What ingredient in Tillie Valentine’s recipe for “Brown Cookies”, found on page 300 of the EHF’s classic cookbook Amazing Grazing (2003), marks it as classic Scandinavian?
If you answered “cardamom” you’re right!
Cardamom, a zesty spice related botanically to ginger, allegedly arrived in Germany about 1,000 years ago thanks to the Moors, a Muslim population with Arab, Spanish, and Berber roots that had established a presence is southwestern Europe. Five hundred years later during the Middle Ages a Danish monk first mentions the spice in a cookbook titled Libellus De Arte Coquinaria. Today, cardamom is a staple in the Scandinavian baker’s pantry.
Since Tillie’s father was Danish, it’s possible her recipe came from his side of the family. Then as now, cardamom can be pricey, and availability of fresh fruit like oranges and lemons in Tillie’s day were a bit of a luxury, so this dully titled Brown Cookie recipe could have been for special occasions.
Green and black cardamom pods and seeds are used differently. Ground seeds of green cardamom are used in Scandinavian baking and to flavor sweet dishes. Black cardamom with it’s smokey, menthol flavor is used in rice dishes and stews.
Cardamom is a plant native to the Himalayas, a mountain range in Asia, though now it is grown in places like Costa Rica, India, and even Florida and Hawaii. Historians claim Egyptians used it for bad breath and it is still considered a medicinal for oral hygiene.
Here’s the recipe:
- 1 cup molasses
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ½ cup soft butter
- ½ cup shortening (lard)
- Grated rind and juice of ½ orange
- Grated rind and juice of ½ lemon
- 1 ½ tsp baking soda in ¼ cup hot water
- ½ tsp cloves
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp cardamom
- 2 eggs
- 6 ½ cup flour
Mix ingredients well and chill in refrigerator overnight. Roll into balls and bake at 375° until tops crackle.
Consider reading more about Tillie Valentine in Some Women of Early Ephraim, a popular booklet available at the EHF.