Hermit Cookies is the first recipe from the Aunt Lou Archives 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.
These little cookies have history
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 in the 1900’s. At this time, other dried fruits such as apricots, and citrons(candied lemons) began to feature in recipes.
The various cookbooks show slight changes in the ingredients used, mostly due to availability and regional taste. For example, recipes from Vermont are partial to white sugar, while those of the Champlain Valley have brown sugar.
Plain cookie vs Richer cookie
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 are called Plain Cookies and Richer Cookies. The main difference is that the Richer Cookie had an additional egg. 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 carried by a hermit. Interesting!!!!
Regardless of their curious name or provenance, hermit cookies are really tasty. The name alone can spark a conversation. If you make a big batch of these you can certainly freeze them. You can freeze them on a baking tray and then once frozen place them in a sealed container with wax paper between layers. You can store them one month and up to three months.
If you want to checkout some other interest and unusual cookie recipe here are a few to try to bookmark for later. Pistachio rosewater cookies are a Middle Eastern style shortbreak cookies that have a nice exotic flavor. Polvorones de limón are a Spanish style shortbread cookie with a nice crunch! Tinginys are a no-bake cookie from Lithuania made with digestive biscuit and a chocolate mix that are so tasty and fun to make with kids! Irish butter cookies will absolutely melt in your mouth and you need to make these for Saint Patrick’s Day! If you make any of these I would love to hear from you! Leave me a comment below.
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.