Friday, January 3, 2014

Hasty Apple Fritters (1769) ★★

Apple fritters are one of those amazing foods which have been around for ages. Fritter-type foods can be traced back all the way to the Romans, who introduced the recipe to Europe as their influence and power spread. This precursor of the fritter (and doughnuts as well) was called scriblita and was created by frying dough in hot fat. Cryspeys, a medieval rendition, were served with sugar sprinkled on top. A fritter refers to essentially anything coated in dough and fried, but apple fritters have long been a favourite. In medieval times, fritters were considered dangerous to consume and indigestible, but they remained on the menu, often as part of the last course of a meal. However, because of their supposed dangerous nature, it was recommended to eat fritter only while hot.

Early varieties of apples in the U.K. around the time this cookbook was published include the Pippin (Ribston or Sturmer), Blenheim Orange, Bramley, and Ashmead's Kernel. These varieties were first cultivated between the late 1700s and early 1800s. I don't have access to any of these in my grocery store. Its also a bit of the wrong season for apples (bad me!), so I just used McIntosh apples as a substitute. 

Original Recipe:

Hasty Apple FRITTERS. Pare your apples, scoop out the core, cut them in slices acros, as thick as a half crown; have ready some thin batter made only of strong beer and flour, put a large quantity of lard, dripping, or butter, into your stew-pan, dip the apple into the batter, and then immediately into the hot lard. When they are a light brown, take them out with a slice, and lay them upon a drainer before the fire. Send them to table with beaten cinnamon and sugar.

The Verdict:

So I couldn't figure out how wide a half crown piece is. If anyone knows, please share!
Anyway, we're talking about a coin here, so I just sliced my apples fairly thin.
For the batter, I used approximately equal parts flour to beer.
Now, I'm only giving this recipe two stars, but I think that part of that is my fault. Firstly, I used butter for frying. Secondly, I the butter was salted.
I also had a hell of a time trying to core the apples. I don't own an apple corer, but now I see the use of such a device. The McIntoshes I used were really small too, so that didn't help.
Next I added 2 cups of butter to a pot, figuring that counted as "a large quantity." Yeah, well, then I discovered that basically boiling the fritters in butter didn't turn out well. For your viewing, on the left are the apples fried in a small quantity of butter and on the right are the ones that were completely submerged in butter:

So I finally figured that out, and then my butter burned and I had none left. That was the end of the apple fritters. In the end I only got 3 edible ones.

How were they? Well the batter was very chewy, stretchy, and soft. Some of the apples were almost mushy, so they cook VERY quickly. Also, the salted butter made them sooooo salty. Big mistake. As for the beer, there was no taste of it at all. I think that if I used oil (or even unsalted butter, but being careful not to burn it and only using a small amount) these would be alright. The batter isn't great, but I guess its okay for being "hasty."

Modernized Recipe:

(Adapted from The Lady's, Housewife's, and Cookmaid's Assistant: or, the Art of Cookery)

LARD or OIL or UNSALTED BUTTER, for frying

1. Peel the apples and remove the core, leaving the apple intact. Slice into rings. Meanwhile, heat your fat for frying.
2. Make the batter out of flour and beer. It should be thin.
3. Dip the apple rings into the batter and let any excess drip off a bit. Immediately fry until they are light brown. Let the fried apples drain on paper towels or over a rack.
4. Serve hot with cinnamon sugar sprinkled over the top.


  1. If your heart is set on trying this again with butter, use clarified unsalted butter. My son is a chef in a fine dining restaurant, so his advice is spot on. You can use clarified butter to cook just about anything in. He also said you can't go any higher than medium heat. Hope this helps.

  2. Bummer- good thing you didn't start a grease fire. I imagine old-timey apple fritters were probably cooked outside and probably tasted pretty crappy. Like Pattyc mentions - clarified butter does have a much higher smoking point but that would be pretty expensive, unless you make your own clarified butter. I wonder if peanut oil would be an appropriate substitute?

    1. I prefer to use safflower oil as my neutral-tasting oil of choice. It's especially good for frying, too. I may re-try this recipe with oil, because I am curious of the difference it would make. Now to convince Mr. Man to go out and buy more beer! ;)

  3. There were different half crowns for each Monarch. In 1769 it was the reign of King George III and it was a silver half crown. I found this reference: Well worn examples of the issues of George III are very common. They have a diameter of 32 mm and a weight of 14.1 g, dimensions which remained the same for the half crown until decimalisation in 1971. The reverse of all subsequent halfcrowns consists of a shield with the royal coat of arms.

  4. I don't own an apple corer, but now I see the use of such a device.
    cheap airport parking

  5. My middle-school daughter's social studies class is learning about the colonial era, and the teacher is including cultural practices like food culture in the unit. Her assignment was to make apple fritters and we found your display of the original cookbook text. Wonderful! We used the modern ingredient "vegetable oil" for the frying. Used the beer we had on hand in the fridge. We have an apple corer, but because she needs fritters for a class of 24 kids, we quartered the "ring" slices. Our slices are certainly thicker than a coin, for durability. She made them the night before and did the cinnamon sugar this morning. She's very pleased with the results. Off they go to 8th Grade Social Studies today, along with a copy of the original recipe. Thank you!