Lately I’ve been travelling down memory lane. In my last post – I was remembering my father and my Irish uncle George. This time around it’s my mother-in-law. She was a saint. A beautiful, intelligent, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth, red-headed, spirited farm wife who raised a large family with very little money but a surprising amount of love and kindness and patience.
She was also one of the very best cooks I’ve ever known (except for her soup – which we called dish-water soup behind her back). She made a mean roast beef, fantastic lasagna, the best spaghetti and meatballs on the planet, and butter tarts that were a work of art. Sweet, syrupy, full of raisins, with a perfect crust and the flakiest, most tender pastry. Perfectly cooked – never overdone – never underdone. She also made homemade bread, homemade cinnamon buns, lemon meringue pie, and dinner rolls that consistently won the blue ribbon at the fall fair. She had a pantry full of homemade pickles, jams, relish, etc. When she wasn’t cooking or cleaning or gardening or gathering eggs or farming or quilting or looking after someone – she was usually at church. I mean it – she was a saint.
This is her recipe for soft molasses cookies. It’s an ancient recipe – very likely handed down to her by her mother before her. It also appears on page 107 of A Taste of Wintergreen if you have a copy.
I just think these are perfect cookies. They’re comfort food. Soft – not too sweet – nice and gingery.
In A Taste of Wintergreen, I wrote a preamble about how sugar was cheaper than molasses until the late 1800s – so lots of old North American recipes call for as much or more molasses than sugar. But this time, I’m just going to keep quiet and give you the recipe. Please try it. They really are my very favourite biscuits. I bake them a lot – sometimes I take them to potlucks – people always ignore them and go for all the gooey – chocolatey stuff – and then they try these and say, “OMG – who made these – they are so fantastic!”- and there’s a big rush and they all disappear. You can easily make them vegan – so that’s a nice bonus too.
I carry your heart with me Margaret Mechefske – I carry it in my heart.
Old-Fashioned Soft Molasses Cookies
1 cup butter (or margarine if dairy-free, vegan margarine works perfectly)
1 cup sugar
1 cup fancy molasses
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 – 3 tsp ground ginger (go for it – ginger is good for you!)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Beat together the butter, sugar and molasses. Add the dry ingredients all at once. Roll by teaspoonful into small balls and flatten with a fork on buttered cookie sheets. Bake at 325 °F for about ten to twelve minutes or until just just just starting to brown but still looking underdone. Don’t overcook them – they are supposed to be soft. Remove the oven and allow to cool on wire racks.
Makes a lot – enough for sharing!