The Bavarian pretzel, a classic Oktoberfest snack, has come a long way since its modest origins in 610 A.D. when Italian monks made them from leftover bread-dough scraps. The most familiar and traditional version of the pretzel is that of the twisted knot meant to symbolize the arms folded in prayer. Once considered a European holy food with healing powers, the basic flour and water pretzel has been an American staple ever since European immigrants brought the recipe with them to U.S. shores in the 18th and 19th century.
Pretzels, whether the soft or hard variety, are the third most popular salty snack food by share of total sales, behind potato and tortilla chips, and annual per capita consumption is a whopping 2 lbs. The Mid-Atlantic States have earned the label “Pretzel Belt of America” with a 4 lbs per capita consumption per year, twice the national average. This is hardly surprising, since it was indeed the Palantine Germans, later known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, who first introduced pretzels to the New World in 1710.
Bretz’n and Obatzder
Especially popular in Southern Germany, the Brezel as it is known in this region, is a familiar sight at the annual Munich Oktoberfest. Visitors to the famed beer festival will remember the so-called “Brotfrauen” (bread ladies) carrying super-sized pretzels in huge baskets from table to table. The salty snack is an essential accompaniment to the ubiquitous beer and a cheese spread called Obatzder.
Get your Bavarian Pretzels
While there are hundreds of companies manufacturing pretzels in the U.S., there are variety of importers and bakers selling original Bavarian brez’n with all the crunch and taste you remember from your visit to Germany. These pretzels are made under the strict guidelines of the German Purity Law, using only natural ingredients, and contain no preservatives, flavorings or color additives. Under this law, pretzels may briefly be dipped into food-grade lye (a liquid made from baking soda or other alkaline food-grade substances) which gives the outside the crunchy texture.