My cousin posted yesterday about how, with the holidays approaching, she was craving a particular cookie my grandmother always used to make at the holidays.  Another cousin chimed in, and pretty soon we all realized that we all share a ‘sense memory’, associating the smell, taste, and texture of my grandmother’s molasses cookies with family and the holidays.  After my grandmother died, another cousin went through her recipe cards, many annotated or hand written, and made each of us a copy of ‘Grandma’s Cook Book’.  A fair number of the recipes are missing steps, or have ingredients that my grandmother forgot to mention, since it was assumed that you already KNEW what you were doing, and what the end result should be.  She was an accomplished home cook who would feed anybody, and whose cooking and kitchen, whether at the winter house or the cottage, were the anchor of pretty much every childhood holiday, as well as a gathering place for half the known world.  As a teenage runaway, I held on to some of those sensory impressions for dear life, the only shreds of home and security I could carry at times.  Now, as an adult, I take as many opportunities as I can to fill my home and kitchen with people, and a lot of the same tastes, smells and textures that were the foundation of so many great childhood memories.  Food nourishes so much more than just the body at times.  This is one of those recipes I keep going back to,every holiday season, because it brings an echo of my gigantic, messy, wonderful family, both living and not, into my present day life, along with all of the associated great memories of time spent with them.


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Grandma’s Molasses Crackles


3/4 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup molasses

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon each of ground cloves, ground ginger and salt

Granulated sugar for rolling


Cream together molasses, shortening, sugar and egg

Sift all dry ingredients and blend into wet to form a soft, sticky dough.

CHILL- I recommend at least two hours.  Unchilled dough makes flat cookies that don’t crackle.

Once dough is chilled, roll into 1″ balls, and then roll in granulated sugar. I use the coarse, sparkly kind.  It’s pretty, and adds a nice crunch.  Place cookies at least an inch and a half apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet, and bake at 350. ‘Till done’ is what my grandmother’s instructions say.  For the rest of us, that’s about 10-11 min if you prefer them soft, and 12-15 if you like them hard and crunchy, like a biscotti.  Let cool on the pan for a minute or two before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.  Depending on how big you roll them, this makes 4-5 dozen.  Make a double batch.  They’re delicious, and your whole house will smell wonderful.

Try not to eat them all before anyone gets to see what a genius you are in the kitchen.