Currant fritters are educational. Did you know that? When I started my adventure into fritter land, I never expected to learn so many valuable lessons.
Lesson number 1 – the internet and the phone are your friend when you want to source less common fruits, no matter how “in season” they are
I spent no less than three hours going from supermarkets to farmer’s markets to ethnic stores to organic markets trying to find red currants. Red currants are still very much in season here but you’d think I’d asked the fruit and veg people if they carried Martian snow berries for the odd looks I often got. Or the “We have dried ones over there…” Would I be asking for fresh currants if I wanted dried? Come on, people! Only one place out of about fifteen said, “Oh sorry. We ran out three days ago.” Bugger! Just my luck. Disgruntled and overheated from the warm day, I plopped in front of the computer, googled a few words and voila! There was a farm a few kilometres from the antique store I’d just patronized that specialized in berries including –you guessed it—red currants. Count me relieved when I phoned and they still had some. And good thing I phoned, too, because if I’d delayed too much, they might have been out. I just got to the stand with the red currants when a European woman reached the same stand. Seemed like a gun fight at high noon when we both started reaching for the punnets, daring each other with barely-there glances to be the one to grab the lot and run.
Lesson number 2—Cold is your friend when using beaten egg whites.
I don’t seem to have a whole lot of luck when it comes to cooking. I say, “Hey, currants are in season. I’ll make those fritters” and Mother Nature says, “Ah, time for a heat wave then”. It was a bit warm on Friday when I started Round 1. I made a few errors in the recipe—the fritters were too big to cook right through (great spoonfuls, my aunt fannie) and the temperature needed tweaking—but the road looked pretty clear ahead for the next round. Okay. I can handle that. Can’t cook the next day but I’ll book Sunday for Round 2. Sunday ends up being a 35°C torture fest in a house with no air conditioning and me hanging over a hot pan of boiling lard. I was stubborn and plowed on anyways, despite the heat. The batter sulked and refused to cooperate, burning on the outside and staying raw in the middle. Thankfully, my sis was around to help me through my crying jag and suggested the fridge and new lard (the first lot got all gummy with scum and burnt bits). The temperature change definitely made the difference. You either have to cook your batter quick time while the whites are cold, refrigerate before you start frying, use an air conditioned house or keep the batter bowl in a bigger bowl filled with ice if you’re crazy like me and fry fritters on a hot day.
Lesson number 3—Always check your camera lens (and other parts) before starting an extensive photo shoot.
Yeah. You read correctly. I went blithely through round 1 shooting all kinds of “in process” photos and some attempts at finished photos for a ‘round one’ post. I downloaded them and then saw picture after picture with a smudge on it. I don’t know how I didn’t see the smudge on the LED screen but there it was, bold as brass, telling me that my work was far from over. When I finished round one and knew I had to take some more photos of the finished product but I though the mixing and cooking would be much faster since I didn’t need to take photos. Surprise! And since Round 2 was on such a hot, muggy day, I think even my camera was pouting and not wanting to cooperate but thankfully things went somewhat better even if it took way longer to finish the shoot.
I don’t know who came up with such a complicated fritter recipe that was bound to be fussy on hot days and then use a fruit in it that ripens only when hot days usually occur. Don’t get me wrong. It has had many rave reviews from humans to gluten-crazy cockatiels but, ye gods, it seems a lot of work for a high summer’s dessert. I am starting to wonder if the fruit and veg guys were right and it really was dried currants in these babies. I still totally recommend the red currants but I’m wondering if a different version will be tried down the road to see if dried currants makes more sense.
CURRANT FRITTERS. (Original Recipe)
Two cupfuls dry, fine bread crumbs, two tablespoonfuls of prepared flour, two cups of milk, one-half pound currants, washed and well dried, five eggs whipped very light, one-half cup powdered sugar, one tablespoonful butter, one-half teaspoonful mixed cinnamon and [Pg 267]nutmeg. Boil the milk and pour over the bread. Mix and put in the butter. Let it get cold. Beat in next the yolks and sugar, the seasoning, flour and stiff whites; finally, the currants dredged whitely with flour. The batter should be thick. Drop in great spoonfuls into the hot lard and fry. Drain them and send hot to table. Eat with a mixture of wine and powdered sugar.
CURRANT FRITTERS (modernized recipe)
½ pound (227 g) red currants
2 Tbsp white flour
2 cups fine bread crumbs
2 cups milk (1% or higher)
1 Tbsp butter
5 eggs, separated
½ cup sifted icing sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 Tbsp white flour
1 lb (454g) block of lard
Icing sugar for decoration
1 cup sifted icing sugar
4 Tbsp Raspberry wine (or any dessert wine)
- Add sugar and wine together. Stir until completely mixed
- Place bowl in fridge until needed.
- Just before serving fritters, allow 5 minutes for glaze to warm up, mix to break up sugar crystals
- In a large bowl, place 2 cups of bread crumbs. Add butter to the crumbs but do not mix.
- In a medium saucepan, place 2 cups of milk over medium high heat. Allow milk to heat until very gently bubbling and steamy but not boiling.
- Pour hot milk over bread crumbs slowly and mix until well-blended. This will produce a very firm mixture. Set aside to cool, covered with a tea towel.
- Pick currants off stems. Discard any stems, withered berries and leaves.
- Gently wash currants in a colander. Spread out currants to dry on clean paper towel.
- When the currants are mostly dry, place them and the 2 Tbsp flour into a plastic bag. Gently shake bag until all berries are completely covered with flour.
- Dump currants into dry sieve and allow excess flour to fall through, carefully shaking so as not to crush the berries. Set floured currants aside until needed.
- Take the 5 egg whites and whip in a bowl until stiff peaks are formed. Set aside in fridge until needed.
- Take a new bowl and add 5 yolks and ½ cup of sifted icing sugar. Beat until completely blended. Add cinnamon, nutmeg and flour to yolk mixture. Beat until completely blended.
- Spatula the yolk mixture into the bread mix bowl. Mix well until completely blended.
- Add beaten whites to the bread mixture and fold in until whites are completely incorporated into batter.
- Add floured currants to batter and gently fold in, trying to avoid too much berry breakage.
- In a cast iron pan, heat pound of lard over medium high heat. When a piece of sandwich bread can brown in half a minute or less in the oil, it is ready for cooking. Place 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of batter into hot lard. Do not crowd the pan with fritters. Three or four is best at one time. Make sure a platter with paper towel is ready to receive hot fritters and absorb some of the grease.
- Place fritters on a clean platter. Serve hot with a generous sprinkling of icing sugar over the fritters. Glaze can be dribble over top or served on the side in small dishes
Makes about 30 -36 fritters, depending on the size
1. I always rub fresh lemon over my mixing bowl and whisk before doing egg whites to ensure any fat/grease is not present or they will not beat properly
2. The original recipe just said “fine bread crumbs” but to ensure they were fine, I ran the crumbs through a sieve. Not necessary, I believe, but I did it for even absorption of the hot milk
3. You may need more lard on hand just in case of the temperature of the day. Round One did just fine with a pound but Round Two needed two pounds on a much hotter day