Fastnachts are traditionally served on Fat Tuesday, which is next week, and follows a tradition of using up remaining lard, sugar, fat and butter before
Fastnachts are traditionally served on Fat Tuesday, which is next week, and follows a tradition of using up remaining lard, sugar, fat and butter before Lent. (DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS - FILE)
What's the secret to a successful Fastnacht Day?

According to Sam Hartman, owner of Hartman's Bakery in Spring Garden Township, it's the weather.

The local holiday, which is more widely known as Fat Tuesday, can fall in February or March depending on when Lent begins. According to Hartman, the earlier, the better.

"You don't feel like a doughnut and coffee when it's nice out," he said.

Tuesday will mark a late Fastnacht Day, and Hartman said orders are down a little from last year. His usual customers are in line -- York Hospital serves Hartman's deep fried treats in its cafeteria once a year and about 100 dozen will be sent to the Charles Ilyes Family stand at Market & Penn Farmers' Market in York.

But no one will know the final sales until the day is over, Hartman said.

The Pennsylvania Dutch tradition of Fastnacht Day began with Lenten fasters looking to use up remaining lard, sugar, fat and butter before the season began -- thus the cupboard-emptying deep fried potato pastry was born.

Groups across the county are gearing up to carry on the tradition by serving the gut-busting doughnuts next week.

The York County Heritage Trust on East Market Street in York has been serving fastnachts for more than 20 years, said Emily Moore, director of development for the trust. Members of the trust's auxiliary serve the fastnachts for free, but they don't make them on site.

The trust pre-ordered 30 dozen from Hartman's Central Market stand, Moore said.

"It portrays some of York County's history," she said. "It's kind of a neat way to tie it back into the community."

But making fastnachts is also extremely labor-intensive, and groups that make their own have dwindled.

Rosie Horton, director of the Stewartstown Senior Center, has been making fastnachts with the help of local seniors since 1993. This year the center has pre-orders for 187 dozen, and there will be more sales on Fastnacht Day, she said.

Usually when the senior center comes up with a good fundraiser, another group will try it, too, cutting into business, Horton said. Not the fastnachts.

"It's a very hard job and very long hours," Horton said. "Nobody wants to put that much work into anything."

But it's tradition. Horton's recipe came from her husband when he was in the military. Her father made it for years before he died in 1987. Now she makes the fastnachts in his memory.

The late date for Fastnacht Day this year doesn't bother Horton so much. At least the weather will be fine.

"It's good in a way for us," she said. "I always have to worry about it being a snow storm and that fouls things up. Last year it snowed before we finished."

Some ways to get them

--- Hartman's Bakery sells fastnachts year-round in dozen and half-dozen bags at 241 Imperial Drive in York. Call 741-2209 to pre-order.

--- The York County Heritage Trust will offer free fastnachts and coffee from 9:30 a.m. to noon Tuesday.

--- The Stewartstown Senior Center will sell fastnachts Tuesday at the Stewartstown United Methodist Church, 26 S. Main St., Stewartstown, in dozen and half-dozen bags. To pre-order call 993-3488. Messages can be left for Rosie Horton.

--- Maple Donuts locations

--- Brown's Orchards & Farm Markets: 8892 Susquehanna Trail South, Loganville, or 3100 N. George St., Manchester Township

Fastnacht recipe

3  eggs

1/2  cup sugar

2  teaspoons salt

1 1/4  cups mashed potatoes

11/2  cups scalded milk

1  cup melted lard or Crisco, cooled

1  2-ounce packet of yeast cake, dissolved in 1 cup water

10  cups sifted flour Beat eggs; add sugar, salt, mashed potatoes, scalded-cooled milk, melted lard or Crisco, cooled yeast cake dissolved in a cup of warm water and 5 cups of flour. Beat all together. Then add 5 more cups of flour as you knead to make a smooth dough. Refrigerate three hours or overnight. Roll out. Cut and let rise one hour. Fry to golden brown.

Source: "Society of Farm Women of Pennsylvania Cookbook"

On the blogs

· Fastnachts are a York County delicacy. But how are Fastnachts different from donuts?