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What would happen, we asked,if we took a traditional German “Lebkuchen” and distilled the ingredients into an organic spirit? What is a lebkuchen, you ask? A ginger snap!
But not the mass-market, high-fructose junk at the supermarket. We’re talking a real Pennsylvania Dutch (which actually means Pennsylvania German, not Dutch. Many years ago, someone apparently misheard “deutsch” for “dutch”) ginger snap made with hearty blackstrap molasses and fresh ginger. The kind our mothers, grandmothers, and great-great-great-grandmothers used to make.
“Lebkuchen” was invented by German monks in the 12th century and first appeared in America in the late 1600s when German Anabaptists looking for religious freedom came to Pennsylvania to be part of William Penn’s “Holy Experiment.” Although most people don’t know it, the Pennsylvania Dutch are a diverse and tolerant bunch, encompassing a mix of religions and the non-religious. What they all had in common was a strenuous work ethic and a robust culinary tradition. Because these early Germans were rustic farmers, they baked with hearty blackstrap molasses rather than refined sugar. Back then, this was considered backward and unsophisticated by the “English,” but today we know otherwise.
Blackstrap molasses retains the natural goodness that gets stripped away by the refining process. It also provides a very distinct and earthy flavor.
Of course, the Pennsylvania Dutch didn’t distill a Lebkuchen spirit. That was our idea. But we think it is a delicious one. There are other alcoholic ginger products on the market, but they are either sickly sweet liqueuers or artificially flavored vodkas. This is a sophisticated organic spirit based on authentic folk history designed for people who know how to drink. It’s the kind of genuine experience we wish there was more of in the world. Try it and you will say “nix besser,” which is Pennsylvania Dutch for “none better.“
Blackstrap molasses is a classic baking ingredient, derived from the third boiling of cane or sugar beet syrup.The original colonists in present-day Pennsylvania were farmers who used hearty blackstrap molasses to sweeten their baked goods and meals, since refined sugar was not readily available. Neighboring British colonists considered this practice to be crude and unsophisticated, but today we know otherwise. Blackstrap molasses retains vital mineral complexes and antioxidants that are later stripped away during the white sugar refining process. The full-bodied, earthy flavor of molasses is unlike any other sweetener.
A traditional baking spice produced from the dried flower buds of clove trees, clove was a favorite ingredient in many German recipes, especially ginger snaps or lebkuchen! Native Americans also found the spice to relieve tooth pain.
Brown sugar is a partially refined soft sugar, free of additives or chemicals. The large sugar granules retain a golden brown color since molasses is present. Molasses also gives brown sugar its moistness.
Like blackstrap molasses, brown sugar was once lambasted as “inferior” sugar in the late 1800s by white sugar producers. Its rich flavor and subtle sweetness are superior for our purposes.
Cinnamon is harvested from the bark of the cinnamon tree. Along with clove and nutmeg, it gives SNAP its pleasant baking spice flavors.
The bulbous root form that is typically associated with ginger is actually the bulb of the plant Zingiber officinale (in the same family as cardamom and turmeric). Ginger can be consumed whole, used as a powder, or as an extract/juice for food and beverage infusions.
For European settlers, ginger was easily stored and saved in cold, dry root cellars. When planted like a bulb, ginger is also a perennial, withstanding the winter ground-freeze of the colder states.
The seed of a type of evergreen tree, nutmeg, along with clove and cinnamon, contributes heavily to SNAP’s distinctive, highly spiced taste.
Rooibos tea is a mellow red tea made from the dried leaves of the rooibos bush, indigenous to South Africa. High in anti-oxidants and caffeine-free, rooibos tea is rapidly becoming a popular beverage for the health-conscious.
European travelers in the 1700-1800s brought back the dried, needle-like leaves of the rooibis bush, hailing it as an alternative to the expensive and rare black teas imported from Asia. Rooibos tea was a wise choice for packing economically for the Atlantic passage to the American colonies.
Though primarily and commonly associated with Madagascar, the vanilla bean plant is actually native to North America! Vanilla beans are the fruit of the orchid genus Vanilla, which is native to Mexico and the southwest United State.
Vanilla is highly valued for both its flavor and aroma. Traditionally, the extract was (and still is) simple to make. Curing the precious bean pods in high proof alcohol not only preserved the fruit, but created a useful extract for baking!