Sunday, February 20, 2022

Plants to Food - Washington's Mt Vernon - Apple Fritters


Martha Washington (1731-1802) - From the Garden to the Table 

While George Washington oversaw most aspects of managing Mount Vernon's  pleasure gardens & grounds, Martha Washington oversaw the Kitchen Garden (The Lower Garden), allowing her to keep fruits and vegetables on the table year round.

The Kitchen Garden at Mount Vernon

“…impress it on the gardener to have every thing in his garden that will be nece]ssary in the House keeping way — as vegetable is the best part of our living in the country.” – Martha Washington, 1792

Inside the Kitchen at Mount Vernon

Outside The Kitchen at Mount Vernon

In the matter of eating & drinking George Washington was temperate. For breakfast he ordinarily had tea & Indian cakes with butter & perhaps honey, of which he was very fond. His supper was equally light, consisting of perhaps tea & toast, with wine, & he usually retired at nine o'clock. Dinner was the main meal of the day at Mount Vernon, & usually was served at two o'clock. One such meal is thus described by a guest:  "He thanked us, desired us to be seated, & to excuse him a few moments.... The President came & desired us to walk in to dinner & directed  us where to sit, (no grace was said).... The dinner was very good, a small roasted pigg, boiled leg of lamb, roasted fowls, beef, peas, lettice, cucumbers, artichokes, etc., puddings, tarts, etc. etc."   The General ordinarily confined himself to a few courses & if offered anything very rich, he would protest, "That is too good for me." He often drank beer with the meal, with one or two glasses of wine & perhaps as many more afterward, often eating nuts, another delicacy with him, as he sipped the wine.

Apple Fritters

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.

Mrs. Washington may have owned a number of cookbooks, but her 1765 edition of Hannah Glasse's The Art of Cookery and a manuscript cookbook (now at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania) are the only ones known to survive. The manuscript book  (under the title Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery) is a very early compilation of 16th and 17th century receipts and came into Martha's possession at the time of her marriage to Daniel Parke Custis who died in 1757.

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. This recipe was adapted by Culinary Historian Nancy Carter Crump for Dining with the Washingtons: Historic Recipes, Entertainment, and Hospitality from Mount Vernon.


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 of 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.

Research plus images & much more are available from the Mount Vernon website,