Rolling cookies for pfefferneusse sale at St. James Church Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Jane Lepeska Grinde, Catholic Herald Correspondent   
Thursday, Nov. 05, 2015 -- 12:00 AM

Rolling pfefferneusse cookies for the parish festival to be held at St. James Church in Madison on Sunday, Nov. 8, is, JoAnne Pedder, one of the original rollers 40 years ago. ((Photos by Shine Photografx/

MADISON -- Last November, all of the nearly 3,000 bags of pfefferneusse were sold out by mid-morning at the Good Shepherd Parish family festival at St. James Church, located off of Regent St.

Disappointed prospective buyers were told they could guarantee getting pfefferneusse next year if they helped make the traditional German cookie. Rolling cookies is done Monday and Wednesday evenings and Tuesday afternoons from August through October in the St. James Church basement, and all are welcome to help.

Disappointed buyer becomes volunteer

One disappointed buyer who became a frequent roller this year is Jane Bauhs, Sun Prairie. Wanting to make sure she got the cookies and maybe to reconnect with the church in which her parents were married, Bauhs found friendly faces and good conversation as well as people who knew her parents.

Her German-born dad had made the cookies with his family each Christmas. With his recent passing, she missed the tradition.

When she saw a WISC-TV feature last fall about pfefferneusse being available at the church festival, she made a special trip, but got there too late for the purchase. In retrospect, she came out a winner.

Betty Schuchardt, chair of the pfefferneusse rolling with Paul Scott, credited the local television coverage last year with “giving us an excellent turnout, not only for the cookie sales but also for the dinner and the rest of the festival,” always scheduled for the second Sunday of November (Nov. 8 this year).

Started by German immigrants

Pfefferneusse rolling is in its 40th year at the church. It was started by German immigrants in 1905.

In 1976, the parish festival committee, co-chaired by Carol Marshall, Nancy Lager, and Dorothy Dittmann, decided on a German theme. They asked 81-year-old Betty Germann for her pfefferneusse recipe. She had been bringing pfefferneusse to the festival bake sale, and it always sold out.

Betty Schuchardt’s brother, Emmett, was called upon to head the cookie crew. A retired restaurant owner and chief cook for the parish dinners, he adapted the recipe for mass production, and soon the rolling became an annual tradition for the parish.

One of the key ingredients, oil of anise, was donated by parishioner Al Mahinski, who owned a drug store at the time. Al is now deceased, but his son Mark rolls every Monday and Wednesday night and ushers at Sunday morning Mass.

After Emmett passed away, his sister Betty took over for him. She relates the story of a visitor telling the pastor he loved the incense the church uses. “Our priest said to him, ‘That it is not incense you are smelling, but anise from pfefferneusse cookies made in the church basement.’”

Dedicated volunteers

Schuchardt has to make sure she has a kitchen crew each of the days that volunteers come to roll. She is grateful to many who come back every year, some of whom are there almost every time rolling takes place.

The regulars are in charge of mixing and kneading the dough, cutting it for the rollers, then baking the cookies, and finally bagging them. Several rollers are also regulars.

Sharon Barry, who was on the festival committee in 1976, has been the St. James School secretary for longer than that. Schoolchildren roll on Tuesday afternoons, and many will come with their parents in the evening at least once.

Barry said, “Not only is it a good moneymaker for the school and parish, but it is just as important that people come together and visit.”

JoAnne Pedder, another original roller, agrees with Barry. “Over the years, we sat with -- and enjoyed visiting with -- so very many interesting people. It was just fun getting a job done.”

Mary Ann Connors has had to reduce her involvement with pfefferneusse this year. While she had been a mainstay cutting the dough in preparation for rolling, she still comes to roll when she can and checks the kitchen for dirty towels to take home to wash.

She and her husband Joey got involved with the pfefferneusse rolling as part of the fellowship commission. She handled advertising and dinner tickets over the years and credits the festival and other volunteer activities for helping her feel connected to the parish.

“The festival is one of the many ways the parish helps members feel welcome and connected and helps us become lifelong friends,” she said.

Catholic Financial Life members involved

Parishioners bring friends and neighbors to roll. “Especially helpful to the rolling are members of the local chapter of Catholic Financial Life,” said Carol Marshall, who is still an active parishioner. “We couldn’t do it without them.”

Colleen McCormick is president of the Madison chapter. A member of Christ the King Parish, McFarland, she comes to St. James every Monday evening with other members and friends.

As part of its mission, she said, “Catholic Financial Life members are expected to be among the people and serve God through serving others.”

McCormick said the organization especially likes to help parishes with schools, including giving matching funds for special events.

Headquartered in Milwaukee, the not-for-profit fraternal benefit organization provides life insurance, annuities, and other financial solutions to Catholics and their families.

Through a grassroots network of local chapters, Catholic Financial Life and its members get involved in helping others, their parishes, and schools through volunteer and charitable support.

In 2014, Catholic Financial Life and its volunteer-members provided over $1.2 million in funding and almost 82,000 service hours to support causes important to its members and their communities.

Volunteer incentives

In addition to the incentive of being able to buy the cookies before the festival, volunteers also get a chance to win one of two bags every night of the rolling, compliments of Paul Scott.

They also are treated to refreshments that almost constitute a supper. Strictly enforced though is the rule not to eat at the rolling tables.

Parish festival

Schuchardt hopes to have 3,500 bags available for sale at the Good Shepherd parish festival, scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 8, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at its St. James site, 1128 St. James Ct. The festival also features a sit-down chicken dinner served from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., a large trash and treasure sale, bake sale, children’s games, snack bar, sale of a variety of nuts, raffle and silent auction, craft sale, and book sale.

The trash and treasure pre-sale is Saturday morning, Nov. 7, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

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