Friday, July 09, 2004

Pancakes and Apple Fritters

I decided to make pickles this weekend, inbetween mowing my lawn, tending my garden, and repainting a garden swing. So it was fairly upsetting to realize that I have misplaced my grandmother's recipe for "24-hour Pickles".

It's not quite that horrible. I have not lost it; my friends will attest that I never throw anything away - well, hardly ever. I have multiple copies scattered around the house, and I may even have a scanned copy saved on this computer. The biggest problem is that I have already bought the pickling cucumbers, and my dill is just right, and the garlic I bought two weeks ago won't stay fresh much longer.

It's not a difficult recipe. I may even be able to recreate it from scratch. It involves water, vinegar, sugar, and salt, boiled together and poured over sliced cucumbers, garlic, and dill in a clean glass jar which is then sealed and allowed to sit at room temperature overnight, and then transferred to a refrigerator. Do not open for at least 24 hours after you made them, and keep refrigerated at all times. I added my own touches by adding whole peppercorns, cloves, allspice, and crushed red pepper, all in very small quantities.

Still, I'd rather have it than try to fake it. A computer is a convenient place to store recipes, but it always seemed a bit extravagant to use something with the computing power of a PC as a replacement for a box of index cards. (Almost as extravagant as using it to play solitaire, but I digress.)

So, anyway, to avoid any future loss, and to effectively share them with the world and possibly posterity, her are two of my grandmother's recipes that I haven't misplaced.

Egg Pancakes
I usually double this recipe.

1 egg
2 heaping tablespoons of flour
enough milk to liquefy
dash of salt
dash of sugar

Beat together all ingredients to a thick liquid consistency. (I usually beat the egg first, then add the flour slowly and then the milk. Salt and sugar are added last.)

Heat oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. (I use canola oil in a non-stick pan; she used Crisco - vegetable shortening - in a well-seasoned cast-iron frying pan.)

Pour in mixture in sizes of your choice. (I usually pour three-inch circles which expand to about four inches; she would make smaller "silver dollar" pancakes.)

Fry until top of pancake loses liquid sheen, then flip. (She and I both use spatulas for this. Since I use non-stick cookware, I use a wooden spatula, because even plastic can scratch after a while.)

Fry other side only briefly, since most internal cooking took place during the first step. If first side of the pancake is burned, reduce heat.

Remove pancakes from pan and place on plate layered with paper towels to absorb excess oil.

Reduce heat as you go, or the last batches of pancakes will burn.

I usually take my pancakes with Karo corn syrup, which is how she would serve them.

Apple Fritters
Healthier and more filling than pancakes. Well, more filling, anyway.

3 medium apples
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder (not baking soda)
3 tablespoons + dash sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons + a bit more lemon juice
1/4 cup teaspoon* salt

Start by slicing the apples. My grandmother always peeled them, but I like to leave the skins on for the added fiber and pesticides. (Make sure you wash the apples first.) I usually cut the apples into chunks about 1/2" thick, 3/4" wide and 1" long. (Precision is not imperative here.) I usually use firm tart McIntoshes, but you can use what you like. I once tried using Granny Smith apples, but the resulting fritters had an unpleasant overtone of plastic for some reason.

After the apples are sliced, sprinkle them with a dash of sugar and a dash of lemon juice and set aside.

Mix the remaining ingredients together. Because you're mixing lemon juice and milk, you may want to follow this suggested order of ingredients:

1. Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt together in large bowl.
2. Beat together eggs and milk. Mix into dry ingredients.
3. Gradually add lemon juice to batter. Batter should begin to toughen as the juice is added.

Set this batter aside for a few minutes. Begin heating your oil in the pan, starting with high heat. (Lower the heat to medium after the first batch is done.) Again, I use canola oil in a non-stick pan, but you can use whatever works for you.

Batter should begin to form pores in its surface as the lemon juice and baking powder battle each other in the depths of the bowl, gasping out bubbles that move slowly through the mixture.

At this point add the apples to the batter. Depending on the size of the apples you used ("medium" is such a subjective word) you may find that the volume of the apples exceeds the volume of the batter. This is fine.

Your mixture may now look like chunks of apples lightly coated with a batter. Which is what it is. See, I told you it was healthy.

CAREFULLY drop dollops of the mixture into the heated oil. The apples may contain a lot of water on the surface, so the oil will sizzle and spit as you add them. Be prepared to get burned. Cooking is not for the weak or faint-hearted.

After you have dropped in the first batch, put a lid on the frying pan. This will help cook the fritters evenly, and will help keep your stove and cooking area from becoming covered with a thin film of oil. DO NOT walk away to watch cartoons, or pick up the newspaper and begin reading it, or get on the phone, or step outside to see what a beautiful Saturday morning it is. These are all excellent ways of burning your fritters. Trust me.

After about half a minute or so the first side should be done. Take a peek and you will see that your batter has miraculously puffed up to several times its original volume. The first side is done when the top is no longer glossy and a sharp border begins to form around each fritter.

Turn the fritters over and briefly fry the other side.

Remove and drain on paper towels.

Reduce heat after the first batch.

If at any point you must add more oil, you must again heat it to high heat, and then lower the heat after the new first batch to avoid burning subsequent batches. Otherwise your first batch will be flat and oily.

Apple fritters can be eaten plain, but traditionally they are eaten with a light dusting of powdered sugar. You can mix cinnamon or lemon juice with the sugar if you like, or even have them with syrup.


My grandmother died nearly six years ago, and she last cooked these things more than ten years ago. But these recipes allow her to live on.

I found a recipe for 24 hour pickles online that looks a lot like the one my grandmother used. These weren't original or unique recipes; for all I know they came from the Betty Crocker Cookbook. But they are tastes of my childhood, and tastes that I will always associate with her. Try them, and enjoy!

*Fixed 12/9/2011. I've read this post a dozen times since I wrote it and never noticed this error. That's very weird.

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