When stored in a can, it can last up to two years.
November 9, 2014 8:30 PM   Subscribe

Pumpernickel is a traditional Westphalian whole-grain bread made from rye flour and coarse rye meal.According to the original German recipe, the bread is made mainly from rye meal, which is boiled for a number of hours to soften it. The dough is stuffed into a square bread form, then baked at 395°F (200°C). Afterward, it is steamed at 215°F (100°C) for 16-24 hours.

Where does its name come from? Etymological theories include Napoleon calling it fit for his horse, or a contraction of bonum paniculum. The most likely theory may the weirdest: Devil's Fart.

True pumpernickel derives its dark color from the Maillard reaction. Rye flour contains less gluten and weaker gluten than wheat flour, which leads to its dense structure.

Home cooking of pumpernickel has been the subject of extensive experimentation.

Bonus video: The Scarlet Pumpernickel
posted by bq (66 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
If neither pumpernickel nor limburger existed, they would have to be invented, as shorthand references for "vaguely foreign inedible bread" and "vaguely foreign inedible cheese", respectively.
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:01 PM on November 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


And Blutwurst for "vaguely foreign inedible meat".
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:23 PM on November 9, 2014


How incredibly provincial of you two. Toasted pumpernickel with butter, raclette, and black pepper is among the greatest things one could put in one's piehole. Remember, try two bites of anything before seeking to offend someone else's national heritage.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 9:28 PM on November 9, 2014 [49 favorites]


Is this bread even vaguely made this way anymore? Holy cow that seems like a lot of effort.

Yeah, and I'm a fan of the bread myself (although its possible I've never had it made 'correctly').
posted by el io at 9:46 PM on November 9, 2014


Somehow I got it in my head that the "original" recipe was lost to time, that somehow nowadays everything was just an approximation. This is very interesting. Thanks!
posted by koeselitz at 9:55 PM on November 9, 2014


I thought this was going to be about B&M canned brown bread and got really excited.

And hungry.

We New Englanders have a lot of feelings about canned brown bread.

(I like mine with raisins, toasted and smothered in butter.)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:00 PM on November 9, 2014 [12 favorites]


I've always enjoyed the American version. The OG pumpernickel looks like a clif bar.
posted by MillMan at 10:05 PM on November 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I did some research on this a while back. It's definitely not from Napoleon; since the "bread for Nicol" folk etymology predates him.
posted by willF at 10:06 PM on November 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Im a fan of American 'pumpernickel' I can buy at Panera or my local bakery shop and munch with butter or a nice mustardy ham sandwich. I'm not sure I like whatever authentic Pumpernickel is, because judging from the photos it looks like dry sawdust mixed with some sort of paste also derived from sawdust.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:07 PM on November 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


The OG pumpernickel looks like a clif bar.

I do endurance cycling and have heard from some people who are way more hardcore than me that the Sin Dawg, which is 1600 calories per baguette, is the ideal Clif Bar replacement.
posted by bradbane at 10:20 PM on November 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


What? No midwesterners here, with German grandparents/roots and a local German deli?

In neighbourhoods in Chicago, and suburbs of Chicago that used to be German farming villages, you could count on finding this stuff. I have to say I didn't like it as a kid, but love it as an adult (as I do most of my grandparent's lunch spread). Smoked ham, cheese, pickles, mustard, pumpernickel, and sliced home-grown tomatoes and lettuce.
posted by C.A.S. at 11:58 PM on November 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


If neither pumpernickel nor limburger existed, they would have to be invented, as shorthand references for "vaguely foreign inedible bread" and "vaguely foreign inedible cheese", respectively.

Are you broken? Pumpernickel is delicious whether made in the North American or traditional style. I've had both styles, and this way is amazing--chewy and dense and rich, goes very nicely with e.g. some pickled herring and dill and something creamy. Nom!

As for Limburger, it is a simple fact that the more stank a cheese is, the better it is.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:05 AM on November 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


(By 'this style' I meant the picture on the right)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:05 AM on November 10, 2014


If neither pumpernickel nor limburger existed, they would have to be invented, as shorthand references for "vaguely foreign inedible bread" and "vaguely foreign inedible cheese", respectively.

Oh dear god, when I lived in Freiburg, Germany, that was my favorite meal. I dearly miss real, thick, bash-a-skull-in-with-it (Schädeleinschlagsgeeignetbrot) black German bread with stinky putrid cheese. And mustard!
posted by Theiform at 12:06 AM on November 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


(For Torontonians, at least, the traditional style is available at most supermarkets, usually in the deli section.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:15 AM on November 10, 2014


Yeah the good heavy stuff is pretty easy to come by in London we usually get it every now and then. It is great with say, some pickled Herring and a little beetroot salad.

But then I imagine if you don't like pumpernickel you probably also don't like pickled herring.
posted by mary8nne at 12:49 AM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Im a fan of American 'pumpernickel' I can buy at Panera

If it's not very compact and mostly unusable for anything except as a base for awesome hors d'oeuvres, chances are that it's closer to one of the many other varieties of dark and heavy rye breads produced in Northern Europe. I guess this is one more thing for my list of "things I need to sample next time I visit to see if the Americans are just mixing up the names again" (happens all the time).

(my personal rye favourite is probably a good kavring, with a liver spread or matjes... or a gubbröra... or maybe even the danish "veterinarian's midnight snack", but that might be overdoing things a bit...)
posted by effbot at 1:08 AM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I picked up something labeled Rye Bread from the Aldi. It wasn't rye bread, it was some kind of rye-flavored gummi-snack, and was probably the traditional pumpernickel referenced here. It was about as inedible as you imagined - tried it with butter, with cheese, with mustard. I'm into rye, so I kind of liked the intense rye flavor, but that texture, man, and it was pretty bitter as to boot.

Pumpernickel in this part of the world is usually a loaf of soft rye bread with molasses added. It sometimes comes in a can.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:19 AM on November 10, 2014


There's also Beer Here's pumpernickel porter. Which is very good.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 2:01 AM on November 10, 2014


Pumpernickel/German rye bread is widely available in UK supermarkets. It's delicious. In texture, it's more like a cake made from chewy compressed grains than like a normal bread. There's also a version with lots of sunflower seeds in it.

I've tried to share my enthusiasm for it with family and friends. My kids just scowl at it. But they're the same kids who don't eat white bread because it 'tastes funny', so they're not all bad.
posted by pipeski at 2:36 AM on November 10, 2014


(the porter link caused me to go "wut since when is Nøgne Ø danish? someone's wrong on the internet" for way longer than necessary. might need a break. or a beer.)
posted by effbot at 2:47 AM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yes yes yes, please, anyone who hasn't tried it, before judging this bread, toast it well and smother it in butter. Anything else is optional.
(I realize that toasting and smothering in butter would help most edible stuff become delicious)
posted by anzen-dai-ichi at 2:57 AM on November 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


omg, I love this bread, with unsalted butter? it's not dry at all, it's juicy.

I also was backpacking through Germany once and stopped in Limburg. The whole town smelled like Limburger cheese. I was tired, it was winter and after dark and the youth hostel was on top of a steep hill. In a castle. Castle hostels never had hot water. [sigh] The weird thing is, I ended up liking the smell. I've never tried it though.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:07 AM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Eating pumpernickel at pepperdime right now.

What? Pepperdine?

Your university totally ruined my joke.

Because I'm not going to contribute anything at all. Now that you ruined my joke.

As an alumnus of a school whose name I don't seem to be able to remember... I'm totally offended.

posted by twoleftfeet at 3:09 AM on November 10, 2014


My husband keeps getting the runs from pumpernickel. This is my contribution to this discussion.
posted by Omnomnom at 3:20 AM on November 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


I never felt more aware of the divide between the German and English parts of my heritage than being presented at breakfast time as a child with a choice between fluffily white Warburtons bread with strawberry jam and chipboard-dense rectangular rye with fleischsalat or a herring. I have, however, found solace in the cross-cultural status of the sausage and spud.
posted by sobarel at 3:31 AM on November 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


And Blutwurst for "vaguely foreign inedible meat".

...or perhaps "inedible foreign vaguely meat?"
posted by jon1270 at 3:53 AM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I was going to make a rye comment but now it seems full of crêpe.

Bread means something to me. I have it daily. So the slight differences between breads seem large, even lavash, to me. I don't like to take a hardtack about this, but bread is important to me. It's a pane in the penia to be so focaccia up about bread, but to me bread is one of the basics. Like bread.

Don't stop me. I'm on a roll.

A piece of toast from France walks into a bar. The bartender says: "hey, we have a dish named after you!"

The French toast says, "What? You have a dish named Pierre?"
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:01 AM on November 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


When I was a kid we used to get breads from the Canadian Dimpflmeier Bakery that came across the bridge from Windsor. Man do I miss it now. Their pumpernickel looks just like that right-hand photo in the first link.
posted by BinGregory at 4:17 AM on November 10, 2014


Gee, if only someone would post the lengthy receipe for this Treat of Westphalia in its entirety
posted by oulipian at 4:20 AM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Westphalia?? I've always thought it came from Lithuania.
posted by MtDewd at 4:31 AM on November 10, 2014


Treat of Westphalia:

.

That's actually the whole Treaty of Westphalia, compressed down to a single dot.

Those of us who have studied the Treaty for insight into modern bread baking have been encouraged by LXVI:
That the Diets of the Empire shall be held within six Months after the Ratification of the Peace; and after that time as often as the Publick Utility, or Necessity requires.
To my interpretation, no one can refrain from eating bread, or begin any other diet, for the next six months.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:38 AM on November 10, 2014


My husband keeps getting the runs from pumpernickel.

Does he love it so much he carries on anyway, or is he in some sort of pumperdenial?
posted by Segundus at 4:43 AM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Poopernonqual.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:49 AM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I did a homestay in Germany and worked in a konditorei, or bread shop, for three months. So take that! I was regularly gifted a half a loaf of pumpernickel and all manner of dark, heavy bread. It was glorious stuff. Then I went back to America and when I encountered white Wonder bread again I probably gasped out loud.
posted by zardoz at 5:14 AM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I also was backpacking through Germany once and stopped in Limburg.

I was driving through the Netherlands once and stopped in Gouda. Unless Gouda is in Belgium. It was a long time ago.
posted by moonmilk at 5:39 AM on November 10, 2014


when I encountered white Wonder bread again I probably gasped out loud.

My dad once heard Amiri Baraka say "If you can convince people that white bread is food, you can convince them of anything."
posted by BinGregory at 5:41 AM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


When I was a kid we used to get breads from the Canadian Dimpflmeier Bakery that came across the bridge from Windsor.

I've heard of lots of reasons why people cross the bridge at Windsor, but this is by far the most clean-cut, upstanding reason I have heard to date
posted by C.A.S. at 5:55 AM on November 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


The "cocktail rye" version of pumpernickel is great for making tiny Reuben sandwiches the day after a party.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:12 AM on November 10, 2014


As I mentioned here, apparently pumpernickel is called "hobz-tal-poofi" in Maltese, which translates as "bread-of-poop". This vastly amused my Maltese-born father and grievously offended my German-born mother, both of whom however, enjoyed the bread. I suspect my mother liked it more.
posted by angiep at 6:35 AM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


fffm: Are you broken?

:7) Do you even pumpernickel, bro?
--
Pupernickel is in my pantheon of Awesome Dark Flavors (including dark roast coffee, dark chocolate, and dark humor), the enjoyment of which are a perk of being a grown-up. Maillard reaction, oh yeaaaaaaah.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:42 AM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


oes he love it so much he carries on anyway, or is he in some sort of pumperdenial?

He thought it might be a healthy and tasty alternative, is all. And every now and then he gives it another try.
posted by Omnomnom at 7:09 AM on November 10, 2014


Pumpernickel & spinach dip is one of my mom's (who is of Pennsylvania Dutch descent) standard party foods. It's delicious.
posted by audi alteram partem at 7:10 AM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


My father's family eats this bread with gänseschmalz, teewurst or butter, and nothing feels more decadent for a snack. I don't buy it frequently, but when I do, it definitely takes me right back to Oma's kitchen. Their spongy, brick-like density is beyond compare.
posted by Violet Femme at 7:56 AM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


As mentioned, lots in London, especially in Polish shops. Although the best selection near me is in a Turkish supermarket, where they have one variety apparently called Muesli which has a light smattering of hazelnuts in it.

It comes in shrink-wrapped blocks with seemingly indefinite shelf life, so there's usually one or two of those lurking around in the kitchen cupboards. Once opened, it also lasts significantly longer than other breads; it doesn't seem to go mouldy, but dries out into tooth-crackingly hard tiles that could probably patch a roof. Don't try refrigerating it, though, it almost instantly decomposes into fine, crumbly dust.

My first experience of the stuff was when I was around ten, when a German friend of the family came to stay. Previous to that, all I knew about bread was that it was white, tasteless and you could compress a slice into a cube roughly the size of a die. Our German friend brought a selection of Berlin tasties with her, including some pumperknickel. I was a fan from the first bite.
posted by Devonian at 8:01 AM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Family legend has it that when I was around 3 I was riding somewhere with my grandparents. They were arguing loudly in Yiddish. I supposedly yelled this at them: shut up you big pumpernickels you! Hilarity ensued.

Except years later, when she was well into her eighties and long-widowed, my grandma insisted this could not have happened because she never spoke Yiddish.
posted by mareli at 8:04 AM on November 10, 2014


Pumpernickel is magnificent. I will entertain no arguments to the contrary.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:29 AM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, Dimpflmeier! Thanks to that bakery, it is easy to find real pumpernickel and other German breads all over Ontario. I love pumpernickel, but my go-to is Dimpflmeier Klosterbrot or Rudolph's Tiefenfurter Landbrot. Lovely, dense, heavy German breads.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:55 AM on November 10, 2014


I found this delicious recipe for Westphalian whole-grain bread:

In the name of the most holy and individual Trinity: Be it known to all, and every one whom it may concern, or to whom in any manner it may belong, That for many Years past, baguettes and germinated wheaten breads being stir'd up in the Roman Empire, which increas'd to such a degree, that not only all Germany, but also the neighbouring Kingdoms, and France particularly, have been involv'd in the Disorders of a long and cruel bakery: And in the first place, between the most Serene and most Puissant baker and miller, Ferdinand the Second, of famous Memory, elected cake boss, always August, piesmaster of Germany, Hungary, Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Arch-Duke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, Brabant, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, Marquiss of Moravia, breadmaker of Luxemburgh, the Higher and Lower Silesia, of Wirtemburg and Teck, Prince of Suabia, Count of Hapsburg, Tirol, Kyburg and Goritia, Marquiss of the Sacred Roman Empire, Bread Lord of Burgovia, of the Higher and Lower Lusace, of the Marquisate of Slavonia, of Port Naon and Salines, with his Allies and Adherents on one side; and the most Serene, and the most Puissant Chef, Lewis the Thirteenth, farm to table ancient grain breadmaker of France and Navarre, with his Allies and Adherents on the other side ...
posted by maxsparber at 9:02 AM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Aggro cheese, aggro mustard, and aggro onions deserve an aggro bread.
posted by aramaic at 9:54 AM on November 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Isn't it Vollkornbrot? Whole grain bread? Bread that lasts for months, without refrigeration, great onkel to sweeter Boston Brown Bread? Great stuff, with tsungwurst , senf, und so weiter.
posted by Oyéah at 10:01 AM on November 10, 2014


Yes yes yes, please, anyone who hasn't tried it, before judging this bread, toast it well and smother it in butter.

If you're into toasting rye bread, you want the Finnish version. Flat sourdough leavened whole grain loafs, cut horizontally, and with an absolutely amazing flavour profile.
posted by effbot at 10:02 AM on November 10, 2014


I'm a little confused; is pumpernickel the same as, or related to, vollkorn bread? The German bread oddity I enjoy most is a rye bread with lots of whole grain seeds stuffed in it, incredibly dense and sort of sweet. And dark and durable, like pumpernickel. I tried googling but "vollkorn" also just means "whole wheat" in the colloquial bread sense, so I didn't get very far.

Anyway, I love that bread. One slice may be 6x4 inches and an eighth of an inch thick, but even that is impossibly too much. I eat half of a slice with a bit of cream cheese or butter and it's like the best snack ever.

(On preview, jinx Oyéah. I think they're separate but related things. Need a German native to sort this out genau.)
posted by Nelson at 10:03 AM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


When I was a kid, I got a little obsessed at times with food with weird names like pumpernickel and eggplant, and would often be disappointed with the reality of what was put in front of me; pumpernickel seemed more like some sort of construction material, given that those were my Wonder Bread years. When I was a child, I ate as a child, but then I became a man, and put my childish foods aside. Now I appreciate bread with both flavor and fiber.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:53 AM on November 10, 2014


Now I absolutely must try traditional pumpernickel bread--but an online search yields uncertain results. Is this the real deal?
posted by LarryC at 11:03 AM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yep, that looks like the real thing. WTF packaging though.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:24 AM on November 10, 2014


Around northeast Ohio, we have Reinecker's Bakery, which produces all sorts of baked European oddities. They sell several varieties of pumpernickel, including volkornbrot, at my local market, although I never buy any as I've been trying to swear off bread and fatty processed meat. They always look delicious though.

It's stuck in my head that pumpernickel translates to "devil's stool," although I've long wondered if that was just an jumbled artifact of something I heard as a child. It's nice to see the "devil's fart" link in the FPP nearly validates this.
posted by slogger at 11:24 AM on November 10, 2014


According to German Wikipedia, it appears that Pumpernickel is a type of Vollkornbrot, but not all Vollkornbrot is Pumpernickel:

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumpernickel

German Food Code definition of Pumpernickel:

Pumpernickel is made from at least 90 percent rye baked meal and / or whole-rye meal.
Pumpernickel is made from whole grain meal, so the added amount of acid originates at least two thirds of sourdough.
The baking time must be at least 16 hours.

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vollkornbrot

German Food Code definition of Vollkornbrot:

Weizenvollkornbrot is made ​​from at least 90 percent whole wheat products.
Roggenvollkornbrot is whole grain rye bread made ​​from at least 90 percent rye. The added amount of acid originates at least two thirds of sourdough.
Vollkornbrot is made ​​from at least 90 percent rye and whole wheat products in any relationship. The added amount of acid originates at least two thirds of sourdough.

Practically speaking, I think they're seen as separate products - if you ask for Vollkornbrot in a bakery, they're not going to give you a loaf of Pumpernickel (unless you specifically ask for Pumpernickel).

Disclaimer: not a German, but a lover of German bread and other food products.
posted by longdaysjourney at 11:48 AM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm a little confused; is pumpernickel the same as, or related to, vollkorn bread?

Ok, let's see if I can sort everything out. A proper pumpernickel is a dark, heavy rye bread that's made with at least 90% coarsely ground (Roggenbackschrot) or whole grain rye (Roggenvollkornsschrot), usually using sourdough, and baked for at least 16 hours. Extra bonus if you're somewhere between Rhine and Weser when you're making it.

There are lots of other breads with very high rye content in Northern Europe, many of which are whole grain (vollkorn in German, fullkorn in Swedish, etc) and most of which are pretty awesome because rye is awesome (though some disagree), and many of which are mentioned in this thread already, but these are not called pumpernickel in this part of the world.

For example, here's Harry Brot Gmbh's product page for whole grain rye breads (Roggenvollkornbrot) and their page for breads made from rye/wheat mixes (Roggenmischbrot). Note that only one of these thirteen products are called pumpernickel.
posted by effbot at 11:49 AM on November 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


So just as a little postscript, someone just reminded me of the Finnish Mämmi, which may be the ultimate in "what the heck do we do with this extra rye?" and makes the German pumpernickel bakers look like amateurs; to make your own proper Mämmi, you spend maybe 10 hours preparing a porridge-like dough out of rye flour and malted rye, going slowly to have it reach the right natural sweetness, then you bake it for 3 hours, and finally store it in a cold space for 4-5 days waiting for it to set (recipe). Eat as a dessert around Easter (eat enough and its laxative properties will help with purification and purging), use as a spread, or go all in and use it for its smooth and malty rye flavour when cooking, e.g. how about a Mämmi pizza with peaches? If you want more ideas, Mämmi maestro Ahmed Ladarsi has written a book with over 80 recipes.
posted by effbot at 3:23 PM on November 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Bauernbrot, my clear fave of the Deutchebrot.
posted by Oyéah at 4:11 PM on November 10, 2014


Pumpernickel, cornuchons (did I spell that right?), and a little pate are the perfect accompaniment to ice cold vodka, and vice versa.
posted by spacely_sprocket at 4:49 PM on November 10, 2014


In French, it's omg des allemands fous, cornichons, and pâté. But this is MeFi and we're not that picky.
posted by effbot at 5:02 PM on November 10, 2014


I'm a fan of pumpernickel. Ok, that's an understatement. I'm a fan of bread. When I saw that there's a magazine called, "Brot"1, my reaction was, "Finally! A magazine just for me!" When it came up that I actually enjoy it, my Bavarian father in law pulled the foil-wrapped tube of pumpernickel out of the back of the cupboard, where it had been sitting for months, and said, "I'm glad someone will finally eat this, because my kids won't and I sure won't." I later learned that, in that family, pumpernickel was the bread that you ate when you'd run out of bread.

On the other hand, my eating standard sourdough rye bread cut into slices under a half centimetre thick, then toasted and given a tiny thin smear of butter is still a cause for concern, with comments like, "This is Germany. We have rye bread. You don't have to strategically conserve it like you're still living in the Canadian forest."

For a milder bread with a similar texture, there's also rye bread made with sprouted spelt. It ends up tasting like sourdough rye with a gummy, moist texture that's closer to pumpernickel.

These days, though, I've got the best of multiple bread worlds. I'm living in Vienna and can choose between bakeries in the Austrian tradition when I want rye bread or one of the Bosnian or Turkish bakeries around my flat when I would like a white bread.


  1. This really exists. It's exactly what I'd have expected in a fever dream after eating too much raw dough: A glossy magazine with articles about bread and bakeries, packed with ads for bread and baking accessories.
posted by frimble at 12:31 AM on November 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


It took me years to realize that every time I ate pumpernickel (or Rytak crackers), I would have a minor LSD flashback later that day or the next morning.

Now I have celiac disease, and those days are behind me -- and until I started writing this comment, it never occurred to me to think . . . about a causal connection there.
posted by jamjam at 9:21 AM on November 11, 2014


That Mämmi is hardcore, man. Seems like the sort of thing the sisters were eating before Babette made them that feast.
posted by glasseyes at 5:53 PM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


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