I tend to cook a lot of dishes that are never tasted by anybody other then myself. When researching historical recipes, often the only way to develop a sense of the people who wrote the recipes and the food they were eating is to attempt to make their food itself. While this process is quite a fun and relaxing pass time, quite often the food just isn't to modern tastes - other then my own.
Very occasionally I come across a recipe that is both of intellectual interest and produces an absolutely delicious result. In this case the recipe(s) in question are "Syringed Fritters". Recipes for these types of fritters occurs at least as early as the 16th century, with the German cookbook written by Sabina Welserin 1553 desribing how to make fritters called Strauben and Spritzgebackenes out of hot water dough (similar to a modern Choux pastry) with special funnels or a pastry bag and in his "Ouverture de Cuisine" (1604), Lancelot de Casteau describes the production of similar hot water doughs which can be dropped from a spoon or pushed through a speriche or sering (Syringe). In 17th century England Robert May's "The Accomplisht Cook" has a recipe titled "To fry Paste out of a Syringe or Butter-squirt". So it seems that by the 17th century large syringe type devises were used as kitchen utensils in large, well stocked kitchen in many European countries. These were mainly used to squeeze out butter into decorative ribbons or threads (hence "butter squirt") and to pipe out marzipan for baking, but they were obviously also used for making fritters.
The fritters made in this manner were almost always made from a Choux type pastry or other hot water type pastry, most likely because this dough is quite plastic in nature and therefore able to be piped/syringed into hot oil without falling apart. Most recipes for fried choux pastry from the late 17th to early 18th century consisted of small balls of pastry, rather then syringed sticks of pastry. As these small choux pastry fritters were hollow and very light in texture they were often known as "Pets" (farts) in French cooking texts In some cases they were known as "Whore's Farts" or "Nun's Farts" depending on the humour of the author. In the more straight-laced 19th century the nun's "Farts" were often turned into a "Sighs".
In the 18th century "Syringed Fritters" occur in many English cookbooks. Curiously, these recipes are all very similar and are obviously copied from each other, rather then being original creations. The earliest example I have been able to find is from the anonymous "The Whole Duty of a Woman" 1737.
Syringed Fritters (From "The Whole Duty of a Woman" 1737)
Take about a Pint of water, and a Bit of Butter, the Bigness of an Egg, with some green Lemon-Peel rasp'd, preserved Lemon Peel, and crisped Orange-flowers; put all together in a Stew-pan over the fire, and when boiling throw in fome fine Flour, & keep it stirring, put in by Degrees more flour 'till your batter be thick enough: Then put it in a Mortar with Almonds pounded or Bitter Almonds, biskets , two Eggs, Yolk and White. Temper it with Eggs farther, 'till your Batter be thin enough to be syringed ; Fill your Syringe and your Hogs Lard being hot, syringe your Fritters in it, to make of it a true Lovers Knot; and being well coloured, strew them Sugar: Serve them up hot for a dainty Dish....
This recipe was then published by Hannah Glasse, and later Charlotte Mason, with some re-wording. Richard Briggs re-writes the recipe with more detail.
To make Syringed fritters (From "The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy" 1747, Hannah Glasse).
TAKE about a pint of water, and a bit of butter the bigness of an egg, with some lemon-peel, green if you can get it, rasped preserved lemon-peel, and crisped orange-flowers ; put all together in a stew pan over the fire, and when boiling throw in some fine flour; keep it stirring, put in by degrees more flour till your batter be thick enough, take it off the fire, then take an ounce of sweet almonds, four bitter ones, pound them in a mortar, stir in two Naples biscuits crumbled, two eggs beat; stir all together, and more eggs till your batter be thin enough to be syringed. Fill your syringe, your butter being hot, syringe your fritters in it, to make it of a true lovers-knot, and being well coloured, serve them up for a side-dish.
Syringed Fritters (From "The Ladies Assistant" 1787 by Charlotte Mason).
TO a pint of water, add a piece of butter the size of a large egg, some preferved lemon-peel, crisped orange-flowers, and some green lemon-peel grated ; put them in a stew-pan over the fire, and when they boil throw in fome fine flour ; keep it stirring, and by degrees put in as much flour as will make the batter thick enough ; take it off the fire, stir in two Naples biscuits crumbled, an ounce of sweet almonds, three or four bitter ones, pound them in a mortar, mix it with eggs well beat, till the batter is thin enough to be syringed; let the butter be boiling hot in the frying-pan, and syringe the fritters into it; fry them of a good colour. They make a pretty side dish.
Syringed Fritters (From "The Art of Cookery" 1788 by Richard Briggs).
PUT a pint of water into a stew-pan, with a piece of butter as big as an egg -, grate in the rind of a lemon, a preferved lemon peel rasped, a few orange flowers crisped and rubbed fine-, put all over the fire, and when it boils stir in fome flour, which continue to do till it is as thick as batter; then take it off the fire: take an ounce of sweet almonds and
four bitter ones, blanch and beat them fine in a mortar, rub two Naples biscuits through a fine cullender, and beat two eggs; mix all well together, and put in eggs till your batter is thin enough to syringe; then fill your syringe, have a pan of hogs lard boiling hot, syringe in your fritters as quick as you can, in any form you please -, have a slice ready to take them out in a moment, .....lay them on a sieve to drain, dish
them, and sprinkle powder sugar over them.
Hannah Glasse re-interpreted and re-wrote the recipe from "The Whole Duty of a Woman", as butter is used to shallow fry the fritters, rather then the original method of deep frying in lard, this method is copied by Charlotte Mason. In fact some later authors copy the recipe given by Hannah Glasse word for word (for example John Farley in 1783). Richard Brigg's recipe is interesting as it seems not to have been copied from Hannah Glasse. Finally recipes for these types of syringed fritters disappear from English cookbooks at the end of the 18th century, although they occasionally turn up in cooks "Dictionaries" or other similar large recipe collections, for example in Richard Dolby's "The Cook's Dictionary and Housekeeper's Directory" (1833).
Clearly the later recipes owe a great deal to the "The Whole Duty of a Woman" (especially the Glasse version), but is this an original recipe and if so, what is the source material used? In looking for the origin of these english recipes, it is important to define what is important about the recipe. Clearly they are fritters, but there are thousands of different types of fritters, independently derived in multiple cultures. A more precise definition of these fritters is that they are made from a hot water pastry (flour is added to a hot liquid), specifically a form of Choux pastry and that they are formed by squirting out of a syringe. A syringe is a very specific tool, so it is relatively easy to look for references to it in cooking texts. A good place to look is in the books index, glossary of culinary terms or in the Batterie de Cuisine and ideed in Menon's "La Cuisiniere bourgeoise" there is the following description of a syringe as used as a culinary item.
"SERINGUE. Est un ustensile d'office dans lequel on seringue la pâte des massepains pour la friser, ou lui donner une autre figure : on s'en sert aussi à la cuisine pour les beignets de pâte."
This indicates that in French kitchens of the period, syringes were used to pipe marzipan and fritters (beignets). If we look at Menon's recipes for beignets (not syringed) we see one recipe in particular that is very interesting:
"Beignets soufflés, ou pets & petits choux
Mettrez dans une casserole gros comme un oeuf de beurre, deux citron verds rapes, de la eau de fleurs d’orange une pleine cuillere a café...."
An even closer match to the English recipe is found in François Marin's "Les Dons de Comus":
Mettez dans une casserole une chopine d'eau, de la farine, & gros comme un oeuf de beurre. Formez en une pate royale bien ferme. Mettez le dans le mortier avec du citron rapé, un peu de fleur d'orange, amandes pilées, ou quelques biscuits d'amandes ameres. Mettez-v des oeufs a mesure que vous pilez, mettez-en jusqu'a ce qu'elle soit au soit de pouvoir la mettre dans la seringue. Alors vous l'emplirez & pousserez vos beignets dans la friture. Il saut qu'au bout de la seringue il y ait une petite plaque de fer qui bouche les trous, qu'ils soient dessines en las d'amour ou autre chissre. Vous les faites frire de cote & d'autre & les servez avec du sucre en poudre"
As you can see these recipes starts off almost exactly as the English recipes for "Syringe Fritters", an "egg of butter", "green citron rind" and "orange flower" (not "crisped orange flowers"). Unfortunately Menon's work, although hugely influencial in French and English cookery wasn't published until 1746 and Marin's in 1750, nearly a decade after the "The Whole Duty of a Woman" recipe. Clearly we are looking for a recipe which is the source of both the early english and french recipes. Although the English published a great deal more cookbooks then the French in the 17th century, late in this century several hugely influencial French works were produced. One of the most influencial French cookbook authors of this period was François Massialot. In 1702 "The Court and Country Cook" was published in English, this is a translation of the third edition of "Le Cuisinier royal et bourgeois" and the second edition of "Nouvelle Instruction pour les Confitures. les Liqueurs, et les Fruits". Unfortunately, I don't have access to the english translation, but in "Le Cuisinier royal et bourgeois", the following recipe appears.
"Beignets a l’eau por entremets
Prenez une casserole, & y mettez de l’eau, avec gros comme une noix de beurre, & un peu de sel, avec de l’ecorce de citron vert & confit, hache bien menu. Faites bouillir cela sur ub sournean; y ayant mis deux bonnes poignees de farine, tournez-le a force de bras jusqu’a ce que cela se detrache de la casserole. Alors vous le tirerez en arriere; & y metteant deau jaunes d’oeufs vous les melerez bien ensemble, continuant d’y mettre d’eux oeufs a deux oeufs jusqu’a dix ou douze, que votre pate soit delicate. Il saut ensuite fariner sur son tour, tremper la maon dans la farine, & tirer votre pate par morceaux sur le tour. Quand elle aura reose, il saut la rouler & couper par petits morceaux, empechant qu’ils ne s’attachent l’un a l’autre: & quand on sera prêt a server, vous les frirez dans du bon saindoux; & les ayant tirez , vous jetterez du sucre dessus & de l’eau de fleur dórange, % vous servirez promtement por Hor-d’oeuvres. ON en peut aussi garner des Tourtes de crème. Les Beignets au Bouillon se sont de meme: au lieu d’eau, vous servez de bouillion."
So here I think is the explanation for the confusing "some green Lemon-Peel rasp'd, preserved Lemon Peel" that we see in "The Whole Duty of a Woman", this is simply a poor translation of "de l’ecorce de citron vert & confit". Basically the French recipe is talking about the preserved/candied rind of citron (Citrus medica), not a green lemon (Citrus limon). It is a very odd confusion to have made in light of the fact that preserved citron peel was a very common ingredient in English and French cookery of this period. Another thing to note is that there is no mention of a syringe in this french recipe. The recipe is a close, but not an exact match. An explanation of this is that this type of pasty can be used in a number of different ways and that in many recipes the option to syringe the batter is is left up to the user. Another angle is that there is another recipe that is a more exact match for the "The Whole Duty of a Woman" recipe and indeed, this is what turns out to be the case.
Quite by chance when researching these recipes I read in the excellent introductory material written by Jennifer Stead and Priscilla Bain to the Prospect Books facsimile edition of Hannah Glasse's "The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy", that while Glasse sourced a great deal of material from "The Whole Duty of a Woman", the author(s) of this work copied their recipes wordfor word from several other earlier books. The most copied source for these books was Vincent La Chapelle's "The Modern Cook". While working in London, La Chapelle published his text first in three English volumes in 1733 and then in four French volumes in 1735 as "Le Cuisiner Moderne", it was from the english text that the "Whole Duty of a Woman" recipe is a direct copy. The French text for this recipe is also very interesting.
"Entremis des Bignets Seringuez
Mettez dans une casserole environ une chopine d'eau, gros comme la moitié d'un œuf de bon beurre, de l'écorces de citron verds râpé, de l'écorces de citron confit, de la fleurs-d'orange pralinée;mettez-là dessus un fourneau,& quand elle bouillira, mettez-y, de,la farine,en remuant sanscesse avec une cuillere de bois , en continuant d'y mettre de la farine, jusqu'à ce que vôtre pâte devienne ferme, & qu'elle quitte la casserole, ensuite,mettez-la dans un mortier, avec un peu d'amandes pilées,ou de biscuit d'amande amère ; & vous y mettrez deuy œufs à la fois, blancs & jaunes, & bien pillés; vous continuerez à y mettre des œufs, jufqu'ài ce que vous voyez que vôtre pâte ne foit pas trop claire, & que vous puissiez la manier, pour la mettre, dans la Seringue: observez cependant qu'elle soit fermer car si elle étoit trop délicate, vos Bignets ne pourroient pas se soûtenir ; remplissez-en vôtre Seringue, & mettez du sain-doux dans une casserole sur le feu, & vôtre friture étant chaude, poussez-y vôtre Bignêt, qu'il sorte fort fin, & lassé comme un las d'amour, sans confusion: étant frit d'un côté, vous le tournerez de l'autre côté: étant frit d'une belle couleur, tirez-le, & le poudrez de fucre, & le servez chaudement pour Entremêts... "
It can be seen by comparing this recipe with the earlier beignets recipe from Massialot, that La Chapelle has not so much as copied Massialot as reinterpreted and expanded his recipes. In fact this process of reinterpretation and expansion of Massialot's work characterises many of La Chapelle's recipes. In Massialot's recipe for Beignets a l’eau por entremets, "l’ecorce de citron vert; confit, hache bien menu" which in La Chapelle's Entremis des Bignets Seringuez becomes "l'écorces de citron verds râpé, de l'écorces de citron confit". In other words Massialot's "candied green citron rind, chopped small" becomes La Chapelles "The rasped rind of a green lemon and candied lemon peel" and eventually Hannah Glasse's "some lemon-peel, green if you can get it, rasped preserved lemon-peel"
So we have a French recipe which though a process of poor translation and reinterpretation has been transformed into a new English recipe. I previously mentioned that I often don't serve my re-created historic recipes to other people, but in this case I am happy to say that these recipes produce delicious results. Which is very odd considering the manner in which these recipes were derived. This is my "reinterpretation and expansion of the recipe.
English Syringed Fritters
Oil to fry
600 ml water
50 gm butter
275 gm flour (the more gluten the tougher the fritter)
25 gm of almond meal
4 medium eggs
1 tspn orange flower water, zest of one lemon.
2 crushed sponge fingers or 5 crushed amaretti (optional)
Place water and butter in a saucepan, bring to boil and when butter is melted, add flour. Stir until a smooth dough is produced. Off the heat add lemon zest and orange flour water, almond meal and sponge fingers. Incorporate eggs one at a time. Place in piping bag (using a 1 - 1.5 cm star nozzle). Heat oil in deep frying pan until 160.C. Pipe in fritters, do not over crowd pan. Cook until fritters are golden brown and bubbling as subsided (about 5-10 minutes). Place fritters on absorbant paper, sprinkle with sugar.
These produce a fritter which while superficially resembling a Spanish or Mexican "Churro" are much lighter in texture. This is due to the use of a egg enriched Choux pastry type dough for the English recipe, compared to the plainer hot water dough used for Churros.
Does the resemblance to Churros go beyond the superficial? As I have previously mentioned these type of piped hot water dough fritters where known from many European countries from the 16th century onwards, but it seems that only in Spain and former colonies was the dish retained. In terms of the history of Churros, there are two popular theories.
1). "Churros" are named after a Spanish breed of sheep with the same name, or specifically the horns of these sheep. Spanish shepherds made Churros as a type of primative "bread".
2). They are derived from "Moorish" cuisine.
There is no doubt that many Spanish and world dishes owe their origin to the Moors of the Iberian peninsula. However in many modern theories of the origin of modern Spanish dishes, all too often it is attributed to "The Moors" with out any further need for proof. This isn't good enough. I have looked though what Medieval Arabic recipes sources I have access to and while I can find recipes for piped fritters, I have yet to find a recipe for piped hot water dough. I would not completely discount the possibility of Moorish origins, but without proof I counldn't say any more.
There is also an issue of continuity. If modern recipe has ancient origins then we would expect some continuity in the production of the recipe. The first references in Spanish I can find to Churros are actually from the later half of the 19th century. In Spanish dictionaries from this period, "Churro/Churros" is given as the name of a breed of sheep only, no mention of the pastry. Potentially this is because fritters were not a popular item of polite conversation at the time, in fact one popualr saying from the period is:
"No diga nadie d nadie bunolero".- Let no man call another a fritter-maker.
Fritter making was a lowly occupation it seems. Another possability is that "Churro" is a regional or class specific name for a widely distributed product. From one dialect dictionary (1908) of the Aragona region we have the following definition.
Churro/Chorro = golpe de agua. || Pasta de harina y huevos
A Churro or Chorro is either a "spurt of water" or a specfic name for a type of pastry (unfortunately no more information is given about the form of this pastry). The modern name for the "Churro" fritter being derived from the Spanish for "spurt/squirt" ("Chorro") fits very well with the nature of these fritters and I believe that at this point this is the best explanation for the origin of the name.
There are older forms of these fritters from the Iberian peninsula, in at least two 18th century cookbooks from this region, recipes for "Syringed Fritters" occur. A recipe for "Fruta de siringa/ciringa" (Syringed Fritters) appears in the 1758 edition of the Portuguese cookbook "Arte de Cozinha" by Domingos Rodrigues and the 1763 edition of the Spanish "Arte de Cocina" (first published in 1611 by Francisco Martinez Montiño, head chef to King Felipe IV of Spain) contains a recipe for "Otros bunuelos de viento" this recipe is describes the production of a choux type pastry fritters doughnuts and finishes with the phrase "Esta masa sirve ...., y para fruta de geringa" ("This dough is used for syringed fritters"). This latter book was hugely popular in Spain and it's colonies, being printed well into the 19th century. In later texts "Fruta de geringa" becomes "buñuelos de jeringa". In this form it appears in both Spanish and Mexican cookbooks of the 19th century.
Is it possible that the modern "Churro" is simply a re-naming of the old Spanish "buñuelos de jeringa"? What is the relationship between the Spanish "Fruta de geringa" and the French "Bignets Seringuez", are the 18th century Spanish and Portuguese recipes derived from the earlier French works, are the Spanish/Mexican Churros actually French in origin? Without access to earlier editions of the Spanish text I can't answer these questions, but hopefully somebody may be able to. What ever their origin, syringed fritters are delicious.
p.s. Since writing this I have thought about AlyxL's original comment in regards to the identification of "citron vert" etc. I really don't like being wrong, but I dislike the idea of disseminating incorrect information even more. As my French language skills are poor I contacted French food writer and expert Sophie Bisssaud on this identification problem. This is what she has to say:
"Concerning citron: at no period in history would a French cookbook writer have used the term "citron" instead of "cédrat". The primitive spelling seems to be cedrac (which reminds me of the hebrew etrog), later in the 18th c. cedra is quite common. So when you read in a 17th c. French recipe book the word citron, that really means lemon, not citron....
..The words l'écorce de citron verd & confit can be grammatically misleading for a non-French speaker. I think there may be an ellipsis here, which was quite common in writing at that time. It could actually mean "de l'écorce de citron verd et de l'écorce de citron confit", meaning that both grated fresh (green) lemon peel and preserved lemon peel were used. Only a guess, for that is not clear. However if we are dealing with only one ingredient here, it is most probably lime - or unripe lemon peel, which I doubt - and not citron. The mystery remains as whether it could mean candied green (i.e. unripe) lemon peel or candied lime peel. Now, since I have never heard of the use of preserving unripe lemon peel in sugar, and I am pretty sure that preserved lime peel was known, I do tend to think that the "green lemon" in question could perhaps be lime."
Thank you very much Alyx and Sophie and helping to identify the citrus fruit in question. Not something that I could have done on my own.