Michael’s mom always has a tray of cookies ready when we come to visit, and it’s a special treat the boys look forward to. When she said she had some Joe Froggers for the tray, I thought, “What?” I’d never heard of them and didn’t have a clue what they were. After a few bites I was hooked and of course had to learn the family story behind them.
Both of Michael’s parents grew up with these cookies when food and materials were rationed during World War II, and the recipes their families used didn’t require many of those rationed ingredients. Unfortunately no one in the family has the original recipe, so with the help of one of Michael’s brothers, they began searching for a recipe that would come close to the cookies they remember. The ingredients that varied the most were the rum and molasses, mostly in quantity, though the molasses varied between blackstrap and dark unsulphured. After testing many, many Joe Froggers recipes, they decided this is the closest to the cookies of their childhood.
The story behind Joe Froggers is the subject of some debate as a few towns in New England claim ownership of the originals, but one thing is certain: the original cookies were huge, about 6 inches in diameter, and were made for sailors to take on ships and thus lasted a long time. You make large cookies by cutting with a coffee can, or use 2-inch cookie cutters for smaller treats.
JOE FROGGERS (NEW ENGLAND MOLASSES COOKIES)
- 3/4 cup hot water
- 5 tablespoons dark rum
- 16 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 cups molasses, dark unsulphured
- 6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 375° F/190° C.
- Combine the hot water and dark rum in a small bowl.
- In the bowl of the stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar.
- In a medium bowl, combine the baking soda and molasses.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, ginger, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg.
- Add the rum mixture to the butter mixture and mix well. Add 1/3 of the molasses and 1/2 the dry ingredients and mix well. Add another 1/3 of the molasses and the rest of the dry ingredients and mix well. Finally add the remaining molasses and mix until well blended. The dough should be stiff but not hard. If the dough is too stiff, add a little water; if not stiff enough, add more flour.
- Divide the dough into three balls, cover with plastic wrap, and chill thoroughly.
- Lightly sprinkle flour on a cutting board. Roll out each ball of dough to about 1/4-inch (1.25 mm) thick and cut with cookie cutter.
- Bake on prepared cookie sheets for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 1 to 2 minutes on the sheet, then remove to a wire rack and cool completely.