Thursday, January 20, 2011
Hot Dog SAUCE and Pepperoni BUNS Part 2 of 2
In part 1 of Hot Dog SAUCE and Pepperoni BUNS we established that the spicy and meaty condiment adorning a real WV hot dog is "hot dog SAUCE" not chilli. The quest for cultural diffusion continues with Part 2 focusing on the 2nd pillar of North Central West Virginia Cuisine, the Pepperoni BUN. As mentioned, when introduced to my test subjects the delicacy has been referred to as a "that pepperoni thingy", "pepperoni hot pocket", "pepperoni bread", a calzone, and the one that makes me cringe the most a "pizza roll."
Much has been said and written about the West Virginia coal miner of the early to mid 20th century. He was a gritty and determined man full of resourcefulness and discipline. Many of the coal miners in my home town of Fairmont, West Virginia were first and second generation Italian immigrants. Behind the hard scrabble man was an equally clever and tough woman. Isn't that usually the case? The men who were all about long work days required a hardy and satisfying lunch for their dinner buckets. Their wives would send pepperoni, an italian style sausage, and hearth baked bread in their lunch pails. At least one published account credits an Italian baker in Fairmont with baking the first pepperoni bun in the late 1920's after observing the miners eating hunks of pepperoni along with their bread.
Like the beloved West Virginia Hot Dog with SAUCE, the pepperoni roll has it's own websites and pages posted in it's honor. One of the more entertaining that I encourage you to hit is Bob Hefners Pepperoni Roll page.
Country Club Bakery in Fairmont makes one of the most popular versions of the pepperoni bun and for good reason. You see the "Italian baker" mentioned earlier and reported to have baked the first pepperoni bun called his bakery Country Club Bakery. In an article in the Charleston (WV) Gazette back in 2002 it is reported that Country Club Bakery goes through two tons of pepperoni each month, and thats a lot of pepperoni buns. I love the Country Club Bakery version, it is the version that my mother used to serve at the Apple Valley Country Club along with that same hot dog SAUCE that you can now taste at Northwood Academy basketball games, but it is not my favorite. Nope, my favorite comes from a Pizza Place called Colasessano's and it is to pepperoni buns what a Ruth's Chris Steak is to the beef loin.
Part of my fondness for "Colo's Buns" is that I can remember my dad taking me there on Saturday afternoons prior to Fairmont State College basketball games. Back in the 70's Fairmont State College, now Fairmont State University had a national powerhouse NAIA basketball program, coached by Joe Retton, great uncle to another famous Fairmont WV native, Mary Lou Retton. We would meet up with old friends at Colasessano's a couple hours before heading to the National Guard Armory to watch the Fighting Falcons enroute to another victory on the hardwood. It's funny how an old memory associated with a place like Colasessano's can trigger your imagination to the degree that you can almost smell the place and taste that great pizza or pepperoni bun.
Many of us who have migrated from North Central West Virginia to various parts of the world bake our own versions of pepperoni buns. There are recipes too numerous to link available online, some look good, some look like "posers". But I have some hard and fast rules, if you will, for preparing and serving the delicacy regardless of whether you bake your own or purchase them commercially. First and foremost, do not, I repeat do not microwave a pepperoni bun, they are best heated in foil inside an oven or toaster oven. Secondly, use mozzarella or provolone cheese on your pepperoni bun, and only use some form of yellow cheese if you absolutely have to. Third, if you want a real treat, use some authentic WV hot dog SAUCE inside of a pepperoni bun, and even some mild or hot peppers, the kind that come in tomatoe sauce, not the pickled version like bannana pepper rings.
The great news is that both Country Club Bakery and Colasessano's will ship their great pepperoni buns anywhere. If you are intrigued, hit 'em up and place your orders today, you won't be disappointed. Just remember my preparation tips above and of course, when you place your order, remember, they are not pizza rolls or pepperoni hot pockets, they are Pepperoni BUNS. Hmmm, I think I might just bake a batch now.