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.