Hermits Cookies

On July 4th I was asked to bring dessert on a friend’s boat. “Something easy to eat with your fingers”, my friend asked. Naturally, cookies came to mind. I’d been meaning to try Hermits for quite some time. The majority of my pre-1950 cookbooks have Hermits listed as a cookie, so I figured they must have been popular and tasty.

The history of Hermits is complicated. And yes, the Internet has all sorts of theories of how and where they originated. Foodtimeline.org is always my definitive source. From them we learn that small spiced cakes with raisins or currants came with the Crusaders from the East to Europe. There they became gingerbread and jumbles (jumbles often appear in early cook books and were essentially cookies as we know them today).

The author of the Food Time Line has found the first reference to Hermits in two mid-western newspapers in 1878 and 1880. A mid-western origin differs greatly from the romantic theory that this is an old New England recipe. But the cookie did travel eastward and it did become popular in New England regional cook books. It just didn’t originate there in the Colonial times as some would lead you to believe.

Two other things about the cookie vary from cook book to cook book. Earlier recipes almost always call for white sugar. As time progressed, brown sugar became much more common.  The cookies shape also seemed to change. My husband Dan who grew up in the 1940s and 50s in New England remembers his mom baking these cookies, but they were square. Hermits seem to come in both shapes – round and square.

Whatever their origin or shape, these were easy to make, very moist, and a big hit with everyone. Here’s the recipe I used from Green Mountain Kitchen Recipes, from 1948. All these recipes were originally contributed by women to the Rutland Herald and then compiled into this cook book. This recipe comes from Mrs. Clara Moore of Rochester, Vermont who “makes two batches of these each week for a family of four.”

 

 

 

Hermits

  • 6 tbs shortening (I used butter)
  • 1 c. brown sugar (recipe says you can use white sugar as well)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. cloves
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 1 c. raisins

Heat oven to 350 degrees                                                                                      

Cream shortening, add sugar and beaten egg, mix it all well

Add rest of ingredients and mix

Last add raisins dredged in flour (to keep the raisins evenly distributed)

Drop from a spoon onto a greased baking sheet

Bake for 15 minutes

Enjoy!

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  1. [...] I’ve written about the history of Hermits before on this blog when I made a different recipe. You can read about it and see the similarities between the two recipes here. [...]



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