Gary and I spent New Year’s eve with his parents and relatives making pretzels, a Southern German tradition. We made my German-American mother-in-law’s recipe that has been passed down through generations. In some areas in Germany, pretzels are given to loved ones on January 1 to symbolize good luck and good fortune. On ourĀ other side of the planet, we happily continued this tradition.


These pretzels are known as Lye Pretzels, for they’re first boiled in lye before they’re baked. The lye denatures the proteins, which causes the exterior to become chewy. I find it ironic that here I try my hardest to avoid processed foods and soda because they’re bad for me, and here I am boiling my dough in drain opener (note the “Danger! Poison!” warning on the label). Go figure.



5 lbs all-purpose flour
1 c melted shortening
1 qt buttermilk
1 can milnot
3 eggs
3 t baking soda
3 t baking powder
a hand full of salt


(This makes a LOT of pretzels. We actually halved this recipe, and it still made too many. I suppose this recipe made enough to wish everyone in the entire town good luck and good fortune.)

Mix all the ingredients together. Gradually add the flour until the dough works off your hands. Knead the dough until pliable. Let rest in the bowl for 2-3 hours. Cut into small pieces, and roll into pretzel shapes.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat a pot of water to boiling (do not use an aluminum pan; use cast iron), and then add 1 t lye to 2/3 skillet of water (sorry the vague directions here). Drop pretzels in boiling lye water for about a minute or so. When they float to the top, they’re ready. Put them on a baking sheet (again, not aluminum), and sprinkle with Kosher salt. Bake on greased cookie sheets until brown (or about 10-15 minutes). May your New Year be full of good luck, fortune, and glorious things like gluten!


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