If you’d have seen it lying in her drawer you wouldn’t have given it a second glance. It appeared just an old scrap of metal shaped into a flower sort of shape and now it was broken apart. My grandma was distraught over this and truthfully so was I. This simple scrap of metal had cut out my grandma’s giant ginger cookies for as long as I could remember. Funny how small the cutter seemed to me now that I was an adult. My childhood memory conjured up images of those cookies being GIANT! When grandpa had been alive he would re-solder her cutter every time it would break and she’d go back to using it on a wing and a prayer, hoping it would stay intact, for she’d had this cutter always and it was special to her- connecting her to memories of a past life she’d enjoyed and the loved ones no longer here that she missed dearly. But now grandpa was no longer alive and she fretted that there was no fixing to it. Luckily, my husband came to the rescue, and with the help of a kind welder friend of his, carefully reconstructed the delicate aged metal (holding their breath all the while) allowing the old cutter to be back in business. I will never forget the tears of gratitude in my grandma’s eyes the day I got it back to her and told her that now she could get busy baking my favorite giant cookies! But it would turn out that it was I who would be the next one baking the cookies with her cutter, in her kitchen, while she rested in her bedroom. She was in her 80s and not doing well at this time. She suffered from Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome and her longevity and youthful spirit had long been an inspiration to many other sufferers of this painful and often life limiting condition. What now concerned me more than the weakness in her body was the lagging of her spirit. I think in my heart I believed that the comforting smells of ginger, cloves, and molasses would revive my grandma and bring her back to me once again; my grandma who lived and loved in the kitchen and who taught me that cooking was not just about the ingredients that went into your creation, but more significantly, the love behind it.
My grandma gave me her beloved cutter that day and I remember crying all the way home knowing that it wouldn’t be long until she left me. It was a moment I had remembered fearing throughout my childhood; the time when she would be taken from my life for good. I felt no more ready for it in my forties than I had as a 10 year old. And yes, the day did come shortly after. But what I couldn’t have understood until it happened was that she could NEVER be taken from me. I feel her there with me in my kitchen as I stir and season, knead and punch, tuck and pinch, and slice and chop. I feel her beside me; coaching and advising as I visualize her in her own kitchen where I observed her my whole life; admiring and imitating her swift motions with pie crust or bread dough; motions that are now my own. So much in my life was given to me by my grandma. Her cutter will remain a treasured possession, but the same kind of unconditional love she and my grandpa modeled and gave is what I most proudly pass down.
Grandma Margie's Ginger/Molasses Cookies
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup molasses
- 1/2 cup boiling water to which you have added 2 tsp baking soda
- approx. 4-5 cups flour *this is a very old recipe and in many old time recipes they never specified a flour amount. My grandma would say to me, “you’ll know when it feels right.” What? Lol- trust me- you learn. But in the meantime, plan that you will use approx. 4-5 cups (and more for rolling) in this recipe, but not all at once.
- 3 tsp. ginger
- 1 tsp. cloves
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. baking soda (this is in addition to the 2 that you already added to the boiling water)
Cream butter and sugar well. Add the eggs and molasses. Mix well. Add the baking soda/water mixture. Mix well. Stir the ginger, cloves, salt and baking soda into the first 2 cups of flour you will use and add this to your creamed mixture. Mix well. Gradually add in the remaining flour, mixing as you go, until your dough is at a good consistency for handling. I use a Kitchen Aid mixer, which makes this easier, but if you’re doing it by hand and it gets too difficult to stir, just use your hands and work it all together to form a nice dough ball. Divide your dough into 3 equal portions and flatten each portion into a disc on a sheet of plastic wrap. Seal the plastic wrap around each portion of the dough and refrigerate at least 2 hours. The sealed dough can be refrigerated for a few days if necessary.
BAKING: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out to 1/4-in. thickness. Cut with cookie cutters dipped in flour. Sprinkle with decorator sugar and place 1 in. apart on greased baking sheets.
Bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes or until edges are firm. Remove to wire racks to cool.