The word "spud" is an old English nickname for the potato. As such, spudnuts are a doughnut made with potato as a main ingredient. Many of the European cultures that settled Saskatchewan brought a potato-based doughnut in their culinary repertoire. They used mashed potatoes, which produces a lighter fluffier doughnut than with flour alone.
In the early 1900s, spudnuts were introduced to the Saskatoon exhibition. For many years, they were made by volunteers, first by the Church of Latter Day Saints and then the Boy Scouts; Prairieland Park took over production a decade ago. As many as 90 employees are put to work making 45 batches of 200 spudnuts every day of the fair, rolling and forming each one by hand, according to Carl Schlosser, director of events at Prairieland Park.
Nowadays, he says, they do not use mashed potatoes but an exclusive (and secret) flour-dry potato mix. So, if you can't get to the Ex, you can enjoy some old-fashioned spudnuts at home.
2 1/4 tsp yeast (1 packet)
1/4 cup warm potato cooking water
1 cup mashed potatoes
3/4 cup warm milk
1/4 cup melted butter or vegetable oil
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp salt
3 – 4 cups flour
Vegetable oil or lard for deep frying
Dissolve yeast in warm potato water and let sit until frothy, about 10 minutes. Stir in mashed potatoes, milk, butter or oil, sugar, egg and salt. Add 3 cups flour and knead 8–10 minutes, adding the remaining flour as needed to form a smooth dough that is not sticky.
Place in an oiled bowl, turning the dough to oil all sides, cover with a tea towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down and rise again until doubled.
Roll dough to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Cut with a doughnut punch, or cut in circles and work a hole in the centre with your fingers. Rest spudnuts 15 minutes.
Heat vegetable oil at a depth of 2 inches to 350F, when a drop of dough browns nicely but does not burn. Working in batches, fry spudnuts until golden brown, turning to cook both sides and draining on paper towel. Dip into sugar or glaze with icing.
(This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.)