Fausnacht Day in Lancaster PA

February 10, 2010

Being new residents of Lancaster County, we’re having fun learning about and experiencing the local customs and traditions. We were ready for New Years day with delicious pork and sauerkraut; that was actually a tradition I carried down to Texas with me, I just never got into the whole black eyed pea thing.

But just when you think you’re getting a handle on all the local lore, something new comes along to remind you that there’s SO much history, culture and unique character in Lancaster County, that I think we’ll need to live here 20 years just to scratch the surface!

Our most recent lesson was “Fasnacht Day”. “What”, you ask “is that”? I had to ask the same thing, followed by lots of Googling, and this is what I’ve come up with:

Tuesday, February 16th is Fausnacht Day.  There are around a million spellings for this day, and since no one spelling seemed 'correct', I've used 'em all in this post! A "Fasnacht"..."Fastnacht" ...or "Faschnacht", is a fatty doughnut treat served traditionally on Fastnacht Day (Shrove Tuesday), the day before Lent starts. Fasnachts were made as a way to empty the pantry of lard, sugar, fat, and butter, plus leavening agents, which were traditionally forbidden during Lent.

In parts of Maryland, the treats are called Kinklings, and are only sold in bakeries on Shrove Tuesday. If you are of Polish descent, you make a doughnut called Paczki (prounced Punshki) and they are a yeast donut raised and filled with jelly. The German version is made from a yeast dough, deep fried, and coated or dusted in sugar or cinnamon sugar; they may be plain or filled with fruit jam. Pennsylvania Dutch fasnachts are often made from potato doughnuts, and may be uncoated, powdered with table sugar, or dusted with confectioner's sugar.

The term is synonymous with the Carnival season Fasnacht in southern Germany, Switzerland, Alsace and Austria. Although usually written "Fastnacht", there are many local spoken varieties Fasnacht, Fassenacht, Fasnet etc

So basically, in New Orleans they celebrate “Mardi Gras” or “Fat Tuesday” with king cake; in Central Pennsylvania they celebrate Fastnacht Day with doughnuts! If anyone wants to give it a try, here’s a recipe I found during my research. I’ll be serving fassnachts at the Smithton Inn for breakfast on Fausnacht Day (...join us...!) but I hear the Shop Right in Akron has the best ones around, so I may leave the homemade version to braver souls than me.

Fastnacht RecipeMakes 50 fassnachts
¼ cup warm water
1 pkg. yeast
2 tbsp. sugar
2½ cups lukewarm milk
4½ cups flour
4 eggs, beaten
½ cup lard, melted
1 cup sugar
dash of salt
5 ½ cups flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water.

Mix next three ingredients together, then add to yeast mixture. Set in warm place and let rise overnight.

In the morning add next four ingredients. Add last batch of flour slowly; it may not all be needed. Dough should be sticky but able to be handled.

Let rise until doubled, approximately 2 hours.

Roll out and cut with biscuit or doughnut cutter, with or without a center hole. Let rise 1 hour.

Deep fry in hot oil at 375 degrees for several minutes, turning until brown on both sides.