With egges and flowr a bator thow make
Put barme ther to I vnder take
Collor hit with saferon or thow more do
Take pouder of pepur and cast ther to
Kerve Appyls evyn A thorte cast þer yn
Fry ham in swete grece no more I myn
Cast sugur ther to yf thow be gynne“
Anon, Manuscript Pepys 1047 a.k.a. Gentyll manly Cokere (late C15th)
I’ve just discovered, via a link in the text accompanying a video on Max Miller’s Tasting History YouTube channel (one of my very favourite YT channels), the Gode Cookery website. It’s a fascinating collection of mostly medieval and renaissance recipes, cookery books and manuscript sources, curated and it seems in many cases translated by the site’s founder, James L. Matterer and the site’s current manager and editor, Monica Gaudio.
The recipe above comes from a late fifteenth century manuscript that was found in the collection of the seventeenth century naval administrator, member of parliament and (more famously) diarist, Samuel Pepys. There’s no mention of the author of the manuscript, which has been dubbed Gentle manly Cokere from a description on the first line, hence the ‘Anon’ in the title of this post.
Most of the recipes in MS Pepys 1047 are for various types of meat or fish dish, but the apple ‘Fryturs’ sneak in as well, perhaps to give the diner a digestive rest between courses of ‘herring stewed with herbs and currants’, ‘pike prepared in ale and herbs’ or ‘roasted peacock with ginger sauce’.
James L. helpfully provides a modern translation of the above:
“Make a batter of eggs and flour.
Add saffron for color before doing anything else.
Slice apples in even pieces; add the necessary amount to the batter.
Fry the apples in hot oil until done, I remind you.
Sprinkle on sugar, if you make this.“
Barm is active brewer’s yeast, or “the yeast sponge or starter used in brewing” as Matterer puts it. For the how-to-make-it version of the recipe, he suggests dissolving the yeast in a little warm ale before adding it to the batter. There’s no mention of what type of apples to use, but for fritters I’d suggest a crisp eating apple, or one that you know is likely to keep its shape in the hot oil, rather than dissolve to a purée and reduce your fritters to apple batter pancakes.
If you fancy trying out these bright yellow, peppery, yeast-battered apple fritters yourself, please do let me know how they turn out. You can leave a comment below, or email me your notes and photos. I’d love to know how you get on.