighborhood- that is, when they happen to be home. They spend quite a lot of time working out on the road, giving house concerts and playing music festivals. You can follow their journey and read their beautiful tales on their website and blogs.
Jeni and Billy are some of the sweetest, most genuine people I have ever met- in song and in real life. In fact, I went online to purchase their newest release today to listen to while I wrote this post and instantly received an email from them with the subject line, “You Wonderful Person, Thank You!” And then, I swear to God, they drove through the snow to drop off a real copy of the cd for me to have, as well. It totally made my day. So, not only will buying your own copy of their cd (here!) make you feel really special but once you listen to it you will be incredibly happy for all the new music you just added to your life and for supporting their art. Their songs are so wonderful and for me personally, bring to mind so many beautiful images of my childhood visits to Mom’s family in southwestern Virginia.
I will close with this live video of Jeni & Billy performing their song, Reckoning Day.