Christmas in my childhood revolved around food as much as presents, and one of my strongest memories is my two sisters and I helping my mother make doughnuts in our farmhouse kitchen. We’d spend most of an afternoon on the task.
My mother’s doughnuts weren’t the airy, super-sweet ones with frosting or glazes that most bakeries offer today. She made a dense, delicious cake doughnut, and Using the recipe in a 1930s Rumford Complete Cook Book, she mixed three cups of flour, a dash of salt, three teaspoons of baking powder, 2/3 of a cup of sugar, two eggs gathered the previous afternoon, and a cup of milk from the morning milking. The mixture formed a soft dough that she rolled out with the wood rolling pin.
My sisters and I took turns cutting out the doughnuts with a round tin cutter and putting them on one plate and the holes on another. My mother would smoosh together the fragments left and roll out the dough again. We’d repeat the operation until nothing bigger than the holes remained.
By then my mother would have heated lard from the latest hog butchering in a deep pot. When the fat boiled, she dropped in the doughnuts one at a time. The pot would hold only about half a dozen, and we waited impatiently until she lifted out one batch and dropped in another.
When the doughnuts had drained and cooled enough for us to handle them with our fingers, we put them, one at a time, in a bowl of sugar, turning the doughnut until the grains lightly covered both sides. We did the holes last, rolling them around in the sugar. Many went into our mouths rather than onto the platter.
Years later I learned my mother dreaded making doughnuts because of the time a big batch took and the care necessary to avoid one of us getting burned by the boiling fat.
I haven’t had a homemade doughnut in decades, but I still remember how good they were and how much my sisters and I enjoyed making them.