Sunday, December 23, 2007

Joe Froggers

This year, I made a huge batch of Joe Froggers for my co-workers. I gave them each a bag of cookies, along with the recipe, which is more than 100 years old. The cookies, the way I make them anyway, take much like ginger snaps, and can be made thin or thick, snappy or soft. They rock with a glass of milk or a cup of coffee.

This recipe is as it appeared in the cookbook. This makes a LARGE batch of dough, and you can easily halve it. If you don’t want to roll the cookie dough, you can form balls with your hands and press flat. I find that a 350 oven works better than 375, and will keep them from burning on the bottom. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet, and loosen while hot. I tend to make mine thinner and bake them a bit longer so they are more like ginger snaps.

The Story

A long time ago there was an old Negro who lived in Marblehead, MA. His name was Uncle Joe, and he lived on the edge of a frog pond, and the pond was called Uncle Joe’s Frog Pond.

Uncle Joe made the best molasses cookies of anyone in town, and people called them Joe Froggers because they were as plump and dark as the fat little frogs that lived in the pond. Marblehead fishermen would give the old man a jug of rum and he would make them a batch of Froggers. The fishermen liked them because they never got hard, and women packed them in sea chests for the men to take to sea.

Uncle Joe said what kept them soft was rum and sea water. But he wouldn’t tell how he made them. And when he died, people said, “That’s the end of Joe Froggers.”

But there was a woman named Mammy Cressy, who said she was Uncle Joe’s daughter, and Mammy Cressy gave the secret recipe to a fisherman’s wife. Then half the women in Marblehead began making Joe Froggers. With a pitcher of milk, Froggers became the town’s favorite Sunday night supper. They were also sold in a local bake shop. Children bought them, instead of candy, for a penny apiece, and they remained popular for several generations.

Joe Froggers, 6 inches in diameter, are made almost everyday in the old Village Tavern in Sturbridge, and on Sunday nights they are served with a pitcher of milk, in the Publick House. The chef got the recipe from a woman whose ancestors lived in Marblehead in the days of Uncle Joe. The recipe has been in her family for more than a hundred years.


  • 1 cup shortening
  • 2 cups dark molasses
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 7 cups flour
  • ¼ cup rum
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. ginger
  • 1 tsp. clove
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 tsps. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. allspice


  1. Cream shortening and sugar until light.
  2. Dissolve salt in water and mix with rum.
  3. Add baking soda to molasses.
  4. Sift flour with ginger, clove, nutmeg, and allspice. Add liquid ingredients alternately with flour mixture to creamed mixture. Stir well between additions. Dough should be sticky. Chill overnight in refrigerator.
  5. In morning, flour board and rolling pin. Roll dough out to ½ inch thickness. Cut with large cutter.
  6. Bake in 375 oven for 10 or 12 minutes, or until done.

    From: New England Cookbook
    By Eleanor Early
    Random House, 1954


Anonymous said...

I used to have these cookies when I was little. My great-grandmother made them and I loved them. I thought this recipe was a family secret passed down and now see that it was not. However, these cookies are delicious!!

Mikki said...

These cookies are delicious and accompanied me on a Trans-Atlantic Voyage in a small boat Marblehead to Ireland a few years ago and so we continued Marblehead tradition