Today on the Sonrise Morning Show, Matt Swaimand I chatted, as we do every week about Bible foods & herbs. Today the topic was pretzels and also beer. Here’s the ancient history of these foods eaten during Lent in olden times, plus some super recipes.
The pretzel has a deep spiritual meaning for Lent. In fact, it was the ancient Christian Lenten bread as far back as the fourth century. In the old Roman Empire, the faithful kept a very strict fast all through Lent: no milk, no butter, no cheese, no eggs, no cream and no meat.
They made small breads of water, flour and salt, to remind themselves that Lent was a time of prayer. They shaped these breads in the form of crossed arms for in those days they crossed their arms over the breast while praying. Therefore they called the breads “little arms”. From this Latin word, the Germanic people later coined the term “pretzel.”
Since Lent is a time of prayer the pretzel is an appropriate symbol. It consists only of water and flour, thus proclaiming Lent as a time of fasting.
That many people eat pretzels today all through the year, that they take them together with beer in taverns and restaurants, is only an accidental habit. In many places of Europe, pretzels are served only from Ash Wednesday to Easter, thus keeping the ancient symbolism alive.
Once upon a time, German monks ate nothing for the entirety of the Lenten fast. No bread, no salad, no fruit—nothing. Beat that.
How did they survive, you ask? By imbibing large quantities of heavy, calorie rich beer, of course!
Around 700 years ago, German monks in the town of Einbeck developed a specific style of malty, dark, high alcohol beer to help sustain them during intense periods of fasting. This beer became known as Bock, a corruption of the name Einbeck.
Later, discontent with the strength of Bock style beer, monks developed an even stronger variant known as Doppelbock, meaning double Bock. This beer was so laden with nutrition that some dubbed it “liquid bread.”
Not sure if this is a legend or not, but here’s the story:
Now, these beers were so delicious that the monks began to wonder if they were contrary to the spirit of Lenten penance. Being faithful sons of the Church, they decided to consult the pope. On the journey to Rome, however, the beer was subjected to extreme weather conditions, causing it to spoil and turn sour. When the pope tasted it, he was so appalled by the spoiled beer that he immediately deemed it an excellent Lenten penance.
Check out www.catholicgentleman.net – this is the site where I got the above information.
Beer Cheese Dip
Ingredients (Makes 2 1⁄2 cups)
8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1⁄4 cup sour cream
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1⁄2 cup beer, room temperature
1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Preheat oven to 400°.
- Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl until well
- Spoon into a small baking dish and bake 20-25
minutes, until melted.
- Serve with pretzels, pumpernickel sticks or
rye bread dippers.
BUTTERY SOFT PREZELS
My neighbor, Kim, brought a plate of these pretzels over for me to try. Two thumbs up!
Makes 1 dozen
4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F)
5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup baking soda
4 cups hot water
1/4 cup kosher salt, for topping
In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in 1 1/4 cup warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, mix together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center; add the oil and yeast mixture. Mix and form into a dough. If the mixture is dry, add one or two more tablespoons of water. Knead the dough until smooth, about 7 to 8 minutes.
Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease or spray 2 baking sheets.
In a large bowl, dissolve baking soda in 4 cups hot water; set aside. When risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope and twist into a pretzel shape. Once all of the dough is shaped, dip each pretzel into the baking soda-hot water solution and place pretzels on baking sheets. Sprinkle with kosher salt.
Bake in preheated oven until browned, about 8 minutes.
RANCH BEER DIP
1 pound cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup beer, your favorite alcoholic or non
1 pouch ranch salad dressing mix (the kind you make with mayonnaise and milk)
2 cups shredded cheddar
Beat everything except cheese together until smooth. Stir in cheese. Serve with pretzels.