It is official. Autumn is here.
I made my first batch of chili this evening. What is it about the cooler fall weather that turns are taste buds toward chili, soups and stews? Or why do we suddenly crave something made with cloves or ginger or cinnamon? Because these are the tastes of fall. And with fall upon us, my recipe for Joe Froggers comes out of the recipe box.
Every October, my family has a tradition of enjoying a cookie named “Joe Frogger.” The tradition started about 30 years ago when our boys were small. After seeing the recipe in a magazine and being intrigued by the size of the cookie, I knew these cookies stood a good chance of satisfying the boys growing appetites. Anyone with growing boys will attest to the fact that every year of age brings an increase in both shoe sizes and appetite sizes. This cookie is made to be at least a four-inch cookie, bigger than little boy hands. Thus started the tradition of Joe Frogger cookies.
Seeing the recipe for the first time, I was also struck by the crazy name “Joe Frogger.” A little background checking revealed the recipe to be about two hundred and fifty years old. Very little has changed in the recipe over the years. The recipe has stayed true to the basics: flour, sugar, shortening, molasses, and spices.
But where did the name come from?
The recipe was started on the East Coast, in a fishing village where seafaring ships would dock. A man by the name of Joe Brown, also known as Black Joe, would feed the sailors in his tavern as they were coming and going to their ships. Being a great entrepreneur for his time, Joe wanted the sailors to come back each time they were in port. Joe enlisted his wife’s help by asking her to bake a new biscuit the sailors would remember. The biscuit was a rich, deep brown molasses cookie that would stay soft no matter how long the voyage. With a mill pond full of black frogs behind the tavern and the dark color of the cookie, sailors started calling the cookies “Joe’s Frogs.” His wife, hearing the name Frogs, began to make the cookies the size of a lily pad to match the name. Hence, Joe Froggers, named after a pub-owning, pond side dwelling man serving the sailors who sailed in and out of Marblehead, Massachusetts in the 1700’s.
Here’s my recipe I bring out every autumn season:
7 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 Tablespoon ginger
1 Tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon allspice
1 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ cup dark molasses
¾ cup warm water
Sugar for dusting cookies
Cream sugar and shortening until creamy. Add molasses, baking soda, and water. Mix.
Add flour, nutmeg, ginger, salt, cloves, and allspice. Mix thoroughly.
Using approximately 1/3 of the dough, roll out on very lightly floured board to 3/8 inch thick. Using a four-inch cutter, cut into rounds. Place on parchment lined cookie sheets. Using your thumb, make a shallow indentation in center of each cookie. Put ¼ teaspoon Strawberry jams in center. Sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for 12 minutes. Be careful to not over bake. Cool on baking sheet.