October 7th officially marks the sweet and salty goodness of National Chocolate Covered Pretzel Day. Whether they’re dipped in dark, milk or white chocolate, be sure to celebrate every mouthwatering pretzel bite!
- Many creative stories have been shared to explain how pretzels and chocolate came together. One tale tells of a German baker joining forces with his chocolatier neighbor in the 1500s to dip pretzels. However, this idea is purely imagination. Why? Because only drinking chocolate existed in those days.
- Nearly 300 years later, Coenraad Johannes van Houten developed a process to separate the cocoa solids from the butter. Then, in 1828, his creation brought on a candy revolution which led to the development of the most amazing, versatile ingredient we have today: chocolate!
- The first commercial hard pretzels, the kind that makes the combination with chocolate so irresistible, came along in 1861. Julius Sturgis opened a bakery in a house built around 1784 in Lititz, Pennsylvania. He used a recipe given to him by an unnamed friend. How long people had been making hard pretzels before then is unknown. The marriage of two delicious treats, chocolate, and pretzels, came along sometime after that.
- According to The History of Science and Technology, in 610 AD “…an Italian monk invents pretzels as a reward to children who learn their prayers. He calls the strips of baked dough, folded to resemble arms crossing the chest, ‘pretiola’ (“little rewards”)”.
- The pretiola’s popularity grew and spread to France and Germany, where it took on the German name, bretzel. At some point, the bretzel and the pretiola became the pretzel!
- Hard pretzels are a more recent snack. They are thought to have been created in the late 1600s when a baker in Pennsylvania forgot a batch of pretzels in the oven. The pretzels were dark and hard, but the baker tried them anyway and loved how crunchy they were.
- The first National Pretzel Day was declared in 1983 by Robert S. Walker. Pennsylvania’s Governor Ed Rendell re-declared the holiday in April of 2003.
- Southeastern Pennsylvania is considered the birthplace of the American pretzel industry, and many pretzel bakeries are still located in the area. Pennsylvania produces 80% of the nation’s pretzels.
- Perhaps because of its religious roots, the pretzel has long been considered a good-luck symbol. German children wear pretzels around their necks on New Year’s Day. In Austria in the 16th century, pretzels adorned Christmas trees, and they were hidden along with hard-boiled eggs on Easter morning.
- The phrase “tying the knot” came from the Swiss, who still incorporate the lucky pretzel in wedding ceremonies. Newlyweds traditionally make a wish and break a pretzel, in the same way people in other cultures break a wishbone or a glass.
- In Austria, signs outside many bakeries depict a lion holding a pretzel-shaped shield. According to a legend that dates to 1510, pretzel bakers working before dawn heard Ottoman Turks tunneling under Vienna’s city walls and then sounded an alarm. The city was saved, and the bakers were awarded their unique coat of arms by the Viennese king.
- The first pretzel to journey to America is thought to have come over on the Mayflower.
- Julius Sturgis opened the first commercial pretzel bakery in Lititz, Pennsylvania, in 1861. He received his original pretzel recipe as a thank you from a down-on-his-luck job seeker after Sturgis gave the man dinner.
- Until the 1930s, pretzels were handmade, and the average worker could twist 40 a minute. In 1935, the Reading Pretzel Machinery Company introduced the first automated pretzel machine, which enabled large bakeries to make 245 pretzels per minute, or five tons in a day.
- The average U.S. citizen consumes up to two pounds of pretzels per year, but Philadelphians snack on about 12 pounds of pretzels per person every year.
- President George W. Bush was munching on a pretzel in the White House when he choked and lost consciousness while watching the 2002 Baltimore-Miami NFL playoff.
- It is estimated that Americans consume about two pounds of pretzels each year.