Aunt Ruthie and Fasnacht Doughnuts

A throw-back to celebrations in the Old Country, Fasnacht Day had its origins in Switzerland, southern Germany, Alsace, and western Austria. In Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Fasnacht Day is celebrated on the eve before Lent. Think “Mardi Gras” but less bawdy! Aunt Ruthie, a main character in the play that was my childhood, made fasnachts religiously for the family each year and enough to share with her students at Rheems Elementary School.

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Fasnacht comes from the German word “fas” (fast) + “nacht” (night). On the Tuesday before the beginning of Lent, many German/Swiss cooks would rid their pantries of lard, sugar, butter, and fat by making fasnachts, as we called them.

If my Aunt Ruthie followed a recipe, she had it in her head and never wrote it down, so here is my adaptation based on the ingredients she told me:

Old Fashioned Fasnachts

8 cups flour

3 cups warm water into which some milk is added

1 pkg. yeast

3/4 (more or less) cup sugar

1/2 cup melted lard (oil) + 10x sugar for dusting the doughnuts

Mix yeast, sugar, salt, lard (or oil), warm water. Add flour, a cup at a time. Knead; let rise; knead again. Cut into squares. Cover and let rise again. Then deep fry at 360 degrees for 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Drain on rack — let rest — then dust with 10x sugar and you’re ready to celebrate!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches – You have to start somewhere!   Curtis in NaNa’s kitchen

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What recipes do you remember making as a child–with your mom, dad, grandmother, someone else?

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