I love a cookie with a story.  This one originates beside a pond in Marblehead, Massachusetts, in the kitchen of a Revolutionary War veteran called Black Joe and his wife Lucretia.  Legend has it that their home sometimes served as a tavern where the locals could drink grog, listen to Joe play the fiddle, and enjoy Aunt Crease’s cooking.  One of her specialties was a saucer-sized, rum-spiked molasses cookie.  These so-called Joe’s froggers, named for their likeness to the lily pads on the nearby pond, were favored by fisherman who brought barrels full of the sturdy cookies on their ocean voyages.

A little like a gingersnap, a little like gingerbread, this Yankee favorite was new to me when I saw the recipe in the paper this weekend.  I used unsulphured molasses, because that’s what I had, and cut them smaller than tradition dictates.  You can use thick and sticky blackstrap molasses instead, if you like (you’ll probably need to reduce the flour by 1/2 c. to accommodate it).  Shortening makes a crisper cookie with a longer shelf life, but butter will work as well.

Joe froggers

Adapted from The Boston Globe

Yield:  Makes about 2 dozen, 4-inch cookies

2 1/2 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. fine sea salt

3/4 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp. allspice

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

1/4 c. non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening (or use butter)

1/2 c. granulated sugar

1/2 c. molasses

3 tbsp. hot water

1 tbsp. dark rum

1/2 tsp. baking soda

Sift flour, salt, and spices into a mixing bowl.

In the work bowl of an electric mixer, cream shortening or butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl or large liquid measure, whisk together molasses, hot water, rum, and baking soda.  Mixture will bubble and foam.

With mixer running on low speed, add flour and molasses  mixtures to butter mixture in alternating additions until well combined.

Divide dough into two balls, the press each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic.  Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight, until firm enough to roll.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  On a floured counter, roll out one dough disc to between 1/8 and 1/4-inch thickness.  Using a round cutter or the rim of a drinking glass, cut out cookies as close together as possible.  Place cookies at least 1/2-inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Gather scraps and set aside.   Roll and cut second dough disc.  Combine all scraps, roll out and cut remaining cookies.

Bake for about 9 minutes, or until centers of cookies are set and edges are starting to brown.  Let cookies cool briefly on pan, then remove to wire racks.  Cookies keep well at room temperature in a tightly sealed container for a few days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.