Here’s a recipe that was apparently popular enough that it was copied almost verbatim in several 18th century cook books. It’s a recipe for fritters. A fritter, also occasionally called a fraze, was a fried pastry, like a doughnut. They were either skillet fried or deep fried. The batter could be thin or thick — more like a dough. This particular recipe was exquisitely simple, calling for only four to five ingredients.
Here is Hannah Glasse’s copy from the 1774 edition of her cookbook, The Art of Cookery.
Here is our adaptation, changing a few things up where necessary, but staying well within period-correct methods and techniques:
1 – 12oz. bottle of any Light* Ale or Hard Apple Cyder
approximately 2 cups All Purpose Flour
1/4 – 1/3 cups Zante Currants or 1 Apple (diced) or both
About 2-lbs Lard (or or other fat**, e.g., shortening or vegetable oil) for frying
*Hard apple cyder adds a wonderful taste to this recipe. If you chose to use an ale instead, use one that is not heavily hopped or bitter. Any off-the-shelf brand-name “lite” American beer will work, however, you’ll be missing out on some of the flavor that a nice honey brown ale, for instance, can add.
*All of the recipe copies I found for this dish called for frying in butter. This would have typically been a fairly expensive method of frying over, let’s say, Lard. If you choose to use butter, be sure to clarify it first by slowly melting it over low heat and pouring off the oil from the dairy solids that precipitate to the bottom. If you do not take this step, the solids will burn before the butter reaches frying temperatures, resulting in a burnt flavor imparted to the fritters.
Heat your frying fat to about 350-degrees (F).
Pour your ale into a large mixing bowl and sift the flour into it, stirring until a sticky dough forms. It may take a little more or a little less than 2 cups of flour.
Blend in your diced apple and/or your Zante currants. I prefer using both simply for the additional flavor and sweetness. Some recipes for apple fritters suggest a little ground nutmeg or cinnamon. You can also add a pinch of salt of you wish. That’s your call. I love the simplicity of this recipe, and chose to leave those seasonings out. I did not regret my decision.
Carefully drop in dollops of the batter, about the size of a walnut or small egg, into your hot frying fat, making sure they don’t stick together. Fry them for 4 or 5 minutes, or until they are golden brown on the bottom side. The recipe suggests turning the fritters with an “egg slice.” If in case you’re like us and had never heard of an egg slice before, it’s simply a spatula. Fry the fritters for 3 to 4 minutes longer, or until they are an even gold brown. If your dollops are too big, you will likely end up with a nicely browned fritter that’s still doughy on the inside.
Ale in this recipe acts as a leavening agent. The ale’s carbonation will puff up the dough while it fries.
Carefully remove the fritters from your hot fat, and drain on layers of paper or a clean cloth. Dust with powdered sugar and stand aside before you’re trampled.
Is Suet a good choice for the oil?
It is, as long as you are using kidney fat suet. As we have mentioned several times in our videos as well as on this blog, not all fat sold as suet is actual suet. Hard muscle fat is often mislabeled suet here in the States. If you use hard muscle fat, I guarantee your fritters will have a steak flavor about them.
Love these recipes. Thank you.
I found some really good Belgian Ale. Leffe.. same recipe since 1240 AD. Nice smooth flavor and a brown color. It also worked excellent for making Baurm.
Ha, I just watched a show where someone made fritters and now I come across fritters again on this blog! That probably means I should try making them. 🙂 Frying in butter does sound expensive (and good)- we made donuts and always used oil, but I imagine the butter or lard takes it to a whole other level.
Great photography, and tip on how to clarify butter. Learned something new today.
Sounds delicious; I’ll have to give it a try.
Thanks for a great recipe! We don’t have ale on hand, but my wife and daughter suggested sparkling cider. This worked out very very well. It may not be authentic, but it’s perfect if you’d like to avoid the alcohol. I could imagine using a can of creme soda and raisins for contemporary camping.
I may try a lacto-fermented cider. Do you know if this was done in the eighteenth century?
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Two other non-alcoholic ale substitute solutions that work well are Apple Beer and Vernon’s Ginger Ale which is aged in oak casks. Dried cranberries work well as their tartness compliments the apple’s sweetness.
I’m looking forward to trying this. Great photo at top!
I enjoy your research, videos and have a great interest in historical cooking. Thanks for your research. I came across this upcoming (2015) class you might like to check out. https://www.radcliffe.harvard.edu/event/2015-reading-historic-cookbooks
Thank you for this information. You have piqued our interest!
I ended up using more flour. They are delicious. I used Apple Cider…
Has anyone tried to use gluten free flour to make these? My DIL is Celiac and it prevents me from making some yummy 18th century food when we are at an event. Can you help?
I’ve used Better Batter flour for other fritter recipes. I suggested trying club soda instead ale or hard cider for same reason.
Bobs Red-Mill Gluten Free baking mix works fine, also corn meal and buck wheat could be used as a substitute Johnny Cake fritter which I’ve made and can be pan fried as well as deep fried. If he has Celiac’s like a friend of mine you can use a non-alcohol soda like a Shandy or Ginger
Beer… also a pinch of salt and nut meg helps the flavor I find.
These look really good, I look forward to trying them.
I know fresh apple cider ferments quickly with the already present yeast, I wonder how that would affect the recipe.
Also, for some reason the video showing up in this post is one for pickled smelts. I admit I was wondering what you might have against fritters (well, title of worst recipe ever? but fritters are lovely) until I realized what it was.
hmm…thank you for the “heads-up” on the video. I will fix that.
Reblogged this on The Obsession Engine and commented:
Deep frying makes everything better.
Reblogged this on Living History Publications and commented:
An interesting 18th century recipe for Apple Fritters. Will definitely have to try this out next time I go camping.
I have some hard cider as I’m in the process of making apple jack, curious though, how a bottle of Guiness might work?
It would never hurt to try!
When I moved to the States I had to stop calling an egg slice an egg slice. It’s the term I grew up with in Australia.
I would love to know what kind of apple would work best for this. thanks!!
While there were a number of varieties of apples cultivated in the 18th century, for the average cook of that day, he or she would have likely used what was on hand. As for which modern apple varieties work best for recipes like this, there is considerable debate among cooks. I can give you suggestions based on my experience. Fresh is best, of course. I’ve had great success with Jonagold, Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Honeycrisp, Crispin, and Pink Lady.
I’m guessing if you can’t use ale or hard cider, club soda would work, but you’d need to add some spices for flavor.
That’s a very good idea. A little ginger possibly.
Kevin a good substitute is Shandy, which is brewed with de-alcholized beer and lemon juice…I get it at Cost Plus World Market…