Pumpernickel is a dark, slightly sweet, rye bread from the Westphalia region of Germany. It is made by boiling rye for a few hours then forming a dough, baking it in rectangular tins, and then steaming it for 16 - 24 hours. This drawn out process it what makes the rye caramelise.
It's exact origins are unknown, but there are three popular legends associated with it:
1. In Osnabruck, the story goes that during a famine in 1450, local officials ordered a special bread to be baked for the poor. The bread was named bonum paniculum, meaning "good bread." Since the people didn't understand Latin, they pronounced it "Bompernickel," then over time it became known as "Pumpernickel."
2. Another story places a Frenchman at the origin of the name Pumpernickel. According to some, a French cavalry soldier at the period of the Napoleonic invasions of Germany, early in the 19th century, found himself unable to forage anything but the heavy black bread found in Westphalia. He exclaimed in disgust that it was only good for his horse, Nicole - "bon pour Nicole". The phase stuck, the locals pronouncing it with a German accent, and in time it became "pumpernickel."
3. The third theory could put you off your Pumpernickel.... "Nickel" was the shortened version of the name for Nikolaus. "Pumper" was the word for flatulence (gas). So, putting the words together, the word Pumpernickel meant Nikolaus' gas.
Anyway, I came across some in a shop today and used it to make my lunch tomorrow. My pumpernickel filling of choice is cream cheese and gherkin.
The great thing about pumpernickel is it is also the perfect size for a lunch box!