Monday, February 19, 2018

Apple Tansey

Fried apple slices dipped in a batter of eggs, cream, sugar, nutmeg and rosewater or apples chopped fine in a batter thickened with flour are delicious fried.  Tanseys are an old recipe, and appear in cookbooks by La Varenne (1673), Smith (1730) and cooking manuscripts from the 1600s (William Penn's wife and Martha Washington's Custis inlaws - both their apple recipes are delicious).  The herb 'tansey' is no longer used in the recipe, but the name lives on.


Pare your Apples, and cut them into thin round slices, then fry them in good sweet butter; after this, take a dozen Egs,[sic] sweet Cream, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Ginger and Sugar, with a little Rose-water; beat these well together, and pour them on your Apples, and so fry them.
LaVarenne, Francois.  The French Cook. 3d ed.  London: 1673

To Make an apple Tansie 

Take 12 eggs & leave out halfe of  whites, & beat well. Yn putin 4 or 5 spoonfulls of rosewater, a nutmeg,  & halfe a pinte of cream. Yn take as many apples, being pared & skread, as will thicken it, & fry it in fresh butter. You must fry some apples in round slices & set  by tillyr tansie be turned once.Yn you must lay those pieces on ye side you  last.
Serve it up hot,& strow on some sugar & rose water, & shread in a leamon with yr apples & put in some sugar.
Martha Washington Booke of Cookery.  Karen Hess, ed. 1996     Custis family [c. late 1600s]

Too make a Fansey of Apells

Take apells and boyle them very tender in a skillet of watter,
then strain the pap of them, and put to it sum yeolke of egg
sturing it well together,
and put in a punfull or too of grated bred,
and a Littell Crème and suger,
and so mingle it all together,
then fry it in sweet butter,
you may putt in some juce of spinaige if you will to Coller it when you mingle it –
Gulielma Penn [1644-1694]  Penn Family Recipes. 1966

To make an Apple Tansey

Take three Pippins, slice them round in thin slices, and fry them with Butter; then beat four Eggs, with six spoonfuls of Cream, a little Rosewater, Nutmeg, and Sugar; stir them together, and pour it over the Apples: Let it fry a little, and turn it with a Pye-plate. Garnish with Lemon and Sugar strewed over it. 1730
Smith, Eliza.  The Compleat Housewife: Or, Accomplished Gentlewomen’s Companion, London: 1730.  

The Compleat Housewife was first published in London in  1727. It went through many editions and changes, with an edition published in Williamsburg, 1742 which was the first cookbook printed in America.  A century and a half later the recipe was included in Our Viands: Whence They Come and how They are Cooked by Anne Walbank Buckland, 1893.

1903 watercolor of a Lewelling Crab Apple by Deborah Griscom Passmore (1840-1911).  NAL Digital Collection.  U.S. Department of Agriculture Pomological Watercolor Collection. Rare and Special Collections, National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, MD 20705

©2018 Patricia Bixler Reber
Researching Food History HOME


  1. I've been looking up tansys to get ready for the spring. You're right - the earlier ones are more medicinal, almost a purge with actual tansy. The walnut leaves or buds, then spinach, then apples....

    1. Walnut leaves or buds... that is very interesting!

  2. This is the earliest apple tansy I found:
    To make an Apple-Tansey.
    Pare your Apples and cut them in thin round slices, then fry them in
    good sweet Butter, then take ten Eggs, sweet Cream, Nutmeg, Cinamon,
    Ginger, Sugar, with a little Rose-water, beat all these together, and
    poure it upon your Apples and fry it.
    - 1655. W. M. The Compleat Cook: Expertly Prescribing The Most Ready Wayes, Whether Italian, Spanish Or French, For Dressing Of Flesh And Fish, Ordering Of Sauces Or Making Of Pastry.

    1. Thanks, that sounds delicious... with all the spices. Will have to try it.