Oatmeal Cookies – As American as Apple Pie!

The Two Recipes I Used

The Two Recipes I Used

There are lots of cookie recipes in Aunt Lilly’s recipe book, so I thought I’d try a tried and true one – oatmeal cookies. Everyone loves oatmeal cookies and I figured I’d find lots of recipes to help me with Aunt Lillian’s spare ingredient list. Not only did I find lots of recipes in my growing vintage cookbook collection (so many that Dan and I went out and bought a special bookcase for the kitchen for them!), but I learned some fascinating history tid bits about oatmeal cookies. The oatmeal cookie descends from the British Isles where in ancient times it was (and is) known as a bannock or oat cake. But these were not sweet confections, but rather a type of pancake with oats, water, a little salt and fat. These were especially popular in Scotland where oats were the staple food. Oats came over to the New World with the explorers and early settlers who used them in porridges, puddings, and baked goods. But no cookies yet! It wasn’t until rolled oats were introduced in 1877, and then in 1901 when the Quaker Oats Company was formed as we know it that recipes for using oats such as cookies began to really take off.

It Takes a Village-- Some of the Recipes I Used

It Takes a Village-- Some of the Recipes I Used

In 1884 an oatmeal cookie recipe appeared in the following cookbook, Mrs. Owen’s Cook Book and Useful Household Hints. The first widespread recipe was Fannie Farmer’s 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cook Book’s recipe (though it only called for 1/2 cup of oatmeal!). And with that the oatmeal cookie was born. I have six cookbooks which I referred to ranging in dates from my 1896 Fannie Farmer to my 1949 Maytag Dutch Oven Gas Range Instruction and Cookbook to help with Aunt Lillian’s recipe. The one I found most useful (though I did modify the time) was The American Woman’s Cook Book, edited by Ruth Berolzheimer from 1941. Here’s Aunt Lillian’s recipe:

Oat Meal Cookies (Aunt Lil wrote the name as two words)

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 3 cups flour sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 lb melted fat (I used 2 sticks of softened butter)
  • 2 cups raisins
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 1 cup water or milk (I used water as I was out of milk)

Sift flour, salt, soda and cinnamon together. Cream shortening with sugar until fluffy. Add beaten eggs to creamed shortening and mix well. Add sifted ingredients alternatively with water or milk in small amounts. Add rolled oats and raisins. Drop from teaspoon onto greased baking sheet and bake in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Oatmeal Cookies Right out of the Oven

Oatmeal Cookies Right out of the Oven

Notes: Of all the recipes I had in my collection Aunt Lillian’s used the most oats and flour. Most called for 2 cups oats to 2 cups flour. I was tempted to modify Aunt Lillian’s, but didn’t. I was glad I didn’t. Her recipe came out great! Everyone loved it – even raved about it. I took the cookies to work and they were gone in a flash. And, like all of these older recipes the comments were “So good, but not too sweet.” Obviously we are over sweetening our desserts! I’ve seen a lot of oatmeal cookie recipes out there now that add things like chocolate bits and other things to “spice” them up. But I’m telling you the old tried and true oatmeal and raisin cookie is the way to go. Make your family happy and make this recipe. They will be so glad you did.

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