The iconic bagel has deep roots in New York City though the history can actually be traced back to the 17th century and the Jewish community in Central Europe; specifically Warsaw and Krakow, Poland. Many stories abound however no one really knows which is true. What we do know is that the bagel has developed an amazing history in New York City ever since it arrived in the late 19th century. From here "New York bagels" have developed a legendary reputation around the world. And "bagels" are found almost everywhere now. True bagels are boiled then baked to create a crunchy outside and chewy middle with a signature malty essence.
Starting in the 1890s, these proud bagel makers from Poland immigrated to Manhattan's Lower East Side bringing their craft with them. Wanting to preserve this delicacy, they organized into a union in 1905 called Beigel Bakers Union Local 338. You had to be born into it so all members had lineage to the original bagel bakers. These men controlled all of the bagel making in the New York City area and had up to 300 members in the 1940s and 50s...the glory years for bagels. They were sworn to guard the secret recipe and technique with their well paying careers being in jeopardy if they taught anyone outside of the union.
By the late 1960s, this immensely powerful union started suffering once automation was introduced to bagel production. Non-union groups began to make bagels seeing a lucrative opportunity to get involved in the bustling industry the union had created. By the 1970s, the union was forced to merge into a larger bakery union and an era had come to a close. Since then, bagels have gotten much bigger and non-traditional ingredients have been added in an attempt to enhance and speed up the process. Cheaper ingredients and dough conditioners are now commonplace with most bagels today being much different than they were in the glory years.
In the 1980s, bagels surged in popularity mostly with the help of Lender's Bagels from New Haven, Connecticut who introduced the frozen bagel to supermarkets across the country. Because of the higher density flour that is used in bagels to give them their chewiness, bagels freeze exceptionally well. Noshman's leverages this advantage and also is lucky that its master baker was passed the secret recipe and techniques from some of the last surviving members of the bagel union's glory years.