Apple Cider Fritters Say Fall - No. 151
Plus, an easy cider doughnut recipe coming on Thursday
This week we’re celebrating apples, cider, frying, and fall. Today, I share a lovely fritter with apples and cider inside. On Thursday, for paid subscribers, I’ll share an easy yeasted doughnut to make this weekend. Not a subscriber? Here’s how to join us.
IT TOOK A WEEKEND IN NEW YORK CITY, the corner markets lush with local apples, and my daughter sharing photos of Vermont apple cider doughnuts and fritters for me to realize that fall is staring us in the face.
We’ve got a freakish heat wave blasting through Nashville this week, and as I write this letter to you, the color palette outside sadly is due more to drought than a seasonal equinox.
But autumn does begin Thursday, and we know it’s the great lead-up to holiday baking and cooking. I live in denial most of the time, but there is no denying that we can now pull those pumpkin recipes out of storage, dust off the braising pan, stock up on beans and soup fixings, and in the simplest autumnal (love that word) move yet, use apple cider as the liquid in cooking and baking from here to the New Year.
Because apple cider, unlike apple juice that is clear and refined, is opaque, unfiltered and contains bits of the apple pulp.
After watching the Queen’s funeral today and writing about apples at the same time, all I can think of is that apple juice would have squeezed into something appropriate and been able to sit quietly through the solemn church service. Apple cider, on the other hand— chatty and unveiled—would have been among the throngs of people lining the road to Windsor Castle to pay their last respects. And its cousin, hard cider, would have watched the funeral from the pub.
It’s refreshing that each fall we can live by the seasons as our ancestors did and await good local apples and cider when that window opens. Apple cider isn’t pasteurized so it has a short shelf life and needs to be kept chilled and should be consumed within a few days. My friend Martha gets cider from an apple farm on top of Signal Mountain outside Chattanooga and what she can’t drink she freezes to use in baking cakes.
What I’m cooking with today is the non-alcoholic cider, which after pressing has all the flavor of the apple itself.
The hard cider, on the other hand, can be used in cooking as you might wine or beer. It is made by fermenting the juice of apples much like wine comes from grapes, but unlike Tuscany or the Loire with their imposing estates and chateaux, down-to-earth cider ‘’comes from places where your relatives live, or where you once went to summer camp,’’ according to Substack drinks writer Jason Wilson in his newsletter Everyday Drinking. ‘’Cider evokes a different emotional response that's hard to pin down—the thrill of something familiar, yet new.’’
Cider adds earthy flavors to cooking and baking—you might call it terroir.
I’ve been braising pork and chicken in cider for years, and when you add a touch of cream to that chicken at the end it tastes as if you are in Normandy. I love the idea of transporting myself to a different place with the help of Goldens, Galas, Pink Ladies, or Pippins.
Or, you can whisk together a vinaigrette of apple cider and light olive oil and pour it over a green salad topped with toasted walnuts and crumbled blue cheese. And you can absolutely add cider to your favorite cake recipe instead of water or milk, and use it in making glazes for cakes as well.
You can simmer down apple slices and a splash of cider into applesauce.
Or just stir together a crisp fall sangria for everyone who doesn’t want to let go of summer. It’s perfect as an aperitif or to serve at the card table or book club:
Spiced Fall Sangria
1 bottle (750 ml) fruity white wine
1 cup apple cider
1/4 cup triple sec or sugar syrup
1 tablespoon sugar, if desired
2 cinnamon sticks
A few whole cloves
1 small crisp apple, rinsed, cored and sliced very thinly
1 generous tablespoon yellow raisins
Pour the wine, cider, triple sec, and sugar in a large pitcher, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the cinnamon stick, cloves, apple, and raisins. Cover the pitcher, and chill for at least 1 hour. To serve, pour into wine glasses, serving some of the fruit in the glasses. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
One of the first ways to cook apple doughnuts in America was to fry slices as fritters.
Fritters are those indescribably delicious fried puffs of crispness encasing something wonderful like a piece of fruit. The word "fritter" comes from the French word "friture," a term used for foods fried in deep fat. And in America, you find fritter recipes on menus and in cookbooks from cities with French ancestry, like Charleston, Mobile, and New Orleans.
And if there was a heyday for fritters it would have been sometime between the 1830s and 1880s. According to David Shields in his book Southern Provisions, fritters were originally from Southern Europe and west Africa, dusted in sugar, and drenched in syrup. The batter could be of wheat, corn, buckwheat or rice flour, and the fritters could be fried in rendered lard or vegetable oil. Being able to fry in deep oil was a west African technique, according to culinary historian Jessica B. Harris.
Mary Randolph, author of The Virginia House-wife, soaked apple slices in sugar and wine and spices before frying them into fritters. But fritters would evolve from the battered slice of fruit into something more croquette-ish we know today.
Anne Byrn: Between the Layers is reader supported. A big shoutout to our paid subscribers for keeping Tuesdays free for everyone:
Fritters and doughnuts are hard to distinguish, but does it matter?
Those original doughnuts were ‘’nuts’’ of dough, not rings with holes in them. English Pilgrims, on their way to America, made a stop in Holland and learned to make what we call doughnuts from the Dutch. Because the Dutch fried them in oil, they named them ‘’olicooks’’ or ‘’olykoeks.’’
But doughnuts have also come into American baking and cooking because of German recipes, and it was the Pennsylvania Dutch (Germans) who cut a hole in the center so they might hold their doughnut and dunk it into coffee. Plus, it made doughnuts faster to fry.
Last bit of trivia: Doughnuts have long had a connection to the sea. Sailors fried them onboard in whale blubber, clearly using what they had. And the original Krispy Kreme doughnut recipe supposedly came from a riverboat captain, but I suspect it had more to do with a entrepreneurial young man who took that recipe to North Carolina and sold hot doughnuts to workers in the tobacco industry than it did with river water.
If apple cider owes the apple for its deliciousness, then fritters and doughnuts owe everything to the oil. But you know and I know that frying makes a mess. So, to keep a smile on my face while frying, I’ve come up with a system to make it manageable:
I fry in a deep Dutch oven or heavy and wide cast iron skillet. I buy peanut oil for frying, but I’ll use canola in a pinch. I have a digital candy thermometer for testing the temperature of the oil to make sure it’s hot enough before frying. I have a screen top for the pan to keep splatters off my stove. And lastly, I place a cooling rack on a rimmed sheet pan, and instead of paper towels, will land the hot, fried doughnuts and fritters onto the rack where they drain and stay crispy.
Because cider and doughnuts aren’t something I feast on all year. But when the fall craving hits, let’s not fritter away the days. Let’s get frying!
How do you savor local fall apples?
Don’t miss these easy yeast-raised doughnuts on Thursday! They have a secret ingredient. Have a great week!
- xo, Anne
Apple Cider Fritters
Dust these fritters with a little powdered sugar while they’re hot. And serve with a mug of hot cider, or that glass of cider-infused sangria. If you can’t find self-rising, or self-raising as our British friends call it, flour, here’s how to make your own: For every 1 cup (120 to 125 grams) of all-purpose flour, whisk in 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. If these fritters begin to brown too quickly while frying, reduce the heat slightly.
Makes about 20
Prep: 35 to 40 minutes
Cook: 3 to 4 minutes
2 large eggs
1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups self-rising flour, divided use
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 1/2 cups finely chopped apples (about 4 medium apples, peeled and cored)
Vegetable oil for frying (about 3 to 4 cups)
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar for sifting
1. Place the eggs, apple cider, milk, melted butter, and vanilla in large bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk in the sugar, and set aside.
2. Measure 1 1/2 cups of the flour into a small bowl. Stir in the cinnamon and nutmeg. Toss the apples with the remaining 1/2 cup flour. Place the flour mixture in the bowl with the egg mixture and whisk until it is combined and smooth, about 1 minute. Fold in the floured apples until combined.
3. Place enough oil in a large, deep cast iron skillet or Dutch oven to measure 2 inches. Place the pan over medium-high heat, and bring to 350 to 365 degrees F. When the oil is hot, drop generous tablespoons of the batter into the pan, frying about 4 fritters at a time. Let the doughnuts fry about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side, turn, and continue cooking 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on the other side. Remove to a wire rack set on top of brown paper to drain. Repeat with the remaining batter, giving the oil time to reheat to 350 to 365 degrees before frying. With a slotted spoon or sieve, clean up the oil between frying, removing any burned bits from the oil. Dust the warm, drained doughnuts with confectioners' sugar and serve.