When I was growing up, these cookies were synonymous with Christmas in my family. My mother got the recipe from a friend of German heritage and she made the cookies every year. She cut them into large initials for each of her four daughters, herself and my father (S, C, J, C, L, A) and decorated the letters with criss-crossed streams of red and green sugar frosting (homemade, of course). In later years, she also used the dough to make wonderful gingerbread houses. For those without unusual patience and manual dexterity, I suggest sticking to cookies. I use cookie cutters to make stars, snowflakes and angels that I sprinkle with colored sugar. By the second week of December my husband usually is asking when I’m going to make gingerbread. That’s the only downside to wonderful family food traditions – you have to maintain them.
- 2/3 cup lard or solid vegetable shortening
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 large egg, beaten
- ¼ cup dark molasses
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
Cream shortening and sugar with electric mixer or by hand. Add egg and molasses. Beat well.
In a bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Add dry mixture to egg mixture and thoroughly combine.
Chill dough for at least 30 minutes and up to a week.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Roll dough 1/8-inch thick on lightly floured surface. Cut with cookie cutters. Bake on greased cookie sheets for 10 minutes.
Cookies will keep for several weeks in an airtight tin and their flavor actually improves over time.