Wednesday, September 19, 2012

An Apple by Another Name.

With over 1,800 posts under my belt, I cannot always remember if I have covered a particular topic or not, so sometimes I perform a word search of my own archives. I did this a few days ago, when I was preparing yesterday’s post and wanted to check if I had previously written about rennet. I was briefly confused when the following recipe containing the word ‘rennet’ came up:

Pickled Herrings: a French way for a rere-supper.
Wash the herrings; cut off the heads and tips of the tails; skin them; steep them in lukewarm milk and water, and dry and broil them; dish with slices of raw onions and rennets, and serve with oil.
The Cook and Housewife’s Manual (1826)

This recipe does not intend that slices of salted calf stomach be used as a garnish for the herrings. In this dish, the ‘rennets’ are a variety of apple. The variety is said to be French in origin, and the name a corruption of reinette, which presumably is a diminutive of reine, so means ‘little queen.’ French scholars please comment!

Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery (London, 1870’s) which was the source of yesterday’s information on rennet-the-milk-coagulator has the following as its next entry:

Rennett. - "This is the common name, not only in English, but, with slight modifications, in French, German, and other languages, of a class of apple, including many of the most beautiful and pleasant varieties. They are of a very regular and nearly globose shape; their skin has generally a rusty tinge, and often a kind of unctuousness to the touch; their flesh is finely granular, and besides being sweet and
agreeably acid, they have a peculiar aromatic flavor. They do not keep well."

In times past, a great deal of consideration was given to the specific variety of fruit suitable for various purposes. It is less of an issue these days because the keeping qualities of fruit are irrelevant, thanks to climate controlled storage, and the suitability for preserving by other methods is obviated by the ease of buying them ready canned. Most of us would chose green Granny Smiths for pies, and a red and crunchy type for the lunchbox, but that is about the extent of our concern over apple varieties.

Should you come across some rennet apples but don’t want pickled herrings for dinner, you could try the following recipe, which is also from Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery.

Indian Salad.
Cut the meat of a lobster, or of a crab's claws, into pieces, and slice a couple of cucumbers, with two chilies, a Spanish onion, if liked, and two rennets. The seeds of the fruit should be removed, and the whole seasoned with pepper and salt. Put into the bowl two spoonfuls of vinegar, a little cayenne, and three spoonfuls of the best Lucca oil.

Here is another recipe which sounds absolutely delicious. I don’t believe I have ever gently fried minced apples in butter, but it sounds a fine way to start cooking dessert.

Charlotte des Pommes.
Pare, core, and mince fourteen or fifteen French rennet apples; put them into a frying-pan, with some pounded loaf sugar, a little powdered cinnamon, grated lemon-peel, and two ounces and a half of fresh butter; fry them a quarter of an hour over a quick fire, stirring them constantly. Butter a shape of the size the charlotte is intended to be; cut strips of bread about the width of two fingers, and long enough to reach from the bottom to the rim of the shape, so that the whole be lined with bread; dip each bit into melted butter, and then put a layer of the fried apples, and one of apricot jam or marmalade, then one of bread dipped into butte; begin and finish with it. Bake it in an oven for nearly an hour; turn it out to serve it. It may be boiled, and serve with a sweet sauce.
The Cook's Own Book, and Housekeeper's Register (1840), by Mrs. N. K. M. Lee

Or this:
Jelly of Apples
Cut six dozen of sound rennet apples in quarters, take out all the pips, put them into a sugar-pan, just cover them with cold water, and place over the fire, let boil until the apples become quite pulpy, when drain them upon a sieve, catching the liquor in a basin, which afterwards pass through a new and very clean jelly-bag; to every pint of liquor have one pound of sugar, which boil to the sixth degree as directed (831); when, whilst hot, mix in the liquor from the apple with a very clean skimmer; to prevent it boiling over keep it skimmed, lift the skimmer occasionally from the pan, and when the jelly falls from it in thin sheets, take it up and fill the points as before; the smaller pots are the best adapted for jellies.
The Modern Housewife, (1850) by Alexis Soyer


Liz + Louka said...

I had been under the impression that the English for Reinette was Pippin (as in Cox's Orange Pippin) but the only internet evidence I can find is the translation of a French children's song at

Les said...

My mom used to serve fried apples seasoned with cinnamon and sugar as a breakfast item. She used margarine instead of butter unfortunately but they were still delicious. I imagine it would be much better with butter. Try them if you haven't. She let them fry until the sugar were caramelized and the slices were a golden brown color.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps not apropos of rennet... I merely want to say that I just discovered this blog, and it's fascinating: scholarly, beautifully written and diverse. I've only gotten as far back as April of this year! I hope beyond measure that you're planning a book.


PS I'm only posting anonymously because I despise Google+.

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Liz, Les, and Kate - sorry for the late and combined response, the week(s) kinda got away from me.
I think there is so much confusion over common apple names that only a horticulturalist could work them out - and then perhaps not.
Les, I Love the sound of the fried apples; am definitely going to try them for breakfast at the weekend.
Kate - I am delighted to have you on board the good ship Old Foodie. I am currently writing a food history almanac.