Early physicians cautioned that fritters were bad for one’s stomach, possibly contributing to indigestion. That warning was no obstacle to those who long enjoyed these fried pastries. A thin egg batter envelops a wide selection of foodstuffs that includes thinly sliced vegetables and fruit. Apple fritters were the most popular, generally appearing on menus as part of a second course.
This rendition combines two recipes from the Booke of Cookery, a manuscript possibly dating to the seventeenth century that came to Martha Washington during her first marriage, to Daniel Parke Custis. An heirloom variety such as the Newtown Pippin—which was grown and enjoyed at Mount Vernon—is suggested.
3/4 cup dark ale
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 large eggs, separated
5 to 6 medium apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
Lard or vegetable oil for frying
Cinnamon sugar for sprinkling
1. Combine the ale and sherry in a small saucepan set over medium-low heat. Warm slightly and set aside.
2. Sift together the flour, salt, mace, nutmeg, and cloves.
3. Whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Pour into the flour, and stir until well combined. The mixture will be dry and crumbly. Gradually add the ale and sherry, blending in each addition well before adding the next. The batter will be somewhat lumpy. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or as long as overnight, to allow the batter to rest.
4. While the batter is resting, lay a sheet or waxed paper on a large baking sheet, set a wire rack on top, and cover with a clean dishtowel. Place beside the stove.
5. To finish the fritters, remove the batter from the refrigerator and whisk until smooth. Beat 2 of the egg whites (reserving or discarding the third egg white) to stiff peaks. Gently fold into the chilled batter in two additions until thoroughly incorporated.
6. Over medium-high heat, heat 2 to 3 inches of lard in a deep frying pan to 375°F. Use a thermometer to determine the correct temperature, or test by dropping a bit of the batter into the hot lard. If the lard sizzles, it is hot enough to fry the fritters. Dip the apple slices, a few at a time, in the batter, coating well on both sides. Carefully drop into the hot oil and fry for 3 to 5 minutes, turning once to lightly brown on both sides. Remove and drain well on the towel-covered rack.
7. To serve, sprinkle the warm fritters generously with cinnamon sugar.
Makes 40 to 48 fritters
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