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#Halloween Memories of My Mom

picture of young pauline

This photograph is not a Halloween costume because I would have frozen to death trying to trick or treat in that. But I don’t have pictures of our trick or treating. My mom made the dress for me because she knew I loved to play dress up. I look very serious in this photo because, hello, I was a princess!

It was a dark and stormy night…

Or so it seemed for many of my childhood Halloweens. Most of the time my costume would be hidden under a coat. That didn’t matter. All the holidays of my childhood seemed, in hindsight, to have been magical.

I give all credit to my mom. I do not know how she did it because there were six kids and money was scarce. Somehow she managed to make it fun, even if we were wearing old sheets with ragged eye holes cut out.

My favorite Halloween memory revolves around food. I know, what a shock.

So back in the “olden days” Halloweens could be a bit wild and woolly. They also had better treats. None of that packaged nonsense. While we were poor enough to not mind pre-packaged treats, there was still a bit of scorn for households without candied apples or popcorn balls or—my personal favorite—my mom’s spud nuts.

The memories of those spud nuts still haunt me to this day.

Making spud nuts was truly a labor of love and took hours. Mix the dough. Let it rise. Roll it out and cut out 100 circles of dough AND then dig out the holes. (Holes are great, too, btw.)

It seemed to take forever for the moment when the cooking would commence.

The sizzle as the doughy circles hit the hot grease. Yes, grease, glorious grease. Sorry anti-fry people, but there is nothing as perfect as dough meeting grease.

We’d hover just outside the hot grease splatter zone waiting for one side, then the other to turn just the right brown. Mom would pop them out onto paper towel (there is grease and then there is GREASE), and then they’d get a bath in the glaze. And finally, finally, they’d arrive in the rack where the eating could begin.

It must have been something to see her work disappear into mouths as fast as she could cook it. So many mouths.

Eventually, we’d slow down and finally stop. Okay, I’ll confess it here: I hated seeing them being handed out. Lol Even after totally pigging out on spud nuts, I would also hope there’d be leftovers for the next day.

Sometimes they were all handed out. Sometimes there were leftovers, but my brothers managed to beat me to them and they’d be gone. My mom used to claim they both had hollow legs because they were always hungry, no matter how often she fed them.

It’s funny how the spud nuts are stronger in my memory than the actual trick or treating. It was fun but…spud nuts!

If you’ve never eaten one, I’m so sorry for you. I’ll share mom’s recipe, but she took her magic with her when she passed away last year. So anyway, my sister and I decided to try to bring back the magic and spent fours hours on Saturday making these bad boys. If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter then you might have seen some of our donut making progress. And yes, this is a LOT of donuts.

yes, that is a lot of donuts!

So here’s our report on our experiment in making spud nut magic. We started with this recipe from my mom:

Spud Nuts (makes 100 donuts)

1 cup water

1 cup shortening

2 tsp salt

3 cups milk

1 cup sugar

2 cups instant mashed potatoes

Heat all ingredients together and cool. Add:

5 or 6 beaten eggs

2 yeast cakes

2 tsp lemon juice

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp lemon rind (optional)

9 1/2 cups of sifted flour.

Mix together, let rise two hours. Roll and cut doughnuts and let rise 1/2 hour. Fry in deep fat 375 degrees. Drain.


1 cup scalded milk

2 packages of powdered sugar (1 lb size)

Mix well and dip the donuts. Place on a rack.

Because my mom is not around to ask, we had some places we ran into trouble. Should the instant potatoes be mixed into mashed potatoes? What was the proper amount of yeast? So we guessed and panicked because the dough felt heavy.

So, because we didn’t want to put hours into donuts and end up without donuts, we decided to also do a recipe my sister had done before. Seven years ago, actually. So it was also a leap of faith. So, while’s the original mom recipe was raising in front of the fireplace, we started on this recipe:

The Non-Mom’s Spud Nut Recipe (makes 36)

1/4 mashed potatoes (we used instant, but made them up)

3 eggs (beaten)

1/2 cup sugar

Cream together until light and fluffy

1/2 cup of water at 110-115 degrees

3 tablespoons of yeast (yes, you are reading that right)

Mix together

3 cups warm water

1 tablespoon salt

3/4 cup dry milk (instant)

Add warm water, salt and dry milk and yeast mixture to first four ingredients. Add enough flour to make a soft but not sticky dough. (Approx 10 cups)

Cover counter with thin layer of flour. Roll out dough to 1/2 thick. Cut and let rise for at least an hour or until double in size.

While raising, heat fry pan to 375 degrees and add enough oil to fill just under half the pan. Cook donuts until brown and turn over. Drain on paper towel and dip in glaze or sugar.

The report:

So, the not-Mom recipe worked better for us and produced lighter donuts in a shorter time, which is a huge plus. But we liked the Mom Recipe glaze better (milk vs water). We both feel the problem was in using flakes, not making the potatoes up which reduced the moisture in the dough and we might not have converted the yeast properly. It seemed like they just didn’t raise enough. However, both donuts tasted awesome.

If you have not had donuts made with potatoes, I feel sorry for you. Because they elevate donuts to a level of awesome that is hard to explain.

Have you ever had the glorious and practically perfect spud nut? Do you remember the days of being able to score home-made treats on Halloween night? So what is it like now (asks the Grandma)?

I love comments so much that I pick a favorite to receive a $25 gift card from my Zazzle store. The recipient is announced in the first blog post of the new month.

Perilously yours,


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