How Did The Pretzel Get its Shape?
Pretzels have been around since the Middle Ages and evolved initially in Europe. The Catholic Church has claimed that they first played a leading role in early pretzel history. But how did how did pretzels end up looking like a heart, knot or twisty bow?
There are several legends as to how they were created and designed. One legend is that they were first created by monks and named “pretiolas” meaning “little rewards” for their students for reciting their prayers correctly. Other stories say that Germans made them and called them “bretzel” derived from the Latin word “bracellae” or “little arms” due to the way they are folded and twisted into shape. From those origins it is believed that the word “pretzel” came about. Basically, they are supposed to remind one of hands praying. Because pretzels were consumed during Lent, they were also associated with the Holy Trinity – The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The shape of pretzels eventually became to symbolize undying love, luck and prosperity. Switzerland’s royal couples used a pretzel in their wedding ceremonies. The phrase “tying the knot” may have derived from that tradition. For New Years, German children would wear pretzel necklaces for good luck.
Germany has long been the country for which most people associate the pretzel’s origin. They were brought over to North America by German and Swiss immigrants in the 1700’s.
Pretzels were made by hand until the 1930’s. A worker could twist 40 pretzels a minute. In 1935 the Reading Pretzel Machinery Company used an automated machine that could produce 245 pretzels per minute. These were hard pretzels and had a longer shelf life.
The recipe has varied with different flavors and textures. Traditionally they were made with wheat flour, salt, yeast, and baking soda. There are soft and hard pretzels. Salt was the seasoning of preference in its early days. Besides salt they have been seasoned with cheese, sugar, chocolate, cinnamon, seeds, or nuts.
Currently eighty percent of the pretzels made in America are made in Pennsylvania and they are more popular than ever with over 181 million American pretzel consumers. No matter what flavor you choose to indulge in this knotty snack, it is one of the oldest and most delicious treats in history and still immensely loved today!