This recipe for frying batter containing beer comes from “The Art of Cookery” by John Mollard published in 1802. The etext can be found at the Project Gutenberg website. Reading it points out how lucky cooks are today to have modern stoves, refrigerators and small appliances.
Cooking food by dropping it into boiling fat or oil is old but not truly ancient. The required pans had to wait until man learned to work metal in the Bronze Age. Food historians say the first foods to be completely immerged in boiling fat were fritters. Fritters are bits of meats, vegetables, spices and herbs mixed together with eggs and other ingredients into kind of a dough then cooked in boiling fat. They were served by the ancient Greeks and Romans. In the Middle Ages the fat needed for making fried foods was expensive and they were usually found only during holidays, celebrations and at street fairs.
During the early 1800s cooks battered and fried many foods such as celery, onions, mushrooms and other vegetables. Many recipes for battered mixtures of minced cooked meat or fish with a few other ingredients and some herbs are found in early cookbooks. The mixture would be formed into patties or other shapes. They were dipped in a batter and then fried. The idea was to extend a small amount of protein to serve more people as well as using up leftovers. Many items fried in a batter are partially or fully cooked before dusting with flour and dipping in the batter. In the 1800s the fried items were often served with a sauce or with gravy.
The recipe says it makes enough batter for one dish. Other recipes from the book using the batter are below.
1802 Batter for Frying
- 4 oz. sifted flour
- Salt and pepper
- 3 eggs
- 1 gill of beer
Mix the flour, salt, pepper, eggs and beer together in a large bowl. Beat with a wooden spoon or whisk for 10 minutes. It should be thick.
Items should be coated with flour before dipping into the batter. Fry in deep fat or in ½ inch or more of fat in a frying pan.
Cut celery heads three inches long, boil them until half done, wipe them dry, and add to the batter. Have ready boiling lard. Take out the heads singly with a fork, fry them of a light color, drain them dry, serve them up with fried parsley under.
Fried Artichoke Bottoms
Let the chokes be boiled until leaves can be taken away, then cut the bottoms into halves and fry them in batter as in the aforementioned articles; then serve them up with melted butter in a sauce boat with a little ground white pepper.
Hard Eggs Fried
Let the eggs be boiled five minutes; then peel, wipe them dry, cut them in halves, dip them in batter, and fry them of a light brown color. Serve them up with stewed spinach under, with a strong cullis and essence of ham mixed in it.
The recipes below the batter recipe are as they appeared in the text.
Use an electric mixer or blender to mix the batter.
I do not believe a modern light beer would work well in this recipe. Come to think of it I don’t think they are drinkable.
Herbs and spices can be mixed into the batter.