Old-Fashioned Brown Sugar Cookie Recipe

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, September 23, 1911: Mosey got me started in the arts of cookie making. As a whole the result wasn’t’ so bad for all that matters any way I don’t like that kind of employment very well because my achievements in that direction would be very apt to prove failures oftener than successes.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I love all the different names Grandma uses when writing about her family and friends. You can get a sense how Grandma is feeling based upon what she calls people. Sometimes she calls her sister Ruth, “Rufus” and today her mother is Mosey. Mosey sounds like an affectionate term–though it sounds like Grandma didn’t like to cook.

I wonder what kind of cookies she made.. . . Mmm . . . Maybe she made Brown Sugar Cookies.

Here’s a wonderful old recipe for Brown Sugar Cookies.  This is one of my children’s favorite cookies. They are more raised and softer than is typical of many modern drop cookie recipes—but they are superb.

Brown Sugar Cookies

1 cup lard (or other shortening)

2 cups brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup sour milk*

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 1/2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix the lard/shortening, brown sugar, eggs, sour milk, baking soda, and salt together. Add flour and stir until combined. Chill 1/2 hour. Drop rounded teaspoons of dough on greased cookie sheet. Bake 8 – 10 minutes, or until light browned.

Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies

*Add 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar to regular milk to create sour milk.

I often add chocolate chips or walnuts into the batter before making the cookies.

I got the recipe from my mother-in-law, but it would be typical of cookie recipes from years ago—though obviously it’s been adapted for use with a modern range.

This recipe is from an era when pasteurized milk was not the norm since it calls for sour milk. In the old days raw milk would sour—but still be good for cooking. Vinegar can be used to “sour” pasteurized milk.

A hundred years ago lard would have generally been used in this recipe–though Crisco was rolled out in 1911  by Proctor and Gamble.

4 thoughts on “Old-Fashioned Brown Sugar Cookie Recipe

  1. This recipe is almost like an old recipe that my grandma used to make when we were growing up in the early 50’s. They were a favorite cookie of the whole family! My grandpa loved them very much! She had a few variations of this recipe as she always put the baking soda into the sour milk. She also added about 1 tsp cinnamon. She pressed a wet fork lightly on each one and then sprinkled sugar onto each cookie before popping the batch into the oven. I also had to lower the temperature to 395° and the baking time to 7 minutes and 30 seconds. They had a tendency to overcook at the directions listed here. You might not have any problem at all. My stove is brand new .so I trust my changes.

    1. I’m glad this recipe brought back some warm memories. When I made this recipe I used double-layer insulated cookie sheets with a thin pocket of air between the layers. That might account for why a slightly higher temperature and longer time worked just fine for me.

  2. My husband’s grandmother used to make a similar recipe when he was a child in the ’50’s, which she gave to me. I have been trying to duplicate her cookies for 50 years (the length of our marriage) using the recipe she gave me. Mine always come out chewy instead of cakey like hers were. They were also rolled out and cut with a biscuit cutter. Hers didn’t use sour milk, instead 5 T boiling water poured over 2 scant t baking soda as well as 1 t baking powder mixed in with the flour. Enough flour to stick together so it could be rolled out. She didn’t list a temperature or time, but I was using 350 degrees for 9 – 11 minutes. I was also using butter, tried Crisco, tried 375 degrees, tried various times. I have found the amount of flour needed varied dramatically from 2.5 cups to 8 cups, I assume depending on room temperature and/or humidity and or/ barometric pressure? Am going to try eliminating the boiled water and just mix the soda and powder with the flour. If that doesn’t work, I will try also adding sour milk in varying amounts. It makes 4 dozen cookies, so I make it when I stay with my 97 year old father and leave the cookies for the other care givers who come to his home on other days.
    If I ever figure it out, will let you know the recipe that works.

    1. It’s so frustrating when an old family recipe doesn’t turn out quite the way it originally did. Sometimes I think that some ingredients may have changed across the years (like maybe flour was processed differently years ago). I’ll keep my crossed that you are able to figure it out.

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