“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” comes to mind when we’re reminded that Martin’s Handmade pretzels have been made in exactly the same way since 1935. It all started in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania with Uncle Henry in a barn trying his hand at the crunchy twisted treat introduced to North America in the 19th century. Henry passed the pretzel business onto nephew Lloyd in the ‘70s, and Lloyd passed it onto brother Clarence in the early aughts.
But it’s still Lloyd who is up and at ‘em at 6 am mixing up 150 pounds of pretzel dough at their Upstate New York bakery. He puts in eight to nine hour days alongside his dozen Mennonite employees who don the traditional white caps and long dresses, singing hymns while they work. It would seem as if time were standing still if these women weren’t speedily rolling and twisting 10 pretzels per minute! That adds up to 26,000 pretzels each day (except for Sunday when they rest their nimble hands).
A mainstay at New York City’s Greenmarket since 1982, these pretzels that the New York Times called “the Rolls Royce of pretzels,” have legions of fans. The short and sweet list of ingredients—flour, salt, yeast and soda—belies the amazing result. The absence of shortening keeps them super crispy and a ten minute bask in a 550-degree oven gives them a toasty flavor that makes us reach for another and another. No mustard needed.