Part of focusing on frugality, for me, is finding ways to make treat foods that don’t cost much. I’d much rather make my own hummus, for instance, than do without it just because it’s expensive.
Among the small handful of things that has followed me from home to home as I’ve moved over the last thirty or so years is a little book by Jo Ann York called How I Feed My Family on $16 a Week (And Have Meat, Fish, or Poultry on the Table Every Night). It’s long out of print, so I’m not giving you a Powell’s link, but this little gem from the mid-’70s, while hopelessly out of date pricewise, has wonderful tips for keeping things inexpensive and interesting. If you can find a used copy, grab it. It’s a fun read.
The oil-stained page in this book, the page that it opens to automatically, is York’s corn fritter recipe. I have been making these, in fat times and lean, for around thirty years, and of course, I’ve fiddled with it here and there.
You won’t see much deep-fried food on this blog, and in fact, the original recipe calls for pan-frying these, which is how I usually do it, but yesterday, I got in the mood to have nice, deep-fried fritters, so I went for it. Normally, though, shallow frying is easier, cheaper, and results in delicious fritters, so the cute factor probably isn’t worth the effort.
I have a weird sickness. I only deep-fry a couple times a year, if that, but when I do, when I’m done frying whatever I’m frying, I get this urge to fry up everything else in the house. I usually start with potatoes if we have them, and then progress to other stuff: yesterday, I ended up doing russet potatoes, sweet potatoes, and a couple hot dogs just for fun. It’s silly, but my life is full of such silliness.
Below the corn fritter recipe, which I’ve adapted from York’s over the years, are a few variations I made yesterday: corn-and-onion, apple, and banana. For the apple fritters, I made a sweet glaze, and the recipe for that, such as it is, is there, too. Each batch makes a dozen or so largeish fritters; two is a good-sized serving, so say six servings per batch.
Adapted from Jo Ann York’s How I Feed My Family on $16 a Week
1 (15-oz.) can whole-kernel corn, or equivalent amount fresh or thawed corn
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
If you’ll be deep-frying these, start a quart or so of oil heating in a medium soup pot (or other frying vessel) on medium-high heat. You’re shooting for around 350F for the temperature, but I don’t usually use a thermometer; I just drop a test fritter in when I think it’s hot enough, and if it sizzles immediately without burning too quickly, it’s just right. If you’re shallow-frying, you’ll need a large skillet and a little bit of oil, probably 1/2 cup or so, but don’t pre-heat these.
Mix together dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Mix together wet ingredients in a small bowl. Add the wet to the dry and stir until all the lumps are out. Add corn and stir well.
If deep-frying, drop by rounded tablespoons into hot oil. Work in small enough batches that you don’t crowd the cooking oil. After a few minutes, flip the fritters and cook the other side. Flip again if necessary — both sides should be nicely browned. Remove from oil and place on a rack or a stack of folded paper towels. Salt to taste immediately. Serve hot or warm.
If shallow-frying, heat skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/4 cup or so of oil, until there’s a quarter-inch-or-so layer of oil in your pan. Drop fritters by rounded tablespoons into the oil. Cook for a few minutes on each side, until browned, turning once. Remove to rack or plate and salt to taste immediately. Repeat with remaining fritter batter, adding a little oil for each batch if necessary. Serve hot or warm.
Add 1/2 to 1 cup finely minced onions to the batter with the corn. Proceed as directed.
Instead of corn, use a large apple, peeled and diced into fairly small pieces. Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon to the dry ingredients. Don’t salt the fritters. If desired, glaze with the sugar glaze that follows.
Prepare a cooling station by placing a cooling rack over a cookie sheet covered with something to catch the drips. Stir 2 tablespoons of milk into 2 cups of powdered sugar. Glaze should have a just-pourable, syrupy consistency, so add more milk or sugar, a tiny bit at a time, until that’s the result. When you remove the fritters from the oil, place them on a plate, then drop one at a time, still hot, into the glaze. Turn it over to make sure it gets glazed on both sides, then remove from glaze and cool on rack until the fritter cools and the glaze has begun to harden. Repeat with remaining fritters.
Instead of corn, use 2 bananas, sliced or chopped. If desired, add a little cinnamon (1/2 teaspoon or so) to the dry ingredients. Don’t salt the fritters. These are sweet enough that we don’t use the glaze, but you can if you wish.
Other dry ingredients: Negligible
Oil for frying (based on 1/2 cup for shallow frying and 1 quart for deep; if deep-frying, you don’t end up eating any more oil, but you have to figure out what to do with the remaining oil from the quart): 2.49 for deep-frying; .31 for shallow
Price per serving (2 fritters)
Corn: 28 cents shallow-fried, 64 cents deep-fried
Corn-onion: 30 cents shallow-fried, 66 cents deep-fried
Apple (with glaze): 32 cents / 68 cents
Banana (no glaze): 17 cents / 53 cents