The West Virginia State Cookie
Spending a heap of living in the West Virginia Hills, including many, many ample meals around the family dining table, I might have figured out what I just heard declared for certain—West Virginia has a State Cookie, the molasses cookie. Heather Schneider tells me it is so. She feeds me a fistful of Molasses Chews so my taste buds can agree. I reach for seconds just so I can be sure that they are worthy of an “Almost Heaven” seal of approval.
My Lesson Learned takes me back down memory lane. Certainly, Grandmother Mary Barnes Flanagan gave me plenty of clues after “eleventy-eleven” after-school snacks, when my chores included taking out the coal ashes and bringing in a fresh bucket of coal for the kitchen fireplace.
Then there are Lessons Learned during endless summer days when our hilltop gang climbed the giant hemlock tree out front of Aunt Lena’s home. Thirsty and tired, we would draw cool water from her well, drinking from a common ladle, and munch down a handful of her molasses cookies.
And of course, I recall the Lessons Learned going with Country Doctor Dad on house calls. Scarcely able but wanting to be strong, I would carry Dad’s heavy doctor bag up a farmhouse lane to perform a healing mission. Dad and I would gather around the sick bed close to the Burnside stove, where our patient lay covered by a homemade quilt in a log cabin pattern or perhaps a wedding ring pattern. I listened carefully as Doc received the history of the present illness. Then I would assist Doc, holding the tongue depressor as we shined a flashlight beam down the throat of our patient, getting a big “ahhh!” Carefully Dad would palpate and percuss letting out a telling “upon my word” when pathological findings were identified. After a thorough exam we “Docs” and the family would adjourn to the kitchen where we would cogitate. The Matron knew we would think better if Doc had a cup of coffee and I had a cup of milk. In the middle of the table would be a plate stacked high with molasses cookies. We would eat one after another until the diagnosis was made and treatment plan outlined. The consultation could not be hurried.
Now if this gives you a hankering for our West Virginia State Cookie, here is a recipe:
Molasses Chews by Heather Schneider
• 3/4 cup shortening or butter
• 1 cup brown sugar, packed
• 1 egg
• 1/4 cup light or dark molasses
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• Put the first four ingredients into a mixing bowl and blend them together using a wooden spoon.
• Stir in the flour, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon and ginger (mix thoroughly).
• Cover the bowl of dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
• While the dough is chilling, wash the dishes.
• Put a tablespoon of sugar into a saucer.
• Preheat oven to 350°.
• Take the dough out of the refrigerator and use your hands to shape into 1 inch balls.
• Dip the top of the balls into sugar, and place 3 inches apart on baking sheets, sugar side up.
• Use your fingertips to sprinkle two or three drops of water onto the sugar on top of each cookie.
• Bake for about 10 minutes or until edges begin to brown, using cooling racks to cool.