Family history in a roll
A Step In Time Bake Shop in Harpers Ferry to sell traditional pepperoni rolls at Mountain Heritage Arts and Crafts Festival
During the 1940s, an Italian immigrant began baking and selling pepperoni rolls in Clarksburg, W.Va.
Terri Wilson was not yet born, but the 64-year-old remembers that as she grew up, her coal miner father and his miner friends love to eat the rolls. Wilson's mother learned to bake them herself, and then she taught her six daughters to do so as well.
“My dad and the other miners loved the pepperoni rolls because they included meat, bread and cheese all in one,” Wilson said. “Dad mined in the '50s when there wasn't all that fancy equipment. When they went in the mines, it was pitch black. They were way underground. They had to pick up what was in their lunch box and eat it. A pepperoni roll was something they could hold in their hand and it filled them up. Then they'd wash it down with a tin thermos full of coffee. That's why they loved it. It was easy to eat.”
On Valentine's Day 2017, Wilson's daughter, Sarah Gordon, opened A Step In Time Bake Shop in a quaint Victorian “doll house” in Harpers Ferry, W.Va. Wilson takes care of the shop and does the baking, which includes an assortment of sweets.
Sarah Gordon, left, owner of A Step In Time Bake Shop in Harpers Ferry, and her aunt, Freda Price.
“But the biggest selling item that we have,” Wilson said, “is the pepperoni rolls.”
A Step In Time Bake Shop will participate for the first time in the Mountain Heritage Arts and Crafts Festival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday though Sunday at Sam in Shenandoah Junction. Sponsored by the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, the festival features regional food and wine, bluegrass music and traditional arts and crafts of around 200 juried artisans and craftspeople.
Selling pepperoni rolls at the event is apropos, Wilson said, as they “are like family history to me.”
Wilson, who grew up the youngest of seven – six girls and a boy — wanted for a long time to open a bake shop. Her mother passed away about 20 years ago, and Wilson carried on the tradition of baking in her own home.
“When we decided to open the shop, I called up my sister, who is 86, and I said, 'By the way, do you have Mama's bread recipe?' That's what my pepperoni rolls are made of, is my mom's original bread recipe,” she said.
The rolls are larger than many she has encountered elsewhere.
“They are bread with sliced pepperoni, Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese inside with a little Parmesan on the top. They are very unusual, very unique,” Wilson said.
Wilson's mother, Jozetta Mitchell, was one of 13 children who grew up baking with her family at New River Gorge.
“That was just the lifestyle, the way we were raised,” Wilson said.
The family trademarked the pepperoni roll recipe, naming their variety Mama Jo's Pepperoni Rolls after Jozetta.
“It's something we were wanting to do for a long time. My mom, of course, she's already had a legacy for herself with her big family,” she said. “But since the pepperoni rolls had gone so well, we trademarked them after her.”
Wilson set a goal of taking 1,000 pepperoni rolls to the Mountain Heritage Festival and set about baking early in the week. Price for the pepperoni rolls is $4 each, or six for $20.
“They are all made with love, with no machines, just my hands. I tell everybody, my pepperoni rolls are like snowflakes. No two are alike,” she said.
If you goWHAT: Mountain Heritage Arts and Crafts Festival WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22, Saturday, Sept. 23 and Sunday, Sept. 24WHERE: Sam Michaels Park, 1330 Job Crops Rd., Shenandoah Junction, W.Va.COST: Entrance fee of $7 for adults and $4 for those ages 6 through 17 includes parking, entertainment and wine tasting for those 21 years of age and older. Admission is free for ages 5 and younger children younger than 6.CONTACt: Go to www.mhacfestival.org or visit Mountain Heritage Arts & Crafts Festival on Facebook.