This guest post comes from my friend, and fellow food blogger, Mark Hansen.
We Mormons often refer to ourselves by the scripture that calls believers a “peculiar people”. We are that, indeed. One of our quirks that makes a lot of other people scratch their heads is our “Word of Wisdom”, particularly the part that prohibits drinking tea and coffee.
Over the years, there’s been much debate over the interpretation of this injunction, which we call the “Word of Wisdom”, but nonetheless, it remains, and the faithful follow it, often not fully aware of why.
That discussion is not where I’m going with this, trust me.
Because, here, in our food blogs, we’re not about theological debates. We’re all about food. And this particular letter of our law has led many of us to partake in alternatives. For example, rather than drinking traditional teas, many of us will often indulge in herbal teas, mints, lemons, etc...
…And it has also earned a wink and a nod to the product known as Pero, or in some circles, “Mormon Coffee”. It’s made simply from four ingredients: malted barley, barley, chicory and rye. It’s a powder, and you mix it with boiling water. I, myself, like it with a bit of honey. I also like it made with milk, but I think I like it better with just honey.
Well, today, I thought it would be fun to try some twists, just for fun. All of these were mixed just as the directions said, but with a bit of honey added to taste. I experimented a little, and tried various amounts and combinations. I came up with four that both my son and I really liked.
This one was the first one I tried, and it took me three attempts to hit amounts that I liked. I started with, as the instructions on the carton state, a heaping tablespoon of Pero powder in my cup. To that, I added a little more than a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon, and a little less than a quarter teaspoon of nutmeg. I boiled up some water and poured it in. I added the honey last of all.
I found that stirring it for a longer time really helped the flavors to settle in. This one was interesting, and complex. The sweet would hit me first, and then the richness of the dark Pero. Finally, the zing of the cinnamon would dance in. The final result was tasty and unique.
Pero with a Punch
This one took a couple of tries, too, because the first one was way too hot! Again, I put the heaping spoonful in the cup, and then shook in a short sprinkle of cayenne powder. In went the water and then the honey. I really liked this one. It had edge.
I wasn’t sure how to get the mint into the drink. My first thought was to use a mint tea bag, but I didn’t have one of those. But, I did manage to find a peppermint candy! We ground that up with the back of a spoon and dropped it in the cup with the Pero powder. The fact that it was candy added some sweet to it, and the aftertaste of the mint really shone through. I still did add some honey, as well. My son and I both thought this was our favorite.
Some Final Hints
Don’t just heat the water, boil it. If it’s not that hot, it won’t dissolve all of the powders, and steep the spices. Also, the longer you let it sit, stirring, steeping, and cooling, before you drink, the more settled in the flavors get. Often, by the end of the cup, it tasted its richest.
I sure had a lot of fun trying these out, and found some flavors that I’m sure to keep using all through the long cold winter.
Thanks for the great tips Mark! I like to sweeten my Pero creole style, with a little molasses. It's also great sprinkled over vanilla or chocolate ice cream. I don't think Pero tastes like coffee, but it does have the same toasty appeal, without the caffeine.
Mark dishes on dishes in dutch ovens at Mark's Black Pot and on Mormon life at Mo' Boy.