favourite. biscuits. ever.

March 19, 2013

molasses ginger cookies 2

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!

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30 Comments

  • Reply Jennifer Smeltzer March 19, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    MMM… sounds delicious… Cannot wait to try them with my girls!!!!

  • Reply Lissa March 19, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    Ohh, this recipe looks interesting 🙂
    What sort of molasses did you use? Not blackstrap, I’m assuming…?

    • Reply A Taste of Wintergreen March 20, 2013 at 8:29 am

      Hi Lissa! Very good point – I used Fancy molasses and I’ll go and change my recipe to say that. Thank you! I do like blackstrap but it is pretty potent stuff! 🙂

      • Reply Lissa March 20, 2013 at 11:20 pm

        Potent stuff indeed! I really need to find more recipes that include blackstrap, come to think of it, I have a very neglected jar in the larder.

        Am going to try and track down some of the lighter stuff and give this recipe a whirl; it reminds me of something my Nana might bake 🙂

        • Reply A Taste of Wintergreen March 21, 2013 at 8:24 am

          It turns out there is so much more to molasses than I imagined! Blackstrap is incredibly good for you – loaded with nutrients – which is kind of unusual for a sweetener! If you check out this site – Oh She Glows (great blog) http://ohsheglows.com/2010/09/10/the-blackstrap-reunion/ you might come up with a recipe. I think that gingerbread cake looks pretty wonderful!
          Or you can mix your blackstrap with fancy grade to make a less potent mix and just use it merrily anywhere fancy molasses is called for.
          And yes – this is definitely a “Nana” type recipe! Happy baking…

          • Lissa March 21, 2013 at 11:30 pm

            Ohh, thank you so much for the link! 🙂

  • Reply Jessica March 19, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    Very sweet post Lindy 🙂 And now I have a craving for butter tarts.

    • Reply A Taste of Wintergreen March 20, 2013 at 8:33 am

      Butter tarts are very good for the soul. Especially for students with final assignments and exams pending. And if you get the ones with raisins or walnuts – they’re healthy too. No. Seriously. xox

  • Reply apuginthekitchen March 20, 2013 at 8:17 am

    I LOVE recipes with history, handed down generation to generation. To me they always taste better and because they have withstood the test of time they always turn out beautifully, These cookies look and sound amazing. This is a treasure.

  • Reply Eliza B March 20, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    This is so lovely! Its wonderful how food can carry such meaning and remind us of people we love who are no longer with us. Its a gateway to the past.

    • Reply A Taste of Wintergreen March 20, 2013 at 10:47 pm

      You are so right – food memories ARE potent gateways to our past. What a beautiful way of putting it. Thank you….

  • Reply mydailyminefield March 20, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    I’m a molasses noob. What is “Fancy” molasses? I know there is light and dark molasses, is Fancy a brand? The cookies look delicious!

    • Reply A Taste of Wintergreen March 20, 2013 at 10:43 pm

      “Fancy molasses is the highest grade of molasses available, it is the pure juice of the sugar cane, condensed, inverted and purified.” I’m quoting here from the Crosby molasses site – http://www.crosbys.com/fancy_molasses.asp (since I didn’t actually know the answer to your question. Anyway – they go on…. “It is 100% natural and contains no additives or preservatives. It is a bit lighter in colour than the other molasses products, and the flavour is tangy sweet.” So there we go – we have both learned something. Thank you for asking!!!

      • Reply mydailyminefield March 21, 2013 at 12:55 am

        Thank you for the quick reply and the link to Crosby’s. Small world – they are based out of St. John, New Brunswick – about a stone’s throw from Deer Island where all of my father in law’s family reside. lol I’m going to have to go to the grocery, buy me some Fancy molasses and make me some cookies!!!! 🙂

  • Reply brownpaperbelle March 20, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    I just wrote a post about my Mother-In-Law too. She was also the best cook I knew. And inspires me still. Thanks for sharing – these biscuits look delicious.

    • Reply A Taste of Wintergreen March 20, 2013 at 10:49 pm

      I just looked at your lovely blog – you live in Queensland! I lived in Brisbane for a while – loved Queensland – a beautiful patch of our planet. Thank you for finding me.

  • Reply Maria Dernikos March 21, 2013 at 11:01 am

    Lovely story but you don’t say where you mother in law lived? The recipe is very special and I will be giving them a go.

    • Reply A Taste of Wintergreen March 21, 2013 at 11:21 am

      Oh Maria – thank you and you’re right! She lived in rural Northern Ontario – well off the beaten path. Her parents were pioneers – truly – they settled and cleared the land and lived in log homes. That generation (her parents) told stories of the railway going in across Canada and of Northern Ontario being like the wild west with guns in saloons and wild winters where the snow was so deep that they walked to school atop the fence posts – and of the first car to drive into town! Seems incredible that was only a couple of generations back…

      • Reply Maria Dernikos March 21, 2013 at 12:08 pm

        You had mentioned red hair so I presumed we were in Ireland. I was setting the scene in my head. I love family history and recipes passed down are so fantastic – I call them the golden threads that link us. How fantastic to think that your mother in law ate those cookies with deep snow and guns in the background! I love the recipe even more now!!

  • Reply bentodays March 21, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    Would love to make this, I am sure my kids will gobble it up!

  • Reply Elly March 21, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    My favourites!! This post made me so happy! Grandma was such a lovely lady… (And so are you!)
    xoxoxo

  • Reply Donna Burns July 28, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Aunt Lindy, Mom’s Birthday is on August 3rd. Jo-Ellen is going to surprise Mom and bring her to my place for the long weekend to celebrate. I saw your most recent post on Facebook and it gave me an idea. I’m going to bake a batch of Grandma’s “cookie jar” biscuits for all of us to enjoy!! Thinking of you folks today and hoping things are well. xoxo

    • Reply A Taste of Wintergreen July 28, 2013 at 11:50 am

      Donna! I cannot tell you how happy I am when I see your comments here – or just any connection at all. Happiest of birthdays to Jane. I’d love to see you all sometime. And I’m so glad you are making Grandma’s cookies – it’s beautiful that we all remember her with such love. If you hear anything about owl banding this autumn – please let me know. love to you!

  • Reply Donna Burns July 28, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Actually, I did look into the Owl banding this fall. The first weekend in October is apparently a good week to go. We would love to have you up for it, if you are interested. It’s quite a journey up here as Uncle Chris can likely tell you, but we have the room and are long past due on a visit!

  • Reply crystallized ginger and chocolate shortbread drops | love in the kitchen ♥ April 7, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    […] are my favourite cookies.  Although I think I may have said earlier that ginger molasses cookies are my favourites. Both are fabulous. Both are my favourites. (A bit like my daughters – both […]

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