Raising the bar on gluten-free
Vermont Spatzle Co. noodles as good as the original
ARLINGTON — It took seven years, but Julz Irion accomplished her goal: she created the ideal gluten-free spatzle.
Her husband, Marty Irion, is from Germany, and grew up with the original spatzle — dried egg noodles, made primarily with eggs and wheat. The couple ate it together in adulthood.
But in 2010, the Irions had to go gluten-free for health reasons. So Julz took it upon herself to make a new recipe.
One day, those efforts paid off.
"We sat down, we had it for dinner, and basically said, 'Holy cow, we are going to need to share this with the rest of the world,'" Marty said.
That was March 11, 2017. Julz marks that occasion as the birth of The Vermont Spatzle Company.
Julz said she approached developing the perfect spatzle as a mission.
"I'm not a patient person, and if something makes me mad, I get even madder every time it fails," Julz said. "I started figuring it out, and then I'm like, I'm going to try this one last thing and see what happens."
That "last thing" was adding milk — which created their spatzle made of milk, eggs and a blend of potato, corn and tapioca flours, and some nutmeg and salt. The nutmeg changes the flavor profile from savory to sweet, if desired, Julz said.
The spatzle production began as a primarily one-woman effort by Julz, who soon quit her job working in a convenience store to make the product. At first, she used a spaghetti sauce pot and a Kitchen Aid mixer, producing about 30 pounds of spatzle a day. In June 2018, Marty quit his job as executive director of the Arlington Rescue Squad to join her full-time. He was previously a school lunch director for 30 years — a position Julz has also held.
Owning and operating a food manufacturing business originally wasn't the couple's dream.
"We always wanted to have a food truck, or be carneys," Julz said, laughing. "We love food, and we love to feed people, but we never thought that this would be [it]."
Their spatzle is a no-boil pasta, and it can be cooked in a pan in 90 seconds.
They come up with their own meals using spatzle — not often the same thing twice.
"You pour the brown gravy on top, and the cheese just starts to melt a little bit, and then we just put it in the middle of the table," Julz said, describing how a favorite spatzle dish of hers is made. "So good."
Julz said she's also "blown away" by some of her customers' takes on spatzle.
"One woman did garlic, spinach, dill, feta cheese and Kalamata olives," she said. "That was like, amazing."
Marty easily remembers the date the two sold their first package as The Vermont Spatzle Company: June 3, 2017.
"It was a day that I brought the stuff and didn't know if we would sell one package or not," Julz said. "I just brought like 20 in a cooler and said, gee, I wonder if I'm going to sell them. And they were gone, like instantly. So that was good."
That first selling effort was at a local farmers market; the two have since expanded their efforts to mail-order sales, retail, restaurant sales and selling in-person at other markets.
The couple make their spatzle in a 134-square-foot production room with commercial stainless-steel equipment, producing about 250 pounds of product per day in a mixing, straining, cooling and packing process. It's an about eight-hour effort.
"There's a lot of cleanup," Marty said.
It's hard work, with long days. But they have fun — playing music as they work.
"We have a random shuffle from Dean Martin to belly dance to heavy metal," Marty said.
They sell a 12 ounce retail package to stores, which costs about $6, and a 2 pound "family pack" to farmers markets and restaurants costs $12.
The couple handles every aspect of the business, from selling, packing, manufacturing and distributing to label design and social media.
"We are the whole company," Julz said. "We do everything."
But for them, the effort is worth it.
"We call it sharing the spatzle love," Marty said. "Especially for the gluten-free people. Because if you've ever heard of gluten-free items they're subpar in their pasta and bread categories. And this product is finally a product where the gluten-free version is better than the original."
The texture and durability is better, Julz said. The spatzle keeps it shape, even after being boiled all day, she said.
Julz calls the life of a spatzle maker "the best" compared to what she's done before.
"Because every ounce of energy is for ourselves," she said. "We worked hard our entire lives for other people. And I appreciate every day what we do. And I feel so grateful about it."
There are long, tiring days. But Julz said she can only recall one bad day in the spatzle world.
That was the day they sold all their stock at a farmers' market, as they hadn't planed production properly. So they had to come back and make more spatzle that night.
"We were both so tired," Marty said. "The batter didn't come right."
"We had to throw the batter away and start again," Julz said. "That's the only time. The rest of it has been really, really good."
Bennington Banner reporter
Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached
at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter
and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.
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