At Smucker Farms, we believe that any pretzel that has been voted the Best Hard Pretzel in Lancaster County every year for the past 21 years is definitely a pretzel we need to introduce to Washington, DC. Lancaster’s champion Hammond’s Pretzels has been hand-rolling their crunchy, salty snacks since 1931. Despite the industrial advances in the mechanization of pretzel making, generations of the family behind these renowned pretzels have remained committed to maintaining the old handcrafting traditions.
Hammond’s Pretzels was founded by William Lichty and his grandfather William Hammond during the Great Depression. Like many others during that period, Lichty had lost his job and was determined to find a way to support his family. Working with his grandfather, a former pretzel baker, the two established their own pretzel bakery using Hammond’s old sourdough pretzel recipe. The family ties of the business grew even stronger when Lichty’s father joined the team. While you don’t need substantial room to roll pretzels, the equipment required to bake the snack is quite bulky. Rather than look for a new space, the grandfather and grandson team transformed the garages of their adjoining houses into the new Hammond’s Pretzels bakery, where the company is still located.
Today the great-great-great grandchildren of William Hammond carry on the tradition of Hammond’s Pretzels. With much of the equipment used to make the pretzels dating back to the first half of the century, this new generation is steadfastly committed to the old pretzel making methods used by their ancestors. Most of today’s pretzel manufacturers have switched to extrusion machines that push pretzel dough out of tubes into a pretzel shape similar to the old Play-Doh toys. However, Hammond’s Pretzels are still rolled, shaped and twisted by hand.
While this may seem to be a very slow and tedious process, Hammond’s 11 veteran pretzel-rollers can produce more than 33,000 pretzels in a day! If you look closely at each pretzel, you will notice small differences that are a telltale sign of their handcraftsmanship. Brian Nicklaus, one of Hammond’s Pretzels’ current operators, says that he can determine which of his pretzel-rollers twisted the pretzel based on these small differences.
Hammond’s commitment to maintaining traditions extends beyond the equipment and the rolling and baking methods. Just as Lichty and his grandfather would have done in the 1930s, Hammond’s Pretzels sources nearly all of its flour from a nearby mill in Lancaster County. In addition, Hammond’s still salts each pretzel by hand, allowing them to offer customers a variety of levels of saltiness.
Despite being available in nearly every grocery store in Lancaster, the only place you can find the beloved Hammond’s Pretzels in DC is at Smucker Farms. Next time you are in our neighborhood stop by and grab a bagful to get a sense of Hammond’s family and pretzel-making traditions.