Perhaps you don’t live in our neck of the woods and have never heard of this very awesome holiday (boy are you missing out)! For the rest of the country, you may know this simply as Donut Day, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras. They all come from the same idea of using up the fats in your kitchen before beginning the Lenten season. Here in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, it’s known simply as Fastnacht Day.
Last year we had some spare time and went through the trouble of making our own fastnachts (and boy were they good). Unfortunately this year, we didn’t have this time, but stood in a very long line to get “fastnachts,” or at least that’s what they were called. Simply put, they were a glazed donut (which did taste good as well), and although labeled fastnachts, they were a donut that was missing that heavy potato goodness that a real fastnacht has.
|My husband rolling out the fastnacht dough.|
Fastnacht, which translates to the “eve of fasting,” is a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch potato donut made on the eve of Lent to cleanse the house of all lard, fat, sugar and butter that were to be given up during the Lenten season. The fastnachts were traditionally either cut into a doughnut shape or squares, and surprisingly had little sugar in them, but sprinkled with powdered sugar, honey, molasses or maple syrup, they certainly sweetened up.
|Cutting the fastnachts into donut shapes instead of their traditional squares.|
Few places in the local area still make real fastnachts, so we dug out our Mennonite cookbooks last year and spent the day kneading, rolling, cutting and frying three dozen fastnachts for us and some of my family members to try for the first time.
|Fastnachts rising on the counter before heading to the fry oil.|
Of course we did "cheat" a few times, cutting them into donuts instead of squares, frying them in oil instead of more of the traditional lard (I didn't buy that much lard), and not frying them in cast iron over the open fire. Oh well, it was pretty cold last year at this time as well, so I'm sure standing outside was out of the question then too.
|My husband flipping the fastnachts in the fry oil over the stove.|
For those of you desiring to make your own fastnachts instead of eating donuts for breakfast, enjoy this recipe from the Landis Valley Farm Museum in The Landis Valley Cookbook: Pennsylvania German Foods & Traditions, which is similar to the recipe we used last year. Enjoy!