François Pierre La Varenne, on Making ‘Apple Cream’

"Take twelve Pippins, pare, slice or quarter them ; put them into a skillet with some Claret wine and a race of Ginger sliced thin, some Lemon-peel cut small, and some Sugar, let these stew together till they are soft; then put them in a dish, and when they be cold, take a quart of Cream boil'd with a little Nutmeg, and put therein of the Apple to thicken it as you please, and serve it up."

François Pierre La Varenne, trans. I. D. G. – The French Cook, 3rd ed. (1673)

The author of this recipe, François Pierre La Varenne, was one of the pioneers of French cuisine in the seventeenth century, via his seminal work Le Cuisinier François (1651). The English translation, from which the quote above is taken, was first published in 1653 and was the first French cookbook translated into English.

The recipe itself sounds both simple and delicious, and the end result ought to be a pleasant antidote to all those rich puddings and pies, should you feel the need for one.

A dozen pippins, which in the seventeenth century could very well have meant the ever-popular ‘Golden Pippin’ – or M. La Varenne’s favourite French equivalent, of course – are stewed in wine, with sugar, lemon and ginger – a “race of ginger” means a ginger root; I’m not sure how large a race/root is called for here, but presumably not a massive amount – until the apples are soft, then the mixture is left to cool. This cooling would most likely result in the apple pieces absorbing most of the wine and fluffing up as they did so.

Next: boil up – difficult to say whether this should be a hard or soft boil, but I’d be tempted to err on the side of the latter – a quart – two pints or 1.14 litres – of double cream with enough nutmeg to flavour it to taste. Finally, “put therein of the Apple to thicken it as you please”, i.e. add the stewed fruit to the cream until it reaches a pleasing consistency, and serve it up.

I suppose you could add egg yolks at the appropriate stage of the recipe to turn this into a spiced apple custard? It sounds rather lovely as it is though. I think I might try to make up a smaller portion with about a quarter of the amount of ingredients, which ought to be enough for a couple of people, and perhaps I’ll use cider instead of red wine, for that extra apple-focused flavour.

How about you? Do you like the sound of this creamy, spicy apple dish? Do you feel inspired to make it yourself? Please let me know if you do, via the comments, below.


  1. Apples and cream are always a good marriage, but I would cut the cream a bit and sauté the apples with a little butter first, then a little claret or even port, grated ginger, not pieces, scant sugar, a pinch of salt, stew until soft, chill and add just enough cream to create a good texture. Or a bit of Greek yogurt along with heavy cream.

    1. Well, frankly, yes, that does sound even more delicious. Especially with the addition of a splash of port. I think I might have to make both versions… purely in the interests of being thorough and making a full comparison, you understand 😉

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