A few months after my husband met his business partner, Silvano, who is originally from Venice, he told him about my family connection to Italy. Silvano’s eyes got big and he said, I think your wife and I might be related. After checking with his mother and an aunt, sure enough we are related by marriage.
Shift to six years later, and Silvano came and ate with Mr BT and me during the shiva of my mother-in-law. Silvano and I started talking about Italian Jewish holiday dishes and got to the subject of Pesach and matza balls. I told him that my family made unusual matza balls, and I haven’t met a lot of people who are familiar with them. So, he asked how we made them. I explained we make them with whole matza and add nutmeg….. he looked at me and said very casually, “What is so special about those?! Those are the Morpugo matza balls and I haven’t met anyone else who makes them that way.” We both laughed and I paused for a minute. “Wait a minute.”, I said, “we are related on my paternal grandfather’s side of the family, but this recipe comes from my paternal grandmother’s side!”
He called me a few days later to say that he called one of his Morpugo aunts to tell her the story and she said, “Who needs a DNA test, the matching matza ball recipes confirm we are family!”
The holidays always make me think of the fun family gatherings we used to have. With most of the older generation no longer with us, it makes me think even more about the holiday foods I used to watch my paternal grandmother make. Before Hannukah, my grandmother was busy making her famous square chocolate cake, butter cookies, candied almonds, Butter-Mandel Kuchen, which she called Hefeteig (yeast dough) and Schnecken. But one of the treats that we all looked forward to were the fresh apple fritters she would make. The house would smell of sweet oil, apples, cinnamon and powdered sugar. I can smell them now as I am writing this post.
I decided to introduce my family’s tradition of apple fritters for Hannukah to Mr. BT and by the smile on his face, I think it will be a tradition we will continue.
Fritelle di Mele – Apple Fritters
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup beer (lager or pilsner)
1 large firm baking apple, such as Granny Smith
1/4 cup rum, brandy or calvados
Peanut or safflower oil, for frying
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, clove and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, butter, and vanilla. Mix in a third of the flour mixture, then a third of the beer to combine. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beer in two additions; whisk well to combine. Set aside for 30 minutes.
Peel, core, and slice the apple into ten 1/3 cm-(1/8 inch)-thick rings. Spread out the rings on a large plate or shallow pan, and pour the rum over the apple slices. Let the slices sit for 20 minutes to macerate in the rum.
Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, and fold them gently into the batter.
Fill a high-sided skillet or wide pot with 5 centimeters (2 inches) of oil, and heat the oil to 190C (375F). In batches, dip the apple rings into the batter to coat both sides, and fry, turning once, until the apple fritters are golden and crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle icing sugar on top, and serve warm.
All photos and recipes are the copyright of Baroness Tapuzina unless otherwise noted.