My aunt cobbled together the oral-tradition recipe with the aged and forgetful Grandmother Randall many years ago. Her guesses about the recipe--that it probably had two eggs rather than the unseemly three or four, for instance--make for a more modern cookie. She found a written version only recently, squirreled away in another old auntie's house. I'm including that one here because it is the real old-fashioned deal. I have included both sets of directions--the ones found on the old recipe card, and the ones my aunt created. If you make these, don't go thinking "cookie," think "soft gingerbread biscuit thing," and you'll be good to go.
1 c. sugar
1 c. shortening
1 c. molasses
3 or 4 eggs beaten in one at a time
1 c. soured cream
1 T. (heaped) of cocoa
2 t. ginger
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
5 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
2 t. baking soda
[Here are the directions on the late-discovered copy of the recipe that my aunt says is "the original." While charming, they leave perhaps a little too much to the imagination.]
Mix and leave in icebox overnight or a couple of hours before dropping onto buttered tins. Press each cookie with floured bp can. Ice with lemon and powdered sugar icing.
[Here are the directions my aunt worked out in her efforts to duplicate a cookie recipe which to her knowledge had never been written down.]
Cream shortening, sugar, and molasses until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time (she uses only 2) and beat well. Stir together flour, spices, baking soda, and baking powder, then add to the bowl, alternating with sour cream and mixing well. Chill dough for several hours. Drop by heaping teaspoons onto greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. (I went ahead and rolled the dough into balls and flattened them with the flour-covered bottom of a baking powder can, just so I could be extra 19th-century about it. This worked very well, but the dough is so sticky it helps to butter your hands first.) When cookies are cool, they may be iced with this glaze: 1 c. sifted powdered sugar and strained lemon juice mixed until smooth. Add a few drops lemon juice at a time and keep going until glaze sloops off the spoon very thickly and slowly.