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From banking to baking: Canaan veteran, mom puts twist on food business Knot Just Pretzels

  • Jennifer Tetreault, owner Knot Just Pretzels, looks over a recipe file for pineapple upside down cake in her home kitchen in Canaan, N.H. on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — Jennifer Hauck

  • Jennifer Tetreault, owner Knot Just Pretzels, has several projects going on at once in her kitchen on a rainy day at her home in Canaan, N.H., on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — Jennifer Hauck

  • Jennifer Tetreault, owner Knot Just Pretzels, makes cheddar jalapeño pretzels at her home in Canaan, N.H., on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

  • Jennifer Tetreault, owner Knot Just Pretzels, has several projects going on at once in her kitchen on a rainy day at her home in Canaan, N.H., on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — Jennifer Hauck

  • Jennifer Tetreault uses eggs from her own chickens in her recipes for her business Knot Just Pretzels at her home in Canaan, N.H., on Tuesday, Sept., 6, 2022. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

For the Valley News
Published: 9/23/2022 10:21:21 PM
Modified: 9/23/2022 10:23:00 PM

CANAAN — A few years ago, Jen Tetreault was working as a personal banker for Mascoma Bank when a customer walked in and asked to create a business account so that she could start a new bakery.

“We got to talking about baking while I was opening her account,” recalled Tetreault, herself a longtime baker.

It was an instant connection between Tetreault and Nellie Smith, now the owner of Red Wagon Bakery in Canaan, where Tetreault has been selling her bagels ever since.

“I started baking for her every week,” Tetreault said of Smith. “We have the best relationship. I love her. I feel like she’s one of my daughters.”

Not long after that, Tetreault decided to quit her job at the bank and open a bakery of her own, finding it too difficult to juggle her full-time job alongside baking for Red Wagon.

“I’d go to work for eight hours and come home and bake for five or six hours a night, and it just got to the point where after about a year I was like, ‘Maybe I can actually do this here,’ ” she said.

Tetreault now runs her own bakery, Knot Just Pretzels, out of her home in Canaan. She spent her early childhood living outside of Philadelphia, where Tetreault learned to love the soft, salty snack enough to make it the namesake of her business.

“Pennsylvania pretzels were the best,” she said. “I loved them.”

Tetreault started making her pretzels using a recipe from Alton Brown, a TV food show host, but she kept changing ingredients and altering the recipe until she got it to where she wanted it. Her flavors include onion, cinnamon-sugar, white cheddar, a “super-popular” cheddar jalapeno version and a beer-pumpkin seasonal pretzel. They’re available directly from Tetreault (the best way to reach her is through the Knot Just Pretzels Facebook page) or at Still North Books & Bar in Hanover.

“I’ve gotten a great following from there,” she said. “There are some things that are customer favorites that I do week after week, and then some things that they’ll let me be a little more creative on.”

Sometimes it’s muffins. Other times, a brownie-cookie bar.

Tetreault, 52, learned how to bake when she was in high school. As a teenager, she worked at her local supermarket bakery and “really, really loved it.”

“I started out making the doughnuts at 3 o’clock in the morning,” she said. “They were willing to teach me, and I was willing to learn. I got into cake decorating and making bread.”

To this day, one of her favorite things to make is “a good, old-fashioned cake covered in buttercream or whipped cream,” she said.

After high school, Tetreault joined the Air Force, in search of a career that would allow her to travel. She had a thing for planes and was swayed by the movie Top Gun, which came out around that time. She took a position in the Air Force command post, a position she likens to air traffic control but with top-secret security clearance.

She flew to England for her first assignment, where she met her husband, who was also in the Air Force. While they were stationed in England, the couple had three children, and Tetreault stayed home with them when her husband was deployed. She returned to baking, her passion, eventually getting a diploma in cooking and catering from Ashworth College. She did it the “old-school” way. She got her books in the mail, did her homework, took the required tests and then mailed them back in to be graded.

Tetreault has lived in plenty of places throughout her life — Delaware, California, Australia, Texas — but she never stopped baking.

“It started out with birthday cakes” on the military base “and it just sort of morphed into a little bit of everything,” she said.

When Tetreault’s husband was deployed, she sent boxes of baked goods to him so that he could share them with single airmen and other service members who were away from their families and missed “Mom’s cookies” at Christmastime.

“We were far from home, and people wanted a taste of home,” she said. “A lot of these young people are away from their families for the first time ever, so for me to be able to provide that just made me feel so good. To just give that little piece of home to people, especially when they’re away.”

Tetreault recalled the time a powerful earthquake devastated Japan in 2011. She was living on a U.S. military base in Misawa, a city in Japan’s Aomori Prefecture.

“I baked for the Japanese people, the people who pretty much lost absolutely everything,” she said. “That’s how I brought people together — through baking. For me, it’s all about making people feel good.”

In 2017, after 26 years of living around the world, Tetreault and her husband decided to create a new home for themselves in Canaan, buying their house sight unseen. Neither Tetreault nor her husband are from New Hampshire, but she said the state “checked all the boxes from all of our travels around the world.”

“Mountains, ocean, beautiful scenery — everything that we wanted is pretty much all wrapped up here,” she said. “And we wanted to be isolated and not in a big city, not around a lot of people.”

When she saw her house in person for the first time, she fell in love.

“I knew it was meant to be,” she said. “When you come up here, it feels like you’re way out in the middle of nowhere.”

Tetreault said there are plenty of advantages to rural life. She uses herbs from her garden when she bakes, as well as eggs laid by her 30 chickens. She regularly hosts “porch popups,” advertising her pastries of the day on Facebook.

“This morning, I made a pumpkin whoopie pie and made the filling with a chai tea buttercream filling, kind of like my favorite Starbucks drink,” she said.

Though Tetreault is happily nesting in New England, she still sends pastries to her military friends around the world, especially during the holidays. She misses traveling and hasn’t removed the possibility that she’ll board a plane one day soon.

“I still want to travel some more,” she said. “I have a lot more world to see.”

Betsy Vereckey is a freelance writer. She lives in Norwich.


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