Ginger Cookies

Friday, May 14, 1912 – “Looked like rain in the morning. Cleared before noon. Ellsworth gone to town with butter. We baked bread, ginger cookies, and crullers.” – Lydia Jane Hall

"Rolling Pin," Carol Crump Bryner, gouache and colored pencil, 2014

“Rolling Pin,” Carol Crump Bryner, gouache and colored pencil, 2014

When we had our Hall family reunion last year, my cousin Skip asked if he and his wife Rita could make ginger cookies to bring. “Of course!” I said, because if there was one food we all remember from the farm it was Grandma Hall’s ginger cookies.

Skip’s cookies were great, and the ginger cookies my cousin Tom makes and sends me from Indiana are also fantastic. I make my cookies from a recipe in an old New York Times cookbook. I cut them in the shape of hearts and frost them with pink frosting. But none of them taste quite like the ones from the kitchen on Whirlwind Hill.

Here’s my grandmother’s recipe – in her writing – sent to me by Skip.

Grandma Hall's Ginger Cookie Recipe

Grandma Hall’s Ginger Cookie Recipe

I remember helping her make ginger cookies at the kitchen table. She (in spite of her recipe) didn’t seem to measure at all. She used a ton of flour, and the darkest molasses I’ve ever seen, and she worked very fast and with absolute command over the dough. My grandmother had to work fast – she had such a busy life.

Monday, July 25, 1921 – “Agnes helping out of doors most of the time – going to town, looking after the children, making cookies, bread, etc. She doesn’t find much time for housework.” – Lydia Jane Hall

She always cut her cookies into circles. I think this cutter may have been from the farm, but what I remember is just a plain metal ring. Maybe the answer to the memorable taste is that not only did we eat them around the kitchen table but ate them when they were starting to get stale and perfect for dunking into a cup of afternoon coffee or a glass of milk.

"Cookie Cutter," Carol Crump Bryner, gouache, 2014

“Cookie Cutter,” Carol Crump Bryner, gouache, 2014

On Monday:  The Gold Beads

14 thoughts on “Ginger Cookies

  1. Bonny Headley

    Cookies do make memories! As a new wife, wanting to impress my in-laws, I attempted date pinwheels that were a cherished taste memory from a grandmother I never had a chance to know. They tasted fine, but were miserably misshapen. Thinking of them still makes me smile, and recalls that tender time of life! Your drawings of implements are wonderful, Carol. We have a Katy Gilmore hammer portrait we so enjoy. Things designed for frequent use are so simply elegant, and carry the lingering touch of users now gone.

    1. Carol Post author

      Thanks Bonny. I agree about the things designed for frequent use. And the simple ones are the best. A perfectly weighted hammer, a potato masher with a painted handle – things that carry memories with them.

  2. Laura

    Ginger cookies are such a Norton thing too – it must’ve been from the Hall side! Thanks so much for all of these little looks into history!

    1. Carol Post author

      I know that Aunt Ellen (your great grandmother) made ginger cookies on the farm, and that is probably where my grandmother learned to make them, because Ellen’s cookies and Agnes’s cookies were very similar.

  3. Henry Norton

    Gram’s (Gram – Ellen Jane – is Ellsworth’s sister. Of course, she watched her mother make ginger cookies until she was old enough to make them herself.) ginger cookies sat in a cookie can with a hinged lid, the cylindrical sides painted with a bouquet of flowers. Like you, Carol, I and the rest of us on S. Main St. and at the shore just assumed they were part of the basic food groups. The recipe Margy, Dave, and I have from my mother is the same as Lydia’s with some minor changes (e.g., butter instead of shortening; water, not milk). Anyone could run in my grandmother’s house in Wallingford or the Cottage, grab a cookie, yell “thank you!” and run out again. Cookies make good neighbors.

    I wonder how old this recipe is – a couple hundred years? Do you have any idea, Carol?

    1. Carol Post author

      This particular recipe was written by my grandmother, Agnes, and something she probably gave to Skip Simpson in the 1950’s. But I think the same recipe had been used for generations. I remember that hinged tin. Is it still in the cottage? I can’t remember what the tin on the farm looked like. Probably similar I would think. And, yes, cookies make very good neighbors! Thanks, Henry!

      1. Donna Palmer

        Big Smiles 🙂 I have the same recipe 🙂 Do you have it? It came from what Olive wrote on the recipe …Mother Biggs 🙂 That made me think about the “chili sauce recipe” That also says “mother Biggs” It gave me a chuckle …Maybe Grammy Olive was trying to impress her new mother-in-law …wink, wink, wink. You bring back so many memories for me. It’s a peaceful site to sit & relive my past tee hee hee Plus, you’re an accomplished writer & artist 🙂 Later …hugs

        1. Carol Post author

          Hi Donna. I don’t have the actual recipe, just the copy Skip sent me. My grandmother always referred to recipes as “receipts.”
          I would love a copy of that “chili sauce” recipe sometime. I have heard that such a thing was made at the farm, but never ate any there myself. Chili sauce seems such an odd food for a family whose tastes gravitated more toward roast beef and yorkshire pudding.

  4. Linda Hall Christensen

    Oh, I remember Aunt Agnes’s molasses cookies. They were wonderful! She always seemed to have them when our family drove out to the farm for a visit. How we loved going there and visiting the farm as children. When we would come home from Sunday School and hear those words ” We are going to take a ride to Wallingford this afternoon”, we would be truly elated! Those were the good old days.

    1. Carol Post author

      And we always loved it when you came. Sunday afternoons were big visiting days at the farm. They really were the good old days.


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