We’ve learned a lot of things about the unique culture of western Pennsylvania during our time here, like perogies are so revered that they’re made into life-sized mascots that do laps at the ballpark. We also have found that the pierogi isn’t the only culturally significant food. The whole coal mining region is in love with the pepperoni roll, and no we don’t mean those cheap, bite-sized morsels that Totinos sells in the freezer section.
We refer to something a lot more filling, so much to that end the US military has added them to their rations for their compact size and high nutritional value. The history of the pepperoni roll begins in Fairmont, West Virginia in 1927 at the Country Club Bakery. That’s a fact confirmed by Amanda’s family, who have West Virginia roots. The simple rolls don’t need to be refrigerated for storage and could readily be packed for lunch by miners, so they gained great popularity and became a staple of their diets. The coal industry today only employees 51,000 people, but the legacy of the food they loved lives on at bakeries everywhere in West Virginia and western PA.
The rolls can be small and greasy, more akin to a croissant wrapped around some pepperoni slices, or more substantial like the size of a half a loaf of bread baked around pepperoni and cheese. We have tried multiple versions and prefer the ones from the Italian stores (that seem like a small loaf of bread baked around pepperoni slices and mozzarella cheese).
We were supposed to go home to Maryland to visit family this weekend, so we had stocked up on pepperoni rolls to share. I’ve been under the weather, so we had to cancel those plans. Don’t feel bad for us, though, excess pepperoni rolls are a delicious problem to have.