West Virginia's Iconic Pepperoni Rolls

Only in West Virginia.

West Virginia Football Field
Photo: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Throughout the South, the culinary lineup at most tailgates is reassuringly consistent: grilled burgers and dogs, buckets of fried chicken, chicken nugget platters, and an endless array of dips and finger-food. You'll find all of these under the blue and gold tents in Morgantown whenever the Mountaineers are playing at home, but West Virginia fans have another tailgating favorite that you aren't likely to see anywhere else: pepperoni rolls.

An iconic West Virginia treat, a pepperoni roll is a soft, slightly sweet yeast roll with sticks of pepperoni baked inside. The savory sausage melts into the dough as it cooks, infusing the bread with fragrant oil and herbs. The self-contained snacks are closely linked to West Virginia's coal mining heritage, for they originated in local bakeries in the early years of the 20th century as a portable, filling lunch for those working in the mines.

Today, you can buy rolls by the dozen in clear plastic bags at bakeries and convenience stores throughout the state, but many tailgaters prefer to bake their own at home the night before. Traditionalists insist on long sticks of pepperoni and nothing more as the filling, but more liberal-minded bakers will use pepperoni slices or tuck in a little provolone or mozzarella. Regardless of the variation, the result is a tasty and eminently practical snack, perfect for holding in one hand while chatting with friends.

Of course you'll need something to occupy that free hand. Like any Southern tailgate, there's plenty of soft drinks and beer flowing in the Blue Lot just north of Milan Puskar Stadium. Mountaineer tailgates, though, are famous for another homegrown staple with deep roots in the state: moonshine.

Many of the Mason jars being passed discretely around the tents contain nothing more than clear white lightning, but others have been infused with a rainbow of flavors, from simple blueberry or peach to more upscale apple pie or salted caramel—sure-fire recipes for boosting one's game-day spirits.

You don't have to be in West Virginia to break out the pepperoni rolls at your next tailgate, for you can easily make your own at home.

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