Adelaide Keen, on Making German ‘Apple Balls’

"Peel and chop 5 large apples, add 1 ounce butter, 3 ounces of sugar, and rind and juice of a lemon. Cook and stir until smooth, add yolks of 3 eggs, and 2 teaspoonfuls of cornstarch. Cook 20 minutes, press through a sieve, and let it cool. Make into balls, dip in egg and crumbs, fry brown in a kettle of boiling lard. Put a bit of angelica or citron in the end of each to imitate a stalk, dust with sugar, arrange on a dish, and serve cold with a white sauce."

Adelaide Keen, With a Saucepan Over the Sea (1902)

From the introduction to Adelaide Keen’s 1902 opus With a Saucepan Over the Sea – subtitled: Quaint and Delicious Recipes from the Kitchens of Foreign Countries – we learn that Mrs Keen’s mission is to bring to the attention of cooks and housewives a number of culinary gems from beyond her homeland’s borders. By which she clearly means ‘from Europe’ as, judging by the index to the recipes in the book, that’s the only continent1Unless you count Turkey and Russia as sort of Eurasian..? that Mrs Keen has seen fit to explore.

By the way that’s Europe, the starving, war- and plague-stricken, and thoroughly benighted continent, that’s to be found an Atlantic ocean away from Mrs Keen’s native land of milk and honey: the United States of America. Or at least, that’s the general impression I got from this passage in the aforementioned introduction:

"If the number of meats and vegetables seem limited, remember that this is a land of plenty, and that poverty of purse and soil have forced Europeans to use what we consider miserable fare, or else to cook the same thing, such as eggs, in a hundred different styles. Famine and siege and plague have schooled the European housewife to cook the poorest parts of animals, to use all weeds and wildflowers, not harmful, in salads and soups and entrées."

Well, it’s heartening to see that we poverty-stricken Europeans might have been cooking with offal and weeds back in 1902, but dammit, at least we still had entrées!

And go on then, seeing as you asked, here’s one more bit of Euro-bashing from Mrs Keen’s introduction:

"Foreign cookery books are, as a rule, unsatisfactory, the English being painfully naive, and the French too indefinite or too extravagant as regards quantities. It is hoped, therefore, that this little volume will fill a place between. Our cooking has been usually, so far, too plain or too rich, insipid or spicy, without that delicate, intelligent seasoning which foreign cookery economically represents.
We have had, too, most of our servants from Ireland, the least creative of countries, who lived in huts, ate potatoes and oatmeal, and never saw any utensil but an iron kettle."

Um… Okay then. I think we’ve got the measure of Mrs Keen. Let’s just say she probably wouldn’t have voted for Biden in 2020.

Anyhow, moving on: there are quite a few fruit recipes in With a Saucepan Over the Sea and a few of them are rather intriguing, so I’ll most likely be coming back to this one again a few times. The first one that caught my eye was the above, for ‘Apple Balls’, which is apparently a German dish.

So: cook a few apples down to a smooth purée – I’d heartily recommend ‘Keswick Codlin’, if you can get hold of some, as they mush down a treat – with sugar and butter. Add egg yolks and corn starch, presumably to thicken, then stir well and pass through a sieve to make sure the result is very smooth indeed. Let it cool – so into the fridge for a while, presumably until the mixture has solidified.

Once it’s firm, bring it on out and make it into balls. But what size balls, I wonder? And I guess we should make them by hand? Or, if the mix is a sticky one, perhaps with a melon-baller? Or would the balls then be too small? Perhaps quinelle them with two spoons? You might just have to take a view on that when you get to that stage.

The next bit seems clearer: dip the apple balls into eggs and breadcrumbs, so perhaps you could use the leftover egg whites at this stage? Then “fry brown in a kettle of boiling lard”. Which suggests a deep-fat fry, rather than a shallow one? And presumably these days you might use something like vegetable oil rather than lard, unless you were feeling in the mood for added authenticity.

Let them cool again – the recipe says “cold” so maybe back into the fridge for a while they go – and then serve them up with white sauce – or custard, or even crême Anglaise if you’re feeling particularly European – and stick a bit of green stuff in the top to make them look a bit like actual apples.2Or not. Yeah, probably not.

There you have it: German ‘apple balls’. I’ll page my regular Deutschland-dwelling correspondent Barry M to ask whether or not these sound authentically German, and if so what their German name might be. In the meantime, this is definitely going on the ‘yep, I’ll give that a go someday’ list.

How about you? Do you like the sound of Mrs Keen’s German apple balls? Have you made them, or something similar, before? Would you be tempted to give them a go? Please do let me know if so, via the comments.


  • 1
    Unless you count Turkey and Russia as sort of Eurasian..?
  • 2
    Or not. Yeah, probably not.

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