Pepperoni revisited

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Sep 2 19:11:45 UTC 2011

I just realized that a jar of pickled peppers I brought back from a recent stay in Ljubljana, Slovenia provides some evidence to the study of pepperonology.  The label proudly announces the contents as "pepperoni", with two (well, three) p's, and in smaller letters underneath "feferoni".  From the ingredients list, it's clear that the latter is the name in Slovenian (SLO), in Croatian and Bosnian (HR/BIH) and in Serbian/Montenegrin (SRB/MNE).  Curiously, though, despite the fact that almost the entire description on the label is otherwise in these three (rather closely related) languages, the main identifying label uses the Italian name.  They're hot peppers; we know this not through the term "pepperoni"/"feferoni" but because they're labeled "hot/pekoCi/ljuti".  (They're quite distinct from, and somewhat hotter than, pepperoncini.)  Presumably there were, or might have been, jars of non-pekoCi feferoni available for purchase in the same market.  One other curious fact is that they look exactly (modulo pickling) like the hot peppers I've been growing in my garden--long, skinny, and tapered at the ends--even though when I bought them my seedlings were supposed to produce jalapeños.  Not that I'm complaining, as they're quite tasty, pickled or fresh.


P.S.  My jar contains 620g (350g net) of pickled peppers.  I suppose that pales in comparison to the peck of pickled peppers that Peter Piper picked, but I'm not sure what formula to use for the conversion, given weight vs. volume, Imperial vs. U.S., metric vs. non-, etc., although this page is at least somewhat distracting (albeit lacking pictures of true feferoni/pepperoni:  And how was it that PP picked them pre-pickled?

P.P.S.  Here's a picture of some Macedonian cousins of my feferoni, albeit with an evanescent extra f:


On Jul 15, 2011, at 5:12 AM, victor steinbok wrote:

> There are some complications here. First, the article cites "peperoni" as
> "large peppers" or "bell peppers". That doesn't seem quite right, but I'll
> accept it as a working hypothesis--the meaning may well have evolved over
> the years. There are several kinds of large /hot/ peppers, including
> poblanos--mostly limited to US and Central America--and the traditional
> Hungarian peppers, the latter undoubtedly available in 19th century Italy.
> But, overall, I have no problem with "peperoni" referring to either hot or
> non-hot peppers. A bit of investigation of 19th century usage also points
> out that the size is almost irrelevant, as all sorts of red, yellow and
> green peppers were referred to as "peperoni" both in Italian and in English.
> "Peperoncini" is different. Until recently, marketing small sweet peppers
> seemed silly, so nearly all the smaller peppers were hot--to various
> degrees. What passes for peperoncini today are vinegar-pickled waxy green or
> "white" peppers with a rounded end--the distinction will be addressed below.
> The more interesting Calabrian red chilis and several kinds of other
> "peperoncini" are both smaller and hotter, which makes them better suited
> for drying and pickling (but the fresh ones are also "peperoncini").
> Calabrian (Calabrese) and several other kinds of dry Italian sausage are
> made with dried hot chilis and have been made such for several hundred years
> (as also mentioned in that NYT atrticle).
> Why 19th century? As AZ posted earlier, the OED has two 19th century
> citations under "pepperoni", but both with the "peperoni" variant, and it is
> obvious that neither actually refers to sausage:
> 1888    Times 21 Sept. 4/6   There were peperoni, sometimes called
>> diavolini, and poponi.
>> 1893    Scribner's Mag. Jan. 54/1   Where the oyster‥mongers and their
>> wives, the sulphur-water vendors, fryers of polipi and peperoni, congregate.
> Diavolini appears with some variation in Italian cooking, referring to
> everything from small very spicy rice cakes to a kind of pasta. Neither is
> likely to be the source for that 1888 citation. What is important, however,
> is that "diavolini" refers to shape as much as spiciness--e.g., resembling
> the horns of a little devil. This can be a reference to small peppers with a
> sharp, pointy tip--and, in fact, a quick search of images confirms this.
> Here is a picture of what it most likely was in the 1888 piece:
>  AZ's post has a different picture, but, the important
> thing is the shape of the stuffed pepper. In particular, note that the page
> I linked to is for Calabrian chilis in olive oil.
> But what of "poponi" that is listed in the same sentence. AZ mentions that
> "poponi" normally stands for "melons". However, Italian culinary terms are
> rarely limited to a single purpose, and the same is true here--once again,
> the issue is the shape, not the actual product. Just so that there would be
> no doubt, here's a picture of "poponi" in a state similar to the above
> mentioned diavolini: Simply put, these are stuffed
> cherry peppers. Here's another similar image And just so
> that there would be no doubt, here's a page for the recipe for rice-stuffed
> peperoni poponi
> "Friers of polipi and peperoni" seems to refer to vendors who sold fried
> octopus (polipo) with green pepper--a fairly standard combination in some
> parts of Italy (e.g., a typical pair of ingredients in making of Brodetto).
> A combination of octopus and sausage would make absolutely no sense. And,
> once again, to avoid confusion, here's a recipe for polipi con peperoni
> So the earliest OED citation for pepperoni as sausage is from 1938--a full
> 19 years later than the allegation in the NYT article (the article simply
> claims that the usage appeared in print around 1919, without a citation). I
> have a candidate for the 1919 source, but it's not particularly interesting.
> Text-book of Meat Hygene. 1919
> pp. 183-4
>> Curing Methods.--Sausage.--Method No. 1.--The sausage meat shall be ground
>> or chopped into pieces not exceeding three-fourths of an inch in diameter. A
>> dry-curing mixture containing not less than 3 1/3 pounds of salt to each
>> hundred weight of the unstuffed sausage shall be thoroughly mixed with the
>> ground or chopped meat. After stuffing, the sausage shall be held in a
>> drying room not less than twenty days at a temperature not lower than 45°
>> F., provided that in the case of sausage of the variety known as pepperoni,
>> if stuffed in hog or sheep casings not exceeding If inches in diameter
>> measured at the time of stuffing, the period of drying may be reduced to
>> fifteen days.
> Far more interesting is 1908 Gateway magazine that mentions pepperoni among
> many other sausages completely matter-of-factly.
> Gateway. May 1908
> Social History of the Sausage. By Joseph Greusel. p. 6/2
>> Or had prandial cognizance of the famed sorts, the mention of whose names
>> brings zestful watering of the mouth to epicures, as for example Gothaer
>> Cervelat, Thuringer, German salami, knackwurst, Milano salami, D'Arles,
>> Swedish, Lombardi, Holsteiner, pepperoni, laudjaeger, lackshinken,
>> metwurst, plockwurst, mortadella, soprassata Napolitani, saucisson de Lyon,
>> koppa, capacola, in favor with existing customers of delicatessen stores?
> Two things need to be clarified. First, the issue of "peperoni" vs.
> "pepperoni". While the former invariably refers to peppers (and shows up in
> Italian books throughout), the latter refers to peppers as well, in the
> early stages (1861-1916), but later becomes the exclusive spelling for the
> spiced sausage.
> Two years in Switzerland and Italy, Volume 2. By Fredrika Bremer. Translated
> by Mary Howitt. London: 1861
> [Naples.] October 1. p. 366
>> The city overflows with articles of food, especially vegetables and fruit.
>> Immense pumpkins with golden-yellow insides, masses of pomi d'oro, bright pepperoni,
>> figs in ornamented pyramids with yellow and red flowers between the rows,
>> oranges, pears, plums, apples, walnuts, and many more, fill the fruitstands,
>> tables, or benches, or are carried about in large baskets upon asses.
> [The same spelling occurs in the German original: ]
> Naples. By Sybil Fitzgerald. London: 1904
> p. 61
>> On the red-hot wires the gorgeous pepperoni are dancing, roasting for
>> winter consumption.
> p. 156
>> When the red watermelons of summer are over, comes the season for the green
>> and black figs, together with strings of tomatoes, baskets of the sweet *fravole-uva,
>> *with its double flavour of grape and strawberry, and the gorgeous scarlet
>> *peperoni*.
> The Gourmet's Guide to Europe. By Nathaniel Newnham-Davis. 3rd Edition. New
> York: 1911
> Italy. Turin. p. 237
>> If you, wherever you happen to dine, wish to commence with *hors d'oeuvre,
>> *try the *Pepperoni, *which are large yellow or red chillies preserved in
>> pressed grapes and served with oil and vinegar, salt and pepper.
> The Observations of Professor Maturin. Clyde Furst. New York: 1916
> p. 117
>> There, in the room with the roses on the ceiling, we had for dinner caviare
>> with limes, a thin mushroom soup, duck roasted over spice-wood, Turinese pepperoni
>> of chilies and preserved grapes, Leghorn coffee, and Turkish sweetmeats.
> Second, the previously mentioned NYT article suggests that pepperoni is
> somehow "smoky":
> What, exactly, is pepperoni? It is an air-dried spicy sausage with a few
>> distinctive characteristics: it is fine-grained, lightly smoky, bright red
>> and relatively soft. But one thing it is not: Italian.
>> “Purely an Italian-American creation, like chicken Parmesan,” said John
>> Mariani, a food writer and historian who has just published a book with the
>> modest title: “How Italian Food Conquered the World.” “Peperoni” is the
>> Italian word for large peppers, as in bell peppers, and there is no Italian
>> salami called by that name, though some salamis from Calabria and Apulia are
>> similarly spicy and flushed red with dried chilies. The first reference to
>> pepperoni in print is from 1919, Mr. Mariani said, the period when pizzerias
>> and Italian butcher shops began to flourish here.
> ...
>> “There’s nothing quite like that spicy, smoky taste with pizza,” he said.
>> Mr. Bertolli believes that pepperoni’s smokiness, beef content and fine
>> grind are more characteristic of German sausages like Thüringer, suggesting
>> a possible Midwestern connection. “I’ve never seen a smoked sausage anywhere
>> in Italy,” he said.
> But looking at the early sources gives no indication that pepperoni was
> initially a /smoked/ sausage. In fact, quite the opposite is true--pepperoni
> is invariably identified as /unsmoked/. So the claim that pepperoni is
> someone a German-influenced US invention /because/ it is smoked is
> completely unfounded. But there are other odd claims in the article as
> well--the initial version claimed that spicy Italian sausages came from
> Abruzzi and Calabria, but the story was corrected, replacing Abruzzi with
> Apulia. While a geographic reference to Apulia (Puglia) is sensible, there
> is no reason to replace Abruzzi with Apulia--thin spicy sausage from Abruzzi
> (Abruzzese) most closely resembles pepperoni in composition and and
> appearance (although sausage from Calabria and Apulia may be just as spicy).
> In fact, Abruzzesse is one Italian dry sausage that is commonly used in
> cooking:
> Apulia actually makes less sense in this connection--traditional Apulian
> sausages are made from goat or lamb (salsiccia Pugliese--often smoked!),
> rarely from pork or beef, except for a version of soppressata, which is
> typical of both Apulia and Calabria. But soppressata is a coarse grind
> sausage, often with an oval or rectangular profile, while pepperoni is
> invariably fine grind with a narrow circular profile.
> Allen's commercial organic analysis. Volume 8. 4th edition. Philadelphia:
> 1913
> American Sausages. p. 361
>> In America, especially in the larger establishments, many different kinds
>> of sausage are manufactured corresponding to German, Italian, Dutch and
>> other formulae. The following classification includes the principal kinds:
> ...
> II. Summer sausage.—Well dried (moisture 30-40%). Perishability reduced to a
>> minimum.
>> a. Smoked.—Cervelats and German Salami, Farmer, Holsteiner, Goteburg, Roma,
>> Mecklenburger, Mortadella, Capicolla.
>> b. Unsmoked.—Italian Salami, Milanese, D'Arles, Genoa, Lyon, Pepperoni.
> US Department of Agriculture. Service and Regulatory Announcement. October
> 1917 [Issued December 20, 1917]
> Notices Regarding Meat Inspection. p. 108
>> Unsmoked sausage known as pepperoni shall be held in a drying room for a
>> period of not less than 20 days as prescribed in Service and Regulatory
>> Announcements for October, 1916, page 90, paragraph 2, provided that if the
>> sausage is stuffed in hog or sheep casings, not exceeding 1 3/8 inches in
>> diameter measured at the time of stuffing, the period of drying may be
>> reduced to 15 days.
> As a matter of clarification, the earliest occurrence of "peperoni" in
> English (that I could find--1855) specifically identifies it as "hot
> pepper".
> Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society. Volume 9. London: 1855
> [Review of] Historical Notes On The Introduction Of Various Plants Into The
> Agriculture And Horticulture Of Tuscany: a summary of a work entitled Cenni
> storici sulla introduzione di varie piante nell'agricoltura ed orticultura
> Toscana. By Dr. Antonio Targioni-Tozzetti. Florence, 1850. p. 141
>> There is still greater uncertainty as to the real native country of the
>> Capsicum, or Hot-pepper (Capsicum annuum, Peperoni of the Italians, Piment
>> of the French), now so universally spread over all tropical countries.
> But at least one document from the early period of pepperoni's existence
> identifies it as a sausage "of Italian origin" FWIW.
> Sausage--Principal Kinds and Uses. By Edgar Guest. Chicago: 1917
> [Promotional booklet for Institute of American Meat Packers. Unambiguous
> copyright on p. 2]
> Types of Dry Sausage. p. 13
>> Pepperoni is of Italian origin and is made from trimmings and back fat of
>> pork. In addition to the usual spices, ground red pepper is used in these
>> sausages.
> Whatever the case with the origins of pepperoni, the OED definition should
> certainly cover both the pepper and the sausage version, splitting examples
> accordingly. The peppers occur with both one and two [p] in the middle and
> also in singular (peperone) from 1855 to 1920. The sausage only occurs with
> [pp] AFAICT and from 1908. I also suspect the definition should say "dry
> sausage" rather than "hard sausage", as the latter is not really a normally
> recognized category. As for "German inspiration", that seems to be modern
> fiction.
> VS-)
> On Thu, Jul 14, 2011 at 1:56 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at>wrote:
>> On Jul 14, 2011, at 1:41 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>>> On Thu, Jul 14, 2011 at 9:42 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at>
>> wrote:
>>>> Well, it certainly worked for "pepperoni", which was a similar American
>> invention "rooted in the Italian inspiration... chefs draw from when
>> developing these dishes".
>>> So, pepperoni is as American as apple pie and chop suey? Good to know.
>> cf.
>> (suggesting it's actually more rooted in the German inspiration non-Italian
>> chefs draw from)
>> LH
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