Lumberjack cookies harden back to the days of lumber camps in Maine. Credit: Sandy Oliver

This astonishing recipe hearkens back to lumber camp days. It yields a dough that the camp cook — or you — could bake up four different ways.

By now, you know that readers send along recipes that I never throw out even if I take a long time to try them. Mary Pelkey sent this lumberjack cookie recipe to me two years ago with wonderful stories of family reunions. One included 200 folks comprised of a lot of really good cooks, including Mary’s father who, as a young man, helped his father cook for the woods crew at a lumber mill.

Mary’s daughters now work in the lunch programs at local schools, and a son and grandson both cooked in restaurants. Her extended family also has assembled two cookbooks of “tried and true favorites.”

Mary’s family reunion featured a big pot of bean hole beans and, she wrote, “a separate table for desserts because we have a lot of gifted bakers. Pies are the featured delicacy on display.” Don’t you wish you were related to this clan?

These Lumberjack Cookies for 100 have lard along with butter, sugar, molasses, eggs, flour, oatmeal, raisins and lots of spices. The best part is that you can roll and cut the cookies, and then bake them in an oven; fry them on a hot skillet as fritters; fry them like doughnuts in deep fat; or bake them as a drop cookie in an oven. One dough, four results!

So no matter your baking or stove top arrangement — or whether you are hankering for a fatty, little sweet treat or a baked cookie-like one — you are all set. The recipe is easily halved. You could also make the full recipe and refrigerate half to bake later.

Written, as many old recipes were, with a minimum of specific instructions, this recipe required some assumptions on my part.

“Sift dry ingredients together. Mix in liquids,” it said.

So I treated the sugar like a dry ingredient, and I melted the butter and lard together and whisked them into the milk, molasses and egg. Also, I dumped the raisins into the dry ingredients instead of flouring them separately and folding them in.

There are four spices in the dough at a half teaspoon each, which I regard as a tad anemic, so I doubled them. You suit yourself on this matter.

The directions to roll out the dough and cut it to bake in the oven as cookies, or to fry in a skillet as fritters, don’t mention if it is a good idea to add just a little more flour to make it easier to handle. The drop cookie treatment means the dough can be a bit sticky.

I didn’t try the doughnut-style version because I can’t stand the greasy air in the kitchen fogging up my glasses and no doubt sticking to the walls and windows.

The fritter version produced tender, pancake-like cookies, that easily fell apart when warm. I had to resist the urge to get the maple syrup out, but they firmed right up after cooling.

I tend to prefer the dropped version. A little less flour means they have more flavor. Goodness knows they are easier to make since they require so little handling. The instructions that follow are for drop cookies.

If you decide to roll and cut, just sift in a little more flour after you mix them all together until the dough is soft but able to be handled. Roll it out to about a quarter of an inch thick and cut to size. They bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they are firm.

If you decide to make them into fritters, generously add lard or oil to a skillet and bring to a medium-high temperature. Lay the cookies on the skillet, cook until bottoms brown, then turn them. When both sides are done, set them on a paper towel to drain and then cool.

This recipe certainly makes a lot of cookies. You could make even more by cutting two-inch diameter cookies instead of three-inch ones, or fewer cookies by cutting or dropping really big ones.

Hand these out to your favorite lumberjack or the grandkids, stick them in a lunch bag, dunk them in coffee or tea, or do as Mary Pelkey does and take them to a family reunion.

Lumberjack Cookies

Yields 100 cookies

1 cup lard

1 cup butter

2 cups sugar

6 cups flour

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon cloves

½ teaspoon ginger

½ teaspoon cinnamon

3 cups raisins

2 cups oatmeal

1 cup molasses

1 cup milk

4 eggs

2 tablespoons vanilla

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Grease cookie sheets very well, or line them with parchment paper.

3. Melt the lard and butter together.

4. Meanwhile, sift all of the dry ingredients except the oatmeal and raisins together into a large bowl. Add the oatmeal and raisins and combine with the dry ingredients.

5. Whisk together the melted lard and butter and milk, molasses, eggs and vanilla.

6. Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and mix until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. This makes a soft dough.

7. Drop by teaspoonful on the cookie sheet.

8. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until they are puffed slightly and feel firm. Cool on a rack.

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Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...