Pumpernickel: A true taste of Satan?

In ancient Germanic, “pumper” refers to flatulence, whereas “nickel (Nick)” refers to Satan (supposedly). So are you thinking what I’m thinking?


In case you didn’t already know, Pumpernickel is a typically heavy, slightly sweet rye bread traditionally made with coarsely ground rye. It is often made with a combination of rye flour and whole rye berries. At one time it was traditional peasant fare, but largely during the 20th century various forms became popular through delicatessens and supermarkets.


Pumpernickel has been long associated with the Westphalia region of Germany, first referred to in print in 1450. I have long since revered it as one of Germany’s traditional foods, and I was eager to try some on trip to Munich recently, to see what all the fuss was about.

Although it is not known whether this and other early references refer to precisely the bread that came to be known as Pumpernickel, the legend that I described above regarding “Satan” (otherwise known as Saint Nick, of course) and “flatulence” seems plausible if you look at it in terms of etymology. Most people in Germany think along the lines of Pumpernickel bread giving them ‘devilish’ flatulence, yet the taste is still too enjoyable to resist, thus is became a German national food, much like bratwurst or sauerkraut.


Traditional German Pumpernickel is baked in long and narrow pans in a low temperature (about 250°F or 120°C), and in a steam-filled oven. Like the French pain de mie, Pumpernickel has little or no crust. It is very similar to rye Vollkornbrot, a dense rye bread with large amounts of whole grains added. pumpernickel is often sold sliced in small packets found in supermarkets, and this is where I tried my helpings of the bread. It was fairly cheap (mine only cost 1 Euro for a medium-sized loaf), and while I did not want to eat all of it myself, I still enjoyed the quintessential German taste and texture.

So I guess the question you’re waiting to be answered is: does pumpernickel really taste like Satan’s farts? I cannot possibly answer!

3 thoughts on “Pumpernickel: A true taste of Satan?

  1. It’s not clear what’s the origin of the word Pumpernickel, but it definately has nothing to do with Satan.
    One possible origin is translated farting dwarf, the other is farting Nikolaus. But Sankt Nikolaus has also nothing to do with Satan, it’s only the origin of Santa Claus…
    And besides, the breads on the pictures are definately no Pumpernickel 😉


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