Alcott · Little Women

Cookbook Outtakes: Hannah’s Oyster Fritters


Author: Alcott, Louisa
Book: Little Women
Difficulty rating: Little Women
Deliciousness rating: Outstanding

“I saw something I liked this morning, and I meant to tell it at dinner, but I forgot,” said Beth, putting Jo’s topsy-turvy basket in order as she talked. “When I went to get some oysters for Hannah, Mr. Laurence was in the fish shop, but he didn’t see me, for I kept behind the fish barrel, and he was busy with Mr. Cutter the fish-man.” (Chapter 4: “Burdens”)

There wasn’t enough space in the book for this recipe, but this one for oyster fritters is actually one of our very favorites. These fritters are wonderful. If you’re thinking of the slightly rubbery appetizers at a chain restaurant, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Fried fresh oysters are an entirely different food altogether — so delicious, no wonder Victorians ate oysters to depletion.

Makes 12 fritters

Special equipment required: oyster knife, deep-frying thermometer


  • A dozen fresh oysters, still in their shells if possible
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½  cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups fine bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Lard or other fat for frying
  • 1 lemon


  1. Shuck the oysters. (If you have no idea how to do this, there are many helpful tutorials on YouTube. You can also have the fish market do it, but use them right away!)
  2. Heat oil to 350 degrees.
  3. Make a batter of the eggs, milk, flour, salt and bread crumbs. Mix well. 
  4. Flour each oyster, and then dip it into the batter. It will come apart a little, especially when it hits the oil, but don’t stress it.
  5. Fry in the hot oil, 3 or 4 at a time, for about 2 minutes or until golden brown.
  6. As you fry, keep checking the thermometer and make sure the oil stays at 350 degrees. 
  7. Scoop them out with a skimmer, and scoop out any excess crumbs from the oil before putting the next batch in.
  8. Serve immediately with slices of lemon and your choice of sauce (a mix of mayonnaise, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper is GREAT).

Alcott, Louisa. Little Women. Reprint. 1896. New York: Viking Penguin Inc, 1926.

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