Today I realized that many of my recipe posts to date contain spices—cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg, and I started to wonder why that is. Why do the recipes for Pumpkin Pie, Molasses Crinkles, Tomato Soup Cake, Cinnamon Buns and War Cake appeal so much to me, and help me to recall happy childhood memories? Why did I choose these recipes over the many others that I love from mom’s collection?
Perhaps it has to do with aromas, the sense of smell invoking memories. When I researched the word ‘spice’ on the internet, I found out that it refers to a dried seed, fruit, root, bark, leaf, or vegetable substance, and that the earliest evidence of its use by man was around 50,000 B.C. Early uses were connected with magic, medicine, religion, tradition and preservation. During the Middle Ages, spices such as black pepper, cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, ginger and cloves were imported from plantations in Asia and Africa, making them among the most expensive products available in Europe at that time. The discovery of the New World brought new spices including vanilla, allspice, bell and chilli peppers, and even chocolate. I don’t know what my mother would have baked had she not had access to these everyday spices we take for granted today. What a bland world we would have lived in.
Fortunately, mom was able to purchase the spices she needed to make her delicious recipes for us, and even more fortunately, she wanted to make them for us. Mom loved to cook, loved combining ingredients to make pies and breads and cookies, pickles and relishes, cranberries and beets, early-morning breakfasts, main-course dinners and late-night snacks. No matter what the need or occasion, mom had a recipe in her collection or in her head that would fit the bill, hit the spot.
So now this makes sense to me, my predilection for sharing these spicy recipes and the memories each recipe evokes in me. I’ll do my best to offer a variety of recipes in the future, recipes that contain no cinnamon or cloves or ginger, but not today. Today I’m sharing a recipe for Overnight Ginger Snaps, another one of my favourite recipes that have been passed down from mother to daughter. I hope you try these—they are simple to make, oh so tasty (even the raw dough is good), and will be a hit with your family. These crisp, crunchy cookies dearly beg to be dipped into a steaming cup of coffee or tea or hot chocolate, so you may want to be sure you have the coffee brewed or the kettle on when you offer them to your loved ones to enjoy.
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Overnight Ginger Snaps
1 cup shortening
½ cup molasses
½ cup brown sugar
2 tsp. ginger
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. cloves
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
2 ½ – 3 cups flour
Cream shortening and molasses together. Add brown sugar, spices, salt and baking soda. Add flour last. Mix together well. Roll in long rolls, wrap in waxed paper and place in refrigerator overnight or until firm. Slice and bake in moderate (350° F) oven.
Note: Cookie dough keeps in refrigerator for several days and can also be frozen to thaw and bake when you wish.