For most readers, snowballs likely conjure memories of childhood winter games or, perhaps, the small, rounded cookies covered with shaved coconut or powdered sugar often prepared around the winter holidays. There is also the Sno-Ball snack cake (cream-filled chocolate cakes covered with marshmallow frosting and colored coconut flakes), first introduced to American supermarkets in 1947. We cannot forget the Baltimore Snowball, an iconic concoction of shaved ice and sweet syrup often topped with marshmallow cream. The association between snowball named treats and coconut is a decidedly mid-twentieth century convention, likely due to the increased affordability, availability, and accessibility (dehydrated flakes) of this tropical fruit. In the nineteenth century and today, region determined the form of this dessert.
Research into printed and manuscript recipe collections suggests several versions of Snowballs circulated within the Anglo-American world during Mary Randolph’s lifetime. These recipes consisted of apple dumplings served with a sauce or icing. One of the earliest references to Snow-Balls occurs in Elizabeth Raffald’s classic cookery text, The Experienced English Housekeeper, first published in London in 1760. A particularly sumptuous version from Colin Mackenzie’s Five Thousand Receipts, first published in England in 1823 with several expanded American editions between 1829-1860, consisted of whole apples, cored and filled with orange or quince marmalade, covered in pastry and baked. Once removed from the oven, the Snowballs were covered in icing and set near the fire to harden. It is easy to imagine the source of the name; these balls of boiled rice covered with sugar glistening in the candlelight likely bore a striking resemblance to the snowballs manufactured by local children. This recipe’s comparative extravagance is unsurprising considering the middle-class or higher audience for Mackenzie’s recipes.
American versions of this recipe, appearing in several sources such as an entry for Snowballs in Caroline Hayward’s manuscript recipe collection and a clipping pasted into an edition of Catharine Beecher’s Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book, alter the recipe to maintain the appearance but reduce the cost of the dish. These variations consist of peeled and cored apples, flavored with lemon peel, cinnamon, and cloves, and tightly wrapped in cooked rice. Hayward’s recipe instructs the cook to tie each apple “up in a cloth like dumplings.” These recipes are sometimes labeled Carolina Snow Balls, a reference to the use of rice. The finished product would resemble Mackenzie’s Snowballs, but with rice in the place of pastry. Since this version did not require the butter and refined wheat flour required for pastry or the costly marmalade, it may have been more economical to produce for family suppers or those with limited means.
There is no evidence whether Mary Randolph prepared or enjoyed these apple dumplings. However, the recipe circulated widely during her lifetime and she certainly had access to the ingredients and, as a recipe for rice to serve with curry attests, was familiar with preparing rice. Nineteenth-century cooks used rice for a number of innovative purposes, “they molded the rice in tea-cups, making a cavity in the centre and filling it with brightly coloured jelly; they layered individual rice puddings with cooked fruit, they folded custard or stiffly beaten egg whites into rice puddings before baking them; some topped puddings with meringue.” While Randolph did not include a rice-based dessert recipe in her cookbook, she was likely familiar with these dishes.
Carolina Snowballs are a unique variation on apple dumplings. Naturally gluten-free, these intriguing little dumplings are reminiscent of winter-time fun!
To Make Carolina Snow-Balls
Hannah Glasse, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy (London: 1788)
Adapted by R.A. Snell
Half a pound of medium grain rice
Six apples, peeled and cored
Quarter pound butter, melted
A glass of white wine or apple juice
Nutmeg and cinnamon, to taste
Sugar, to taste
Six Pudding cloths (a clean piece of unbleached muslin works well)
1. Place a pot of water to boil, be sure there is sufficient room for six apple-sized dumplings.
2. Divide the rice into six equal parts and place each portion of rice in a pudding cloth.
3. Place one apple on top of the rice in each pudding cloth. Placed finely shredded lemon peel in the core of each apple.
4. Wrap the pudding cloth around each apple so that the rice is evenly distributed around the apple. This is the most challenging part! Once the cloth is tied, gently massage the dumpling until the rice surrounds the apple. Be sure the cloth is firmly noted and there is space for the rice to expand.
5. Boil the puddings for 75 minutes.
6. When the puddings are nearly done (after about one hour of boiling), prepare the sauce by boiling all ingredients together.
7. After 75 minutes, carefully remove the puddings from the boiling water. Before unwrapping, dunk the puddings in cold water and squeeze out any excess water.
8. Carefully remove the pudding cloth and serve alongside the sauce.
Yield: six dumplings
 Colin Mackenzie, Five Thousand Receipts in all the useful and domestic arts (Philadelphia: James Kay, Jun. & Co., 1831), 182.
Caroline Hayward Recipe Book, 1815-1834, Joseph H. Hayward Family Papers, s. N-2368. Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA 02215.
 Jeri Quinzio, Pudding: A Global History (London: Reaktion Books Ltd., 2012), 92.
Catharine E. Beecher, Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt Book, designed as a supplement to her treatise on domestic economy (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1857), Library Company of Philadelphia, Am 1857 Beecher 102993.D;
New England Cookbook 1825-1870 and Jane E. Hassler Cookbook, June 1857, Szathmary Culinary Manuscripts and Cookbooks, The University of Iowa Libraries.
Elizabeth Raffald, The Experienced English Housekeeper (London: T. Wilson and R. Spence, 1806), 263.