I was in a meeting the other day and the subject of hermit cookies came up.
It reminded me of the batch I had made for my dad for Father’s Day more than 30 years ago. I had completely forgotten about that gift until my dad was battling pancreatic cancer and decided it was time to go through his things. When he handed me the jar I had filled with cookies all those years ago, still with its handwritten gift label, I decided then to make one last batch for him.
But I couldn’t find the old family recipe I remembered using as a kid, so I went online. My dad appreciated the thought, but it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t the family recipe and he had no appetite. He died not long after and I haven’t thought about hermit cookies in the three years since. When they popped up in that meeting, I figured there was a reason.
That reason turned out to be that there’s not only a family recipe, but a family story that I needed to know. I had emailed my aunt, my father’s sister, and asked if she’d heard of a recipe for hermit cookies. Well, her response could not have pleased me more. She said it was indeed an old family recipe because they were her father’s favorite cookie. He had loved them, so when he was in the Army during World War II, his sister (for whom my aunt is named) would make them and send them to him.
The weird thing? I’ve been unknowingly repeating history: one of my brothers loves our childhood chocolate chip cookie recipe, so I regularly make a batch and send them to him. Now I not only have a great recipe for hermits, I have a wonderful bit of family history to go with it.
Of course, I made them this weekend. And just between you and me, I found them a little addictive (read: I ate a bunch!).
Here’s the recipe, just as written, with its odd measures and oven temperature:
Ingredients:6 tablespoons shortening
½ cup sugar
½ cup molasses
¼ cup milk
1¾ cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1/3 teaspoon salt
2/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped nuts
Cream shortening, add sugar, egg, and molasses. Mix well, add milk slowly. Sift together dry ingredients and add slowly. Add raisins, nuts and mix. Drop from spoon on greased cookie sheet and bake in 360-degree oven about 10 minutes.