Ambrosia Apple Fritter “Doughnuts”

All this talk of the Okanagan (have you heard? we’re giving away a trip!) reminded me of my trip out to Kelowna in October that I’m pretty sure I completely forgot to tell you about. I went to tour some orchards that are a part of the BC Tree Fruit co-operative (owned by 800-plus BC growers), and spent the day tooling around orchards, past wineries, wondering why I don’t hop on a plane for the 45 minute flight more often.

Among the people I met that day were Sally and Wilfrid Mennel, certified organic farmers for over 30 years and the couple who discovered the Ambrosia apple about twenty years ago, right there among rows of Jonagold trees in their orchard in the Similkameen valley. “In so far as I’m somewhat negligent in my weeding, it survived,” Wilfred told me. We must be kindred spirits, except that most of the time I’m negligent with my weeding because I have no idea what’s weed and what’s not, and don’t want to accidentally cull the good stuff. Also, I don’t like bending over and risking plumber butt for the neighbours.

Anyway. As you can imagine it’s a rare occurrence for an entirely new fruit to just sprout – and survive – on its own. McIntosh apples showed up in Ontario back in 1810, and Granny Smiths were discovered in Australia in 1868, but generally new varieties are developed by horticulturalists, many of whom spend their careers attempting to create new apples with little success. And then Sally and Wilfrid just go and find one, literally in their own back yard.

They let it grow, and after a couple years the small sapling began to bear fruit. The apples it produced were fine, crisp and sweet, with a honeyed flavour and aroma – Wilfred named it Ambrosia – food of the gods. Once the existing tree had matured, they took a few scions – twigs with buds intact – and grafted them to new root stock to see if they could grow more of the apples. Friends and neighbours began planting new trees in orchards around the Okanagan to ensure they would grow in varied conditions. The trees thrived, and so the Mennels took on the task of introducing a new and completely unknown variety of apple into a world of Spartans, Gala and Red Delicious.

Ambrosias are low in acidity and slow to oxidize, meaning that once sliced the apples hardly turn brown. I came home on the plane last night with a bagful of them, freshly picked, and started slicing them up for W’s kindergarten snacks – their colour hardly turned over the course of the morning. In the kitchen an Ambrosia can take the heat, holding its shape in pies and other baked goods. The coolest part – it’s still a complete mystery where they came from – the Mennels’ best guess is that a nearby Golden Delicious had something to do with it. But this season, BC Tree Fruit expects to sell just under 15 million pounds of truly Canadian Ambrosia apples, all grown on trees with the same parentage – what Sally and Wilfrid call their chance seedling.

Don’t you just want to read that story to your kids before bed?

(They put the words on the apples by putting letter stickers on them while out in the orchard, still growing, before they turned red. Cool huh? Tattooed apples!)

Apple or Pear Fritter “Doughnuts”


November 29, 2010

  • Makes: Makes lots.


1-2 tart, firm apples, such as Ambrosias, or ripe but firm pears


1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 tsp. baking soda

enough milk or water to make a thin batter


1canola oil, for frying powdered sugar, for sprinkling

2Slice your apples (unpeeled) into rings about 1/4" thick and cut out the cores from the middle, making a ring. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and enough milk or water to make a thin batter – it should have the consistency of thin cream.

3In a wide pot, heat an inch or two of canola oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. (You’ll know it’s ready when a scrap of bread held into the oil bubbles around it.) Dip a few slices of apple at a time into the batter, coating them completely, then gently slip into the oil. Cook a couple at a time for a minute or two, flipping with tongs as necessary, until golden. (If they are cooking too quickly, turn the heat down – if it’s taking too long, the oil may need to be hotter. Don’t crowd the pot, or it will bring the temperature of the oil down.)

4Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to paper towels to drain. Once cool enough to handle and eat, sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar.


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24 comments on “Ambrosia Apple Fritter “Doughnuts”

  1. Fuji Mama
    November 29, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    I am intrigued by these apples! They sound amazing! How nice would it be not to have to worry about apples turning brown before you can even blink? That’s always the most stressful thing for me when I’m making pies. Forget crust stress, apple browning is way scarier.

  2. Dee D.
    November 29, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Whoa. an apple that hardly turns brown? that’s awesome! I have a bad tendency to take forever peeling apples, and some of them start turning brown right after i’m done, and have three more apples to go! And those “tattooed” are pretty cool! Really makes me want to try it out. Your apple fritters sound and look so yummy by the way 😉

  3. Laurie in Burnaby
    November 29, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    Thank you for the story, Julie. Very interesting.

  4. Courtney
    November 29, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    No way! I had no idea that’s where Ambrosia’s come from. They are by far my favourite apple!

  5. Erica B.
    November 29, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    This is something I’ve always wanted to learn how to make but I’m afraid it’ll become a habit. mmmMMM donuts 🙂

  6. Shobha
    November 29, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    These are the favourite apple in our house. I can’t wait to tell my kids the story!

  7. Lauren O.
    November 29, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    That’s a fabulous story!!! I will have to go buy some Ambrosia’s and try them for myself….

  8. Avery
    November 29, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    This would be great recipe for Channukah(seeing as its tradition to eat things fried in oil… usually its doughnuts)!

  9. Sue. D
    November 29, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    Cool story! And those photos make me long for summer, but I might get disowned by my family for saying that.

    As for the doughnuts, YUM. I was about to embrace chocolate and fruitcake, but I think a little diversion is called for…

  10. Jennifer
    November 30, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Funny you should write about Ambrosias…
    Just this weekend, I was at our market and decided to pick up Honeycrisps (my favorite). As I walked towards the fruit, I noticed a special stand with “Ambrosia” apples. I’d never heard of them but decided to give them a try. Had my first yesterday and I have to say, they just may very well be moving Ms. Honeycrisp out of her “favorite” spot. They have the perfect balance of sweet and tart – deeee-lish!

  11. Jennifer M
    November 30, 2010 at 9:43 am

    I love ambrosia apples – so crisp! We have tried a recipe similar to this one using pancake batter (we used coyote mix, the lazy man’s pancake) and they were delicious sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.

  12. Lana in South Mountain (ON)
    November 30, 2010 at 11:21 am

    I am going to look for Ambrosias here in Ottawa. Love that they are truly Canadian. By the way, we live about 30 minutes from the location of the first McIntosh apple tree!

  13. Beverley M
    November 30, 2010 at 11:57 am

    That’s neat, I just had an Ambrosia yesterday.

    Thanks for telling us how they did the letters on the apples, I was wondering if it was photoshopped or what 🙂

  14. Nurse Jenn
    November 30, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Baked an ambrosia appple a few weeks ago coated with a bit of brown sugar and cinnamon for a lovely treat. Perfect for the wintery mess that was starting outside.

  15. Shannon Troy
    November 30, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    The Mennels’ son is an old friend of mine! We spent a couple of months volunteering in Costa Rica together a few years ago. I’ve been a fan of the ambrosia apple ever since he told me about them years ago. Nice to see them getting some recognition.

  16. the other Al
    November 30, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    OH OH OH OH!! Apple donuts, oh jeeze you had to show me this! Can’t wait to try them.

  17. Sharlene
    November 30, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Such adorable tattooed apples. I’ve never tried Ambrosia apples before!

  18. Liana @ femme fraiche
    December 1, 2010 at 6:03 am

    I actually had no idea about any of this stuff. That was one of the most interesting posts I’ve read in a while. And your recipe looks delicious to go along with it! Thank you:)

  19. kirstin
    December 1, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Julie, I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your webpage. I discovered it in the summer and it has been my “go to” for new and interesting recipes ever since! Thank-You!

  20. Joanne
    December 8, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    Ambrosia apples are my absolute favorites! (And I am quite the apple connoisseur.) These fritters sound delightful. what a great post!

  21. Mandy
    January 12, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    These turned out great! I added some cinnamon and nutmeg to the batter and then rolled them in cinnamon sugar right after frying them. I have to get some vanilla ice cream to go with them next time. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

    December 13, 2018 at 7:07 am

    This was awful followed the recipe to the letter, there was an overpowering taste of baking soda I won’t have indigestion for days maybe that is why the baking soda taste. Wasted time and ingredients.

    • Julie
      December 17, 2018 at 7:30 pm

      Sorry to hear it Christine.

  23. Rose
    April 21, 2020 at 7:14 pm

    I just bought a bag of these yesterday. I peeked one for je as my dog to share and put the extra pieces on the kitchen counter and forgot about them. Woke up this morning and it wasn’t even brown! I was fascinated. My dog begged for the leftovers ?

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