Fastnacht Day

Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, is known in Pennsylvania Dutch Country as FASTNACHT DAY. What I remember from my youth was my Grandma Losch deep-frying dozens of fastnachts, or doughnuts, that are truly without equal.

History holds that among other traditions, making fastnachts, or doughnuts, was a way to use up the last of the lard or sweets in the house before embarking upon Lent, the Christian season of purification and self-denial.

While I can’t locate my grandma’s exact recipe for these fried delicacies, I do have one from the Pennsylvania Dutch Cookbook (published by Culinary Arts Books in Gettysburg, PA) that is close. It’s likely that I will fire up my own deep frier tomorrow and churn out some deep-fried doughy goodness… if only I can locate a doughnut cutter here in the suburbs of Washington, DC.  And if you want other sources, check out this post from Pennlive.com,  Bella Online, Suite 101, or Amish News, or this blog post that includes a photo.

FASTNACHTS

1 package active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water (110 – 115 degrees farenheit)

1 teaspoon sugar

3 cups sifted flour

2 cups milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm [I assume they don’t mean skim milk here – these are the Amish, by golly!]

3 eggs, well-beaten

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 1/2 to 4 cups sifted all-purpose flour

Large amount of vegetable oil for frying

In a small bowl, soften yeast in the warm water and let stand 5-10 minutes. 

In a larger bowl, pour the milk, and add the 1 teaspoon sugar and 3 cups sifted flour and stir until smooth.  Into this, stir in the water/yeast mixture.  Cover and place in a warm place and let rise until doubled. [The recipe doesn’t say how long, so keep an eye on it. Possibly an hour or so.]

To this mixture, use a wooden spoon to stir and add the eggs, butter and remaining sugar, salt, nutmeg, and enough flour until the mixture can no longer be stirred with a spoon (it will be a soft dough).

Cover and let rise until doubled. [Again, doesn’t say, probably 45-60 minutes or so.  Better have some reading material handy. Or some laundry.

Punch down this dough and divide into two portions.

On a floured surface, roll out each portion until it’s about half-an-inch thick. Cut with a doughnut cutter. Cover the cut-0ut dough and let rise in a warm place until (you guessed it!) DOUBLED! (You can do some crafts, such as knitting or crewel embroidery, while you’re waiting, or possibly, clean a room or three.  Don’t worry -you’ll have time.)

Once risen, fry the cut-out doughnuts in deep fat that has been heated to 370 degrees Farenheit, frying each piece 3-4 minutes or until lightly browned, turning over to brown evenly.  Remove from fat and drain. When cool, sprinkle with with powdered or granular sugar!

EAT and share, for tomorrow, we fast. Or, give up something. Or, whatever.

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Pig Stomach (Hog Maw)

Folks, don’t judge before you read about it. Try to stay with me for this one.  I remember my Grandma Losch making this, usually when Uncle John had butchered a pig.  It’s called Pig Stomach, also known as Hog Maw. Now, don’t get all grossed out and wrinkle your nose, because the stomach is really only the vessel inside which is roasted a savory mixture of seasoned meat and vegetables that’s really quite tasty. You don’t really eat the stomach part. Think of it as a sausage casing. Check out what Wikipedia has to say about it here.

Now, I don’t actually have my grandma’s recipe for this, so I turned to my friend The Internet to find one. And I got really lucky! Here are a couple of sites that have good descriptions and recipes for this traditional Pennsylvania Dutch recipe:

Teri’s Kitchen – she has a great recipe for Pig’s Stomach that looks to be very close to what I remember.

AllRecipes has a version of it here.

Lastly, I found a nice story by Donna Godfrey about her grandmother’s list of food required to feed the many folks who would be involved in a Mennonite or Amish barn-raising. At the end of the story is her grandma’s recipe for Pig’s Stomach, which she called Dutch Goose.

I also searched for images and found a great set, taken by a fellow Central Pennsylvanian. Thanks to cthoyes for letting me borrow these photos so you can get an idea of what this looks like:

If you don’t happen to be butchering your own pig (and really, nowadays, who has time?), you need to track down a pig stomach.  There really is no substitute. Where I live, that probably means I would first have to find a butcher shop, because I don’t think they have this at Safeway in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.  However, in regions where people would not look at you funny when you ask for this, you may be able to snag one at a grocery store with a good meat department. This fellow found one at a great grocery store in Central PA, Karns Market:

Pig Stomach, a.k.a. Hog Maw
Pig Stomach, a.k.a. Hog Maw

Then, you make the filling, which contains bulk ground sausage, potatoes, and other yummy-good things:

The Filling
The Filling

Then, you put the filling into the stomach – not YOUR stomach, silly, that comes later – the raw pig stomach. Think of it like stuffing a giant sausage casing:

Pig stomach, Ready to bake
Pig stomach, Ready to bake

Then you bake it and it gets all juicy and yummy good. For Realz.

Just slice 'n' eat!
Just slice 'n' eat!

The thing about this dish is that, even though I remember my grandma making it, I myself have never made it and I sure don’t know anyone my age who has made it.  It’s definitely a regional thing and may in many ways be a generational thing. My children may never eat this.  If nothing else, I have tried to capture it here so that you know a little bit about where I come from, a little piece of the history of rural Central Pennsylvania.

If you have memories of eating – or making – this dish, I would appreciate reading about it. Please leave a comment below.

I’m still here!

Hey y’all (doing my best Paula Deen imitation) –

Just checking in to say, I haven’t forgotten about this blog. I just haven’t made time to post anything new. I still have a handful of recipes to post from my grandmothers’ recipe boxes. Once I get through those, I may shift to posting some of my own greatest hits.

Anyway – please keep checking back, because I will post again soon.  Until then, if you’re dying to read other stuff that I’ve written, visit me at Soup Is Not A Finger Food, my other blog that has absolutely nothing to do with soup. Or food.  But it’s funny, often, so go check it out! See you there.

Cheers,

Meg