Hermit Cookies is the first recipe from the Aunt Lou Archives that we attempted. The results were successful!
Hermit Cookies have a curious name as well as past. According to my research, they make their first appearance in a cookbook published in 188O by the ladies of Trinity Church called Champlain Valley Book of Recipes. Other books followed with variations of the hermit cookie. It is believed that hermit cookies were originally a plain cookie with spices, nuts, raisins or currants added to them. Initially though, nuts did not feature into the recipe. The use of nuts came about in the 1900’s; also at this time the use of other dried fruits such as apricots, and citrons(candied lemons) also began to feature in recipes.
The various cookbooks of the time show slight changes in the ingredients used, mostly due to availability and regional taste. For examples recipes from Vermont are partial to white sugar, while those of the Champlain Valley introduce the use of brown sugar.
Hermit-like cookies appear in multiple cookbooks, mostly published by women’s groups, between 1880 and 1935. They all use a basic recipe and to that add the spices, dried fruits and nuts in different proportions. The two basic cookies from where Hermit cookies are derived are called Plain Cookies and Richer Cookies, the main difference is that the Richer Cookie had an additional egg added to the recipe. These recipes were published by a Mrs. Lincoln in her Boston Cooking School Cook Book.
As far as the origin or reason for the name, no one really knows. My research points to the color of the cookie and its association with the cloth sack that might be carried by a hermit. Interesting!!!!
Regardless of their curious name or provenance, hermit cookies are really tasty. The name alone can spark a conversation.
Aunt Lou’s Hermit Cookies
Here is a 100+ year old traditional old fashioned spice cookie recipe and a bit about it's food history. These make a nice soft chewy cookie with lots of spice.
- In a small bowl, mix the spices. Add the nuts and dates. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, place the Crisco and slowly beat in both sugars.
- Slowly add the flour until it is thoroughly mixed.
Stir in the sour cream.
- Add the eggs and mix thoroughly.
- Fold in the spice/nut mixture.
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and drop 1 Tb balls.
Bake at 350 for 10-12 min. Makes 36 cookies.