A Recipe for Hasty Fritters with Apples

A recipt for Hasty Fritters, sometimes called Common Fritters, ideal for use with apples or other such sturdy fruits of the season.

Everyone has heard of the classic colonial "Apple Fritter", but what really is an apple fritter, or a fritter at all, according to 18th century cooks? Further, are they worth adding to our stash of historic recipes? You know, the ones that always impress, taste great and aren't so difficult that we spend the entire cooking time cursing who ever invented food.

To answer the first question I turned to many of my favorite recipt book authors of the era, names I'm sure you've either heard, read or at least recognize from all the times I reference them here on Slightly Obsessed.

The queen of 18th century cooking, Hannah Glasse, has a fairly simple recipe for what she calls Hasty Fritters in her ever so popular book The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (1784 edition). These fritters include apples & currants, but unlike many of the other fritter recipes in the same book, rely on beer for leavening, making them faster than other methods while still being just as soft & tender once cooked. It also means the cook gets to enjoy a little something extra while doing all the hard work. Splash for the pot, sip for the cook!
"To make Hasty Fritters
TAKE a stew pan put in some butter and let it be hot. In the mean time take half a pint of all ale, not bitter, and stir in some flour by degrees, in a little of the ale put in a few currants or chopped apples, beat them up quick and drop a large spoonful at a time all over the pan. Take care they do not stick together, turn them with an egg slice and when they are of a fine brown lay them in a dish and throw some sugar over them. Garnish with orange cut into quarters."

Hannah's recipe is so popular it actually turns up, word for word in quite a few later cookbooks by different authors, such as John Farley's 1787 edition of The London Art of Cookery. I guess plagiarism wasn't as big of a deal in the 1700s as it is today.

While Hannah is making her Hasty Fritters, Elizabeth Raffald shares a recipe in The Experienced English Housekeeper (1786) specifically for Apple Fritters. Although in reality this is just a glorified version of Common Fritters, which she lists earlier in the book as a separate recipe. Elizabeth does point out though, that these fritters are "Proper for a side dish for supper." I'll do you one better and eat them for supper thanks.
"To make Apple Fritters

PARE the largest baking apples you can get, take out the core with an apple scraper, cut them in round slices and dip them in batter made as for common fritters, fry them crisp, serve them up with sugar grated over them and wine sauce in a boat. They are proper for a side dish for supper."

Before Hannah and Elizabeth were frittering away the pages of their respective cookbooks, E. Taylor was directing all the readers of The Lady's, Housewife's and Cook-maid's Assistant (1769) on the fine art of Hasty Apple Fritters. While I like the addition of cinnamon and sugar and the idea of draining the freshly fried fritters in a warm place so they stay hot before serving, a batter made from only beer and flour doesn't sound all that appealing. In fact it sounds rather awful! I'm not certain that any amount of extra sugar on top will fix a bland batter.
"Hasty Apple Fritters
Pare your apples, scoop out the core, cut them in slices across 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"

Leave it to a man though, to actually combine all the best aspects of the preceding fritter recipes. All thanks go to John Perkins for doing the hard work in his book Every Woman her Own House-keeper (1796). Here we have not only the wonderful use of beer for leavening, but eggs, nutmeg and sugar to create a batter worthy of frying on its own. That wasn't enough for John though, he uses this perfect batter on apples and further, sprinkles sugar on top of the final fritter goodness. Really his only flaw was not including the recipe for wine sauce, even though he so kindly suggests it!
"Common Fritters

Get some large baking apples, pare them and take out the core, cut them in round slices and dip them in batter made as follows: Take half a pint of ale and two eggs and beat them in as much flour as will make it rather thicker than a common pudding with nutmeg and sugar to your taste. Let it stand three or four minutes to rise. Having dipped your apple into this batter, fry them crisp and serve them up with sugar grated over them and wine sauce in a boat"

To answer the second question, yes fritters are more than worthy of a reenactor's recipe collection. Above are my results after following John Perkins recipe. Soft but still crunchy on the inside, sweet without being cloying, easy to make and not overly messy to clean up after. Even the left over batter made tasty plain fritters when tossed with cinnamon and sugar.

I used my favorite Spartan apples for these, even though they are a recent style of apple, only having been developed in the late 1930s. They are however a good all around fruit with a nice tartness that holds up well against the simple batter. I skinned and cored using my modern OXO tools for speed, but a simple knife and some patience would work in a historic setting just as well.

I did end up using a bottle of Newcastle Nut Brown Ale for the batter. Normally my cooking beer of choice is Boddingtons, partly because it originates to the 18th century but also because I like the way its flavor holds up in recipes. However, I took the advice that the beer not be bitter. Plus, since I only needed a half pint, a single bottle of Newcastle was more economical than a full 4 pack of Boddingtons. It is a Sunday night after all. Maybe next time I should make fritters on a Friday & enjoy the left over beers as part of the snack!

Until then, that's all the time I have to "Fritter Away" this evening.

works cited

Hannah Glasse. 1784. The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy. Printed for W. Strahan. p. 161-2
John Farley. 1787. The London Art of Cookery and Housekeeper's Complete Assistant. Printed for John Fielding. p. 228
Elizabeth Raffald. 1786. The Experienced English Housekeeper. Printed for R. Baldwin. p 161
E. Taylor. 1769. The Lady's, Housewife's, and Cookmaid's Assistant. Printed by H. Taylor for R. Taylor. p 226
John Perkins. 1796. Every Woman Her Own House-keeper. Publisher James Ridgway p 184-5


  1. You've made me very hungry! Can't wait to try these!

  2. I'm definitely going to try these! The non-hasty kind :) Mainly because big apple slices sound tastier than chopped apple lumps.

  3. I haven't been by in a while, so sorry. Yum these fritters sound great. In your research have you ever found receipts for pan sauteed or fried apples without batter. My family has been cooking apples this way for breakfast for many generations. My family are Georgians and Louisianians It just seems like a simple staple item to cook. Anyway, I showed the recipe on my blog: www.astheartflies.blogspot.com. Cheers.


Post a Comment