In the late 18th century, Revolutionary War patriot, Joseph Brown and his wife Lucretia offered the large round cookies at their Tavern on Gingerbread Hill (so named for the beloved cookies).They were said to be the size of the frogs in "Black Joe's" pond; hence the name,"Joe Froggers". Marblehead's fishermen were reported to take the cookies with them on long voyages to the Grand Banks off Newfoundland. Because the ingredients included rum and seawater and excluded eggs, the cookies stayed edible for prolonged time periods. Many discussions have ensued as to the correct recipe for these cookies. The debate goes on to this day in the town of Marblehead. See below for a recipe from a true Marblehead historian, Martha Bessom Gorman and the story she grew up with that were 'from the kitchen door of an old Marblehead home'. There is also a good recipe in the "W.H.I.P!" cookbook © 2010 and the Gerry School Cookbook ©1993.
A long time ago there was an old Negro named Uncle Joe who lived on the edge of a frog pond on Gingerbread Hill. Uncle Joe made the best molasses cookies of anyone in town, and the people called them Joe Froggers. Marblehead fishermen would give the old man a jug of rum and he would make them a batch of Froggers. Women packed them in sea chests for their men to take to sea, 'cause they never got hard. Uncle Joe said what kept them soft was the rum and sea water he used to make them, but he would never tell the recipe. When he died, people said "That's the end of the Joe Froggers."
But his daughter, Aunt Cressy knew how to make them and she carried on, and finally gave the recipe to a fisherman's wife. Then half the women in Marblehead began making Joe Froggers. The cookies were rolled thin, as big as a dinner plate, or like pond lilies, about 8-10 inches across.
With a pitcher of milk, "froggers" became the town's favorite Sunday night supper. For a long time they were sold at Boardman's bakery, across from the Old Town House, for a penny each.
Cream shortening and sugar until light.
Add baking soda to molasses
Sift flour with ginger, allspice, nutmeg, clove and salt.
Add rum and flour alternately to creamed mixture. Stir well. Dough should be sticky.
Chill overnight in the refrigerator. In the morning flour board and rolling pin. Roll dough 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut with a large cutter. Wipe off excess flour and place on baking sheet.
Bake in 375 degree oven about 10-12 minutes.
The Marblehead Museum has teamed up with Palmer's Warwick Cafe to bring Joe Froggers to the shop. Over the July 4th and Christmas holidays, this traditional Marblehead cookie will be offered at some of our events as well as for sale at our Museum shop; a package of three large cookies for $5. A portion of the proceeds from each sale go to supporting the programs of the Marblehead Museum.
This famous Marblehead cookie is featured in the book "Molly Waldo!" by Priscilla & Bethe Moulton. Click on the book image to learn more. Click here to buy "Molly Waldo!" in our Museum Shop.