So—once again, my husband has found his way into one of my blog posts—and as usual, he has food in his hand and a smile on his face. The reason this time is a hand-rolled, fresh-baked, yeasty, buttery, warm, soft pretzel. These are a common treat in both Amish Indiana and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and we’ve been known to grab a beverage make a meal out of them! I’ve written about these pretzels before, but this time, I decided to find out more about them.
The recipe for soft pretzels is available all over the internet and in “Pennsylvania Dutch” or Amish cookbooks. The ingredients are simple: flour, sugar, salt, yeast, warm water, egg, butter, and coarse salt for sprinkling on top. When they are bought at a pretzel place, dipping sauces are usually available. The traditional ones are sweet or spicy mustard, but offerings these days include such choices as cheddar cheese, cream cheese, marinara, nacho cheese, vanilla icing, caramel, or hot fudge. (But we like them plain! You can’t improve on perfection.)
But where did soft pretzels come from?
The website for the oldest pretzel factory in the United States, www.JuliusSturgis.com, says that the Palatine Germans—known on our side of the pond as the “Pennsylvania Dutch”—brought pretzels with them when they came to the United States in the 1800s. (Other sites say it was the 1700s.)
I learned on www.TodayIFoundOut.com that the Sturgis Pretzel Factory was founded in 1861 in Lititz, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The soft pretzel came first; the hard pretzel was a later development. This website says, “It’s believed that Sturgis’ factory was the first to develop hard pretzels. These crunchy, salty snacks lasted longer in an airtight environment than soft pretzels did, allowing them to be sold in stores far away from the bakery and kept on shelves much longer.” Even today, 80% of American pretzels are made in Pennsylvania.
One more thing: If you can’t just drop everything and head to Amish Indiana or Pennsylvania for a pretzel, here’s the next best thing—head to the mall and purchase a pretzel from Auntie Anne’s. Quoting from the website www.amish365.com:
“Perhaps the most well-known Amish pretzel baker is Anne Beiler, founder of the Auntie Anne’s Pretzel chain… She was born into an Old Order Amish home in Pennsylvania, but the family switched to the Amish Mennonite faith when she was a young child. Anne Beiler started selling pretzels from a farmers market stand years ago and now sits atop a pretzel empire with outlets all over the world.”