Hundred-Year-Old Hermits Cookies Recipe

hermit-cookies

Tis the season . . . for baking cookies. Old-fashioned, traditional cookies are my favorite, so I was thrilled to find a hundred-year-old recipe for Hermits. Hermits are a soft, spicy, raisin cookie. They have been around a long time so there are lots of variations. This recipe was for the traditional drop cookie version.

The Hermits were delightful. They had a lovely texture and the right amount of chewiness. The old-fashioned goodness of the Hermits was enhanced by just the right amount of cinnamon and mace, and a hint of molasses.

The recipe was easy to make–and would be a perfect addition to a holiday cookie tray.

Here’s the hundred-year-old recipe:

Source: American Cookery (October, 1916)
Source: American Cookery (October, 1916)

And, here’s my updated version of the recipe for modern cooks:

Hermits

  • Servings: approximately 40 cookies
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon milk

1 tablespoon molasses

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon mace

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

2 cups flour

1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 375° F.  Put butter in a large mixing bowl, and stir (cream) until smooth; then stir in the brown sugar. Stir in milk, molasses, eggs, cinnamon, mace, and baking powder. Add flour, and stir until all ingredients are combined. Add raisins, and stir gently to distribute the raisins throughout the dough. Drop rounded teaspoons about 2 inches apart on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned.

61 thoughts on “Hundred-Year-Old Hermits Cookies Recipe

    1. Nutmeg could be substituted for the mace. In general these two spices are interchangeable. Nutmeg and mace are both from the same plant. Mace is the vein-like threads that cover the fruit; nutmeg is the kernel inside the seed. Mace was very popular a hundred years ago, and it is often called for in old recipes; whereas nutmeg is more popular today. In my opinion mace is a bit spicier than nutmeg, but there really isn’t much difference.

  1. When I was a little girl, my gram made molasses hermits that were drop cookies, similar to your recipe. I had not been able to duplicate them, but will try this recipe. Maybe it is the mace that makes the difference. They look delicious!

    1. They were yummy. This recipe is definitely a keeper and one that I plan to make again. I think that you’d like it. Your grandmother may have used mace. I often see it listed in old recipes. Mace has a nuanced difference in taste from nutmeg that I really like. If you make this recipe, you’ll have to let us know how it compares to the cookies you remember.

      1. Sheryl, I did make your recipe and the cookies are delicious with a lot of flavor and a nice texture. I especially like it as an afternoon treat with a cup of hot tea. My gram’s cookies seemed to have more molasses flavor. I subsequently found a recipe for Molasses Drop Cookies that uses 1 1/2 cups molasses so I will try that recipe to see if that is closer to my grandmother’s cookies.

        1. It’s nice to hear that that the cookies turned out well when you made them- though it’s too bad that this recipe didn’t replicate your grandmother’s cookies. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the recipe you found makes cookies like the ones you remember.

  2. I didn’t know that about mace and nutmeg. That texture is interesting, too. I’m suspecting that it’s the baking powder that provides what appears to be a sort of spongy texture. I’m thinking that soaking the raisins in rum or bourbon might be a nice variation, too. 🙂

    1. mmm. . . I like your suggestion. It would be a wonderful way to really update this recipe. The Hermits aren’t spongy-but they definitely are puffy and soft. I think that you’re right that the relatively large amount of baking powder called for in the recipe made them puffier than many modern cookies. Over the past few years I’ve found that many old-time cookie recipes – sugar, molasses, chocolate chip, etc.- are for softer cookies than is typical today. Preferences must have changed across the years.

    1. I know from personal experience that they’re lovely with coffee. The ones I made went very quickly, and I’m thinking of making another batch when I do my main Christmas baking.

    1. You may have had them and not known the name of them. I have memories of Hermits often being on trays of Christmas cookies when I was child – but I didn’t know their name until recently.

    1. Good question, I’m glad you asked – I intended to add a note about why I didn’t soak the raisins at the end of my post, but I obviously forgot. As you suggested, raisins were much drier a hundred years ago than what they typically are now. Modern methods for processing and packaging raisins result in much moister raisins, so I didn’t think that they needed to be soaked.

    1. I’m glad this post brought back some good memories. I hadn’t thought of mincemeat cookies in years until you mentioned them. They’re another wonderful classic cookie.

    1. Thanks for sharing the link. This version of Hermits look wonderful. It’s really interesting how Hermits can be made in different shapes. The process you use to create Hermit bars makes a lovely cookie.

    1. When I was child, I always enjoyed eating Hermits when they were served at holiday gatherings, but I think that this is the first time that I ever actually made them. I’m not sure why it took me so long. I guess that I just needed to find a hundred-year-old recipe Hermits recipe. 🙂

    1. I used Grandma’s Molasses. It’s a brand that’s commonly sold in supermarkets around here. I don’t have a strong opinion about whether it’s any better than other brands, but it worked nicely in this recipe.

    1. If you don’t like raisins, this may not be the recipe for you – though I suppose that you could leave the raisins out and have a nice spice cookie.

  3. This recipe brings back so many memories! I never cared for raisins but my grandmother made a batch of hermits every time we went up to Cape Cod for a visit. According to my mother, father and sister they were the best things ever! Even near the end of Grandmother’s life, when she was in a nursing home and suffering from dementia, she would tell my grandfather that there were some hermits left in the pantry and then instruct him to be sure we got some before we left. 🙂

    1. What a sweet story about your grandmother when she was in the nursing home! Even though she had a disability, she was still trying to take care of her loved ones and wanted them to have a tasty treat.

    1. I think that you’ll enjoy these cookies. I’m not sure about the Hermit Cake- though it may be similar. There are a lot of variations to Hermit Cookies, including drop cookies, bars, and logs. Some of the logs are rather large and almost cake-like.

    1. hmm. . . I’d probably ask my children and other family members if they wanted any of the cookbooks, and then give the remainder to the library so that they could sell them at one of the used book sale fundraisers they periodically hold. Your question reminds me that over the years I’ve occasionally gone through my cookbook collection and sorted them into two groups – those that I’ve made at least one recipe out of and those which I’ve never made any recipes from. I’m always surprised by how many beautiful books I managed to accumulate that did not have a single recipe that motivated me to actually make it. I then give away the books I’ve never used and end up with a more manageable group of cookbooks.

  4. Sheryl I made these cookies today and I LOVE them! It is hard to eat just a couple! This is a keeper! I am going to be making these as gifts for my friends! Hugz Lisa and Bear

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