When researching recipes for this post, I really had no idea what West Virginians ate, or what was particularly popular to eat there. Apparently there is a savory treat that I had never even imagined would exist, particularly in Appalachia: the humble, spicy pepperoni roll.
Official Name: State of West Virginia
State Nickname: The Mountain State
Admission to the US: June 20, 1863 (#35)
Capital: Charleston (largest)
Other Important Cities: Huntington (2nd largest), Parkersburg (3rd largest), Morgantown (4th largest), Wheeling (5th largest)
Region: Appalachia, South, Northeast, Midwest; South Atlantic (US Census)
RAFT Nations: Chestnut; Maple Syrup
Bordered by: Pennsylvania (northeast), Maryland (east), Virginia (southeast), Kentucky (southwest), Ohio (northwest)
Official State Foods and Edible Things: black bear (animal, though these are generally no longer eaten); brook trout (fish), Golden Delicious apple (fruit), honeybee (insect, for the honey) sugar maple (tree, for the sap), timber rattlesnake (reptile, though again, not really eaten)
Some Famous and Typical Foods: typical foods of Appalachia; apple butter; pepperoni rolls; pickled ramps; spoon bread
According to Bob Heffner's Pepperoni Roll Page [2002; 2011] - yes, a page for everything and to everything a page - the pepperoni roll originated sometime between 1927 and the 1940's at the Country Club Bakery in Fairmont. He sides with the latter date, though he does note guide book author Jeannie Mozier goes with the earlier one. What nobody disputes is the location. It likely was invented by Italian-American Giuseppe Argiro, who passed his recipe on to his son. It was simply chunks of pepperoni baked into small loaves of bread, and was a handy lunch for the many miners in the area.
Heffner [2002; 2011] describes the pepperoni roll in much more luscious tones than have I:
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. [Heffner 2002; 2011]He also has many recipes on his page. The one I used is perhaps the easiest one: Fairmont resident JoAnn Corbin's pepperoni roll just uses a stick of pepperoni and thawed bread dough you buy in the freezer section of the supermarket [in Heffner 2002; 2011]. It was also the first one listed on the page.
For Corbin's pepperoni roll, you will just need two things:
* one stick of pepperoni (about $5 at Giant)
* one pound of pre-frozen, thawed bread dough (the package was about $4, also at Giant. I only noticed after the fact that both the pepperoni and the bread dough were made by the folks at Chicago-based Bridgford. They also have their own, pre-made pepperoni roll, but I don't want to be that lazy)
Peel your stick of pepperoni.
Cut the pepperoni into chunks of about two to three inches.
Meanwhile, thaw your bread dough and let it rise for at least an hour (I left it in a recently warmed oven, which aided the rising process). Punch it a few times, cut it into enough pieces that you have one for each chunk of pepperoni.
Wrap the dough around the pepperoni, pinch the ends and let the rolls rise again until about doubled in size.
Bake at 300° for half an hour.
Notice that the greases from the pepperoni seep into the bread dough while baking (for that matter, before baking, too)
This is a filling and convenient snack. I noticed when I bit into it that the pepperoni easily came out, so perhaps I would cut the pepperoni into smaller chunks next time for easier biting. Heffner says that some people love smothering these in tomato sauce and melted mozzarella cheese, but I find it good as is.
Onward from West Virginia to our final foray into the Midwest proper, where fried cheese curds and beer brats await. We'll be kickin' it Wisco-style in our armchair visit to Wisconisn.
Corbin, JoAnn. "Pepperoni Rolls". Date unknown. In Bob Heffner, "Pepperoni Roll and Pepperoni Bread Recipes". The Pepperoni Roll Homepage, 2002, 2011.
Heffner, Bob. "What is a Pepperoni Roll?". The Pepperoni Roll Homepage, 2002, 2011.
Heffner, Bob. "The History of the Pepperoni Roll". The Pepperoni Roll Homepage, 2002, 2011.
López-Alt, J. Kenji. "Pickled Ramps." Serious Eats, 2011.
Some information also obtained from Wikipedia's "West Virginia" page and other pages, and the Food Timeline State Foods link to "West Virginia".