A few weeks ago we visited the town of Lititz with my grandmother and aunt to tour the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery. Touted as the first of its kind in America, this was a really neat tour.
We've made soft pretzels a few times at home, but the kids were excited to learn how it was different to make them 'for real.' They wanted to know how to make that special shape, too, since I can never quite get it and just end up making pretzel rods. Somehow rods are not the same.
Our awesome tour guide seemed to know everything there was to know about making soft pretzels. She told us all about Julius Sturgis, his family, and how they made pretzels. She even gave everyone dough and let us all try our hands at it - though we could come nowhere close to the record numbers of pretzels-per-minute that the original shapers could. It was special to learn right here on the original tables, however.
These pretzel ovens were set high in the walls and were heated with wood. They got so hot that the rooms above the ovens neared 200 degrees some days! Pretzels could dry out quickly there.
In the ovens themselves salt was sprinkled so that the pretzels wouldn't stick. When they wanted to clean out these ovens, it would take two days to cool down enough to be cleaned. At that time one of Sturgis' fourteen children would be pushed inside the oven, where s/he would crawl around and scrub out the salt. My Big Helper was fascinated at that idea, though she stated firmly that she didn't want to go in there.
This tour took about 30 minutes and was very reasonable in price. We all received small bags of Sturgis pretzels and certificates of graduation upon completion, which thrilled the kids. They couldn't wait to sample their pretzels.
I think I'll have some pretzel graduates help out the next time we make pretzels.
Have you ever made your own soft pretzels??