Joe Froggers are a heavily spiced molasses cookie that was a standing tradition in my family. One family legend has a cousin’s standing mixer actually burning up attempting to mix these thick-battered cookies. My father and his siblings recall my grandmother making these cookies when they were children.
Me, in the shadow of my grandma, as a child….
My family moved West very early on all sides. Grandpa Flour Child’s family left New England hundreds of years ago, in a story I once wrote about . Joe Froggers are an early New England cookie with a very interesting story.
History tells Joe Froggers were an election week tradition at the tavern of Joe & Creesy Brown of Marblehead Massachusetts. There are several accounts of the history around “Black” Joe Brown’s tavern, and the Joe Frogger cookie but they all have facts in common: Joe Brown was a Black freedman, and a Revolutionary War soldier. Tradition holds that Joe and his wife sold the heavily spiced molasses cookies to sailors and because the cookies kept fresh and flavorful a long while at sea. And most versions hold that Joe Frogger cookies were served at Joe’s tavern on election night as a tradition, with grog.
Where does the name “Joe Frogger” originate? I have read several versions. One account holds that the cookies were made in a cast iron pan, and when they would splash into the pan the batter made ‘frog’ shapes. One tale holds that children always stopped by the tavern on the way to catch frogs.
One thing for sure — ‘froggin’ (hunting and catching frogs to eat) and Joe Frogger cookies? Both traditions in Grandpa Flour Child’s family.
Here is my personal version of the Joe Frogger. I typically do not use rum, but for a more traditional version you may add 2T of rum. If you’re really a purist? Throw in some stale sea water which was reportedly an original ingredient.
12 T softened butter
2/3 C Brown Sugar (plus 1/2 C white sugar for rolling)
2 1/4 C Unbleached Wheat Flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 – 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 – 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 Large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 C Dark molasses (I use Brer Rabbit)
Heat oven to 375. In a shallow bowl or pie dish, set aside the 1/2 C white sugar. Combine all dry ingredients and sift together once. Cream butter with your brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Add molasses, and mix again thoroughly — scrape sides of bowl. Add dry ingredients to molasses mixture. Roll one heaping tablespoon of dough into a ball, dredge through sugar to cover and place on cookie sheet at least 2″ apart. Repeat until finished with dough. Bake exactly 11 minutes. Do NOT overbake these – they should be crisp outside but soft in the middle.