One of America’s Favorites – Pretzels

February 29, 2016 at 6:06 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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An assortment of pretzels

An assortment of pretzels

A pretzel (German: Brezel or Breze) is a type of baked bread product made from dough most commonly shaped into a twisted knot. Pretzels originated in Europe, possibly among monasteries in the Early Middle Ages. The traditional pretzel shape is a distinctive symmetrical looped form, with the ends of a long strip of dough intertwined and then twisted back into itself in a certain way (“a pretzel loop”). Pretzels now come in different shapes. Salt is the most common seasoning for pretzels, complementing the washing soda or lye treatment that gives pretzels their traditional “skin” and flavor through the Maillard reaction; other seasonings include sugars, chocolate, glazes, seeds, and/or nuts.

 

 

Hard Pretzels

Hard 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

Mini pretzel rods

Mini pretzel rods

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.

 
Pennsylvania milestones

1800s

Philadelphia style soft pretzel

Philadelphia style soft pretzel

Southern German and Swiss German immigrants who became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch introduced soft pretzels and pretzel bakery businesses.
1861
Sturgis Pretzel House in Lititz, Pennsylvania becomes the first commercial hard pretzel bakery in the United States.
1889
The Anderson Pretzel Factory in Lancaster, Pennsylvania is founded. Today it calls itself the world’s largest, producing 65 tons of hard pretzels daily.
1935
The Reading Pretzel Machinery Company in Reading, Pennsylvania introduced the first automatic hard pretzel twisting machine.
1963
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.
1978
The first machine-produced stamped cut soft pretzel was innovated at Federal Pretzel Baking Company.
1993
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.
2003
Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell declares April 26 National Pretzel Day to acknowledge the importance of the pretzel to the state’s history and economy.

 
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.

 

Cheese of the Week – Gouda

July 3, 2012 at 10:28 AM | Posted in cheese, Food | Leave a comment
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Named after the Dutch town of Gouda, just outside Rotterdam. It accounts for more than 60% of the cheese produced in Holland and it has a very long history. Gouda is a traditional, creamery, hard cheese. It is round with very smooth, yellow, waxed rind. The flavor is sweet and fruity. As time passes, the taste intensifies and becomes more complex. Mature Gouda (18 months plus) is coated in black wax which provides a stark contrast to the deep yellow interior. Gouda is considered to be one of the world’s great cheeses. It is both a table cheese and a dessert cheese, excellent with fruit and wine. Gouda is now made globally in a style similar to the creation of Edam.
Country: Holland
Milk: cow milk
Texture: semi-hard
Fat content: 40 %
Gouda  is an orange cheese made from cow’s milk. The cheese is named after the city of Gouda in the Netherlands, but its name is not protected. However, the European Commission has confirmed that “Gouda Holland” is to be protected (although “Gouda” itself is not). Cheese under the name of Gouda is currently made and sold all around the world.
The cheese is from cultured milk that is heated until the curds separate from the whey. Some of the whey is then drained, and water is added. This is called “washing the curd”, and creates a sweeter cheese, as the washing removes some of the lactic acid. About ten percent of the mixture are curds, which are pressed into circular moulds for several hours. These moulds are the essential reason behind its traditional, characteristic shape. The cheese is then soaked in a brine solution, which gives the cheese and its rind a distinctive taste. The cheese is dried for a few days before being coated to prevent it from drying out, then it is aged. Depending on age classification, it can be aged a number of weeks to over seven years before it is ready to be eaten. As it ages, it develops a caramel sweetness and sometimes has a slight crunchiness from salt-like calcium lactate or tyrosine crystals that form in older cheeses. After 24 months of aging, sodium chloride crystals start to form around the outside casing of the cheese. These crystals are usually removed with a soft cloth.
The term “Gouda” is now a universal name, and not restricted to cheese of Dutch origin. The term “Noord-Hollandse Gouda” is

Gouda at a cheese market

registered in the EU as a Protected Geographical Status. The cheese itself was originally developed in Gouda which is in the Dutch province South Holland. The main distributor during this period of time was Pieter’s Kaas (Owned by Dutch priest Peter Haase)

Within the Netherlands, the cheeses vary based on age and additional ingredients. From young to old, these are: “Graskaas”, “Jong”, “Jong belegen”, “Belegen”, “Extra belegen”, “Oud” and “Overjarig”. Younger cheeses are creamier while older cheeses are harder and saltier.
Stinging nettle cheese, or “Brandnetelkaas”, is a type of gouda that contains stinging nettles (Urtica dioica). The small, green particles give the cheese a distinct flavour and appearance. Another variety of gouda contains small pieces of red capsicum, imparting a mildly spicy flavor.
Gouda is exported in two varieties: Young Gouda cheese, aged between 1 and 6 months, is a rich yellow in color and with a red or yellow paraffin wax coating. This cheese is easily sliced with a cheese slicer. Older Gouda cheese has a pungent underlying bitterness, yet is considerably creamier; it sometimes is discernible by a black paraffin wax coating. This strong-tasting cheese is hard and often brittle.
Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese
INGREDIENTS:
1 (16 ounce) package whole wheat pasta
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon paparika
4 ounces smoked Gouda cheese,
shredded
DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a 10 inch casserole dish.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
3. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook until a roux forms. Stir in the milk, salt and pepper; cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is smooth and thick and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in cheese.
4. Combine cooked pasta and cheese sauce; transfer to prepared dish.

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