Lately I’ve been travelling down memory lane. In a recent 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.
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!