The Bottom Line: Fun facts about pretzels!
The Full Story:
- The early pretzels were the “soft” variety. No one knows the exact year pretzels were created for sure, but it’s widely believed that they were invented by Christian monks in Italy around the year 610 A.D. It’s said that Italian monks shaped strips of baked dough to resemble arms crossing the chest as if in prayer, then gave them as treats to children as a way to reward them for learning their prayers. These treats are said to be called “pretiola,” or “little rewards.”
- Historians believe the pretzel may have first come to America by way of the Mayflower in 1620. It is said early settlers would sell them to the Native Americans, who would pay any price for them.
- Hard pretzels are a somewhat more of a modern invention. In Lititz, Pennsylvania in the year 1861, Julius Sturgis is credited for having created the first commercial pretzel bakery. This factory is believed to be the first to develop hard pretzels. The salty snacks would last longer in an air tight setting, allowing them to be sold in stores further away from the bakery and stored on shelves for much longer. Popularity grew and now, hard pretzels are one of the better selling snacks in the United States.
- The pretzel became the symbol of the baker’s guild in the late 12thIn fact, you couldn’t become a master in the guild until you could bake the perfect pretzel.
- The term “Tying the Knot” comes from 16th century Alsace where the pretzel was a part of the wedding ceremony. The bride and groom would wish upon and break a pretzel like a wishbone, then eat it to signify their oneness.
- Catholic churches once considered the pretzel to have religious significance. Especially during Lent, when lard, dairy products, and eggs were not allowed to be eaten.
- Pretzels were handmade until the late 1930’s. The Reading Pretzel Machinery Company introduced the first automated pretzel machine in 1935. This enabled bakeries to make 245 pretzels per minute, a far cry from the 40 pretzels per minute by workers.
- About 80% of the nation’s pretzel production is in Pennsylvania.
- Annually, more than $550-million worth of pretzels are sold in the United States.
- Pretzels are most popular in the U.S. and Germany.
- Hard pretzels are commonly enjoyed covered in yogurt or chocolate.
- Soft pretzels are enjoyed most with melted cheese or mustard.