Donuts! Or Doughnuts! Whichever spelling you prefer. It makes no difference to me how you spell it, donuts are a wonderful treat. And homemade donuts are especially delectable. Last Friday I was in a donut making mood and this was the result. Oh me, oh my!
I hadn't made donuts in a very long time. Certainly not the entire time we've lived in Florida which is now 4 1/2 years. And if I made them in Colorado it certainly wasn't more than one time. Any baking or cooking required a little extra thought there since there was the altitude issues to deal with and, if I recall correctly, the donuts I made that one time in the ten years we lived there, were not a rousing success.
But when we lived in Connecticut I made them often. It was a great chilly morning kind of treat. Of course back then, I had a houseful of hungry boys and their equally hungry friends to help eat them. And that they did. Gobbled 'em up by the handful. If I managed to snare one donut for my own indulgence I was lucky. (Which, in reflection, was probably a good thing. Donuts are tasty but not exactly a health food)
I am not certain why the urge to make donuts suddenly came over me again after all these years but I'm glad it did. I wasn't certain that I even remembered how to do it but what the heck, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
Luckily, it all started to come back to me and the process went well. Messy but well. The donuts, a nice old fashioned cake donut, turned out exactly as I'd hoped and we enjoying them tremendously. Once we had eaten our fill, I bagged and froze the rest to be enjoyed again another time. It was, as I'd hoped, a rare treat :)
The recipe I used was the one my Nana used to make and it was not original to her. The recipe is entitled, "Grammie York's Best Donuts". Grammie York is a mystery woman. Not a relative, there are no 'Yorks' in our family tree. And I can only assume that she was older than my Nana since she was known as "Grammie", And it got us to thinking about how old this recipe actually is.
My Nana was born in the 1890's. I want to say 1896 but I'm not sure that is correct. If this Grammie York was considered an old lady when Nana was young, then it's possible that Grammie York was thirty of forty years older than Nana which would mean Grammie was born in the 1850's or 60's. That's Civil War era, folks. It's possible that the same recipe I made last week was also enjoyed by Civil War Soliders. Holy Cats. And of course, it's also reasonable to presume that Grammie York did not originate this recipe on her own, who knows where she got it or how far back this recipe actually goes!
Well that got us to thinking - of course. How old is the "donut"? According to the admittedly quick research that I did, the donut in America came from Dutch settlers of the early 1800's who landed in what is now New York (Grammie York....coincidence?) It wasn't exactly the same as the donuts we know now, but similar. It was then called ab "okykoek' or oily cake. It was a sweet round fried cake with no hole in the middle.
No one knows for sure but the story goes that a Maine ship's captain, named Hanson Crockett Gregory, is responsible for the hole in the middle. It's a wonderful story and I hope it's true. According to the tale, in 1948 Captain Gregory, who was (at the time) a 16 year old crewman onboard a lime-trading ship, wasn't happy with the quality of the donuts that were served aboard the vessel. He described them as being fried around the edges but raw in the middle and the raw bits soaked up extra fat making them fairly indigestible. He wondered if putting a hole in the center would help fry the center bit as well. He claims to have taken the lid off of a pepperbox to cut the hole. And while it wasn't perfect, the result was a great improvement. So much so that he asked a tinsmith to fashion a proper donut cutter with a center hole.
When he returned to Camden Maine after his journey, he showed his mother the trick with his newly fashioned device. She was delighted with the result and shared plates of the improved donut with friends and family as far away as Rockland Maine. It took off like wildfire from there.
Now I must add here that my own Nana, from whom I got this recipe, was also an old Mainer. Her turf was Castine Maine. Camden, where Captain Hanson Gregory lived, was only 53 miles away and both towns are coastal Maine. My Nana's husband - Captain Ray Howard - was also a ships captain. so I'm seeing a possibility here of this recipe being, perhaps, one of the originals of Captain Gregory. Kind of exciting.
It seems that not only is it a yummy recipe and an old recipe, it's also a recipe with a great story attached and an interesting history. So yes! That was very fun. And Tasty.
Yet another adventure in the Humphreys Household.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.