|An assortment of pretzels|
In the late 18th century, southern German and Swiss German immigrants introduced the pretzel to North America. The immigrants became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, and in time, many handmade pretzel bakeries populated the central Pennsylvania countryside, and the pretzel's popularity spread.
In the 20th century, soft pretzels became popular in other regions of the United States. Cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York became renowned for their soft pretzels. The key to success was the introduction of the new mass production methods of the industrialized age, which increased the availability and quantity, and the opening up of multiple points of distribution at schools, convenience and grocery stores, and entertainment venues such as movie theaters, arenas, concert halls, and sport stadiums. Prior to that, street vendors used to sell pretzels on street corners in wooden glass-enclosed cases.
In particular, the S-shaped soft pretzel, often served with brown mustard, became iconic in Philadelphia and was established as a part of Philadelphia's cuisine for snacking at school, work, or home, and considered by most to be a quick meal. The average Philadelphian today consumes about twelve times as many pretzels as the national average.
Pennsylvania today is the center of American pretzel production for both the hard-crispy and the soft-bread types of pretzels. Southeastern Pennsylvania, with its large population of German background, is considered the birthplace of the American pretzel industry, and many pretzel bakers are still located in the area. Pennsylvania produces 80% of the nation's pretzels.
The annual United States pretzel industry is worth over $550 million. The average American consumes about 1.5 pounds (0.7 kg) of pretzels per year.
The privately run "Pretzel Museum" opened in Philadelphia in 1993. In 2003, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell declared April 26 "National Pretzel Day" to acknowledge the importance of the pretzel to the state's history and economy. Philly Pretzel Factory stores offer a free pretzel to each customer on this day.
Hard pretzels originated in the United States, where, in 1850, the Sturgis bakery in Lititz, Pennsylvania, became the first commercial hard pretzel bakery. Snack food hard pretzels were shaped as sticks (around 3 millimetres (0.12 in) thick and 12 centimetres (4.7 in) long), loops, braids, letters or little pretzels; they have become a popular snack in many countries around the world. A thicker variety of sticks can be 1 centimetre (0.39 in) thick; in the U. S. these are called Bavarian pretzels. Unlike the soft pretzels, these were durable when kept in an airtight environment and marketable in a variety of convenience stores. Large-scale production began in the first half of the 1900s, more so during 1930 to 1950. A prime example was in 1949, when highly innovative American Machine and Foundry Co., of New York City, developed the "pretzel bender": a new automatic crispy-styled baked pretzel-twisting machine that rolled and tied them at the rate of 50 a minute—more than twice as fast as skilled hand twisters could make them—and conveyed them through the baking and salting process. In Europe, snack-food pretzels are usually sprinkled with salt, but also with sesame seed, poppy seed or cheese. In the U.S., they come in many varieties of flavors and coatings, such as yogurt, chocolate, strawberry, mustard, cheese and others, and chocolate-covered hard pretzels are popular around Christmas time and given as gifts. The variety of shapes and sizes became contest of imagination in the marketing of the pretzels taste. During the 1900s, people in Philadelphia would use the small slender pretzel stick as a common accompaniment to ice cream or would crumble pretzels as a topping. This combination of cold sweet and salty taste was very popular for many years. Eventually this led to the development of an ice cream cone tasting like a pretzel. More recently Mars, Incorporated manufactures M&M's with a small spherical pretzel covered in milk chocolate and candy coated in all of the standard M&Ms colors, called "Pretzel M&M's".
Soft pretzels are frequently sold in shopping malls, with notable chains including Auntie Anne's and Pretzelmaker/Pretzel Time.
|Philadelphia style soft pretzel|
Sturgis Pretzel House in Lititz, Pennsylvania becomes the first commercial hard pretzel bakery in the United States.
The Anderson Pretzel Factory in Lancaster, Pennsylvania is founded. Today it calls itself the world's largest, producing 65 tons of hard pretzels daily.
The Reading Pretzel Machinery Company in Reading, Pennsylvania introduced the first automatic hard pretzel twisting machine.
The largest soft pretzel of its time, weighing 40 pounds and measuring 5 feet across, is baked by Joseph Nacchio of the Federal Pretzel Baking Company for film It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
The first machine-produced stamped cut soft pretzel was innovated at Federal Pretzel Baking Company.
The first Pretzel Museum of soft pretzels is opened in Philadelphia. A 7 minute film, demonstration of championship hand twisting at 57 per minute and tasting were highlights.
Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell declares April 26 National Pretzel Day to acknowledge the importance of the pretzel to the state's history and economy.
|Mini pretzel rods|
Freeport, Illinois, which sits about 100 miles outside of Chicago, is another city known for its rich pretzel history. In 1869, a German immigrant named John Billerbeck established the first Billerbeck Bakery which was known for selling German style pretzels to compliment the large number of breweries that existed in Freeport during this time. Prohibition eventually shut down the breweries which led to the decline of pretzel sales in Freeport, but the city never lost its pretzel pride. For more than 100 years Freeport has been known as "Pretzel City, USA." Their high school athletic mascot is the Pretzel and the football stadium has been appropriately named "Pretzel Field." In 2003, local citizens launched Freeport's first Pretzel Festival which is a large community event where residents get together to celebrate the city's pretzel history. Contestants are chosen to be crowned Pretzel Prince and Princess and a festival mascot by the name of "Pretzel Bill" (stemming from the Billerbeck Bakery name) dresses as a 6 foot tall walking talking pretzel who hands out pretzels from floats and takes photos with the local festival goers.
Although not as popular as among German speakers and Americans, the looped pretzel is known in other European countries and in other countries around the world. In the Czech Republic, the pretzel is known as preclík, in Finland as viipurinrinkeli, in Slovakia it is called praclík. The Spanish, French and Italians call it pretzel, bretzel or brezel, the Dutch favor sweet variants called krakeling, Norwegian and Danish call it a kringle, and the Swedish call it kringla. In Polish it is precel, in Hungarian and Croatian it is perec, and in Serbian it is pereca. In Romania the pretzel is known as a variety of covering and it is a very popular fast food in urban areas and also as a holiday gift.