Oatmeal cookies from the early 1900’s

In a past blog I mentioned my cousin who still lives on one of the family homesteads in Idaho. Being the family’s unofficial family historian, she is by default the recipient of many of the family keepsakes. Old photo’s, letters and passed down recipes make up just part of this treasure. She was the one who provided, among others I will someday post, the recipe I posted on my grandmothers homemade bread.

Knowing my love of cooking and wishing to help me in my sharing of heritage recipes, she took the time to email me each recipe she thought I would like. One of them was my Grandmothers recipe for oatmeal cookies. It was given to her by her counterpart, my Ohio Grandmother, on my Moms side of the family during a visit to Idaho in 1947.

On the reverse side of the recipe written in her hand was this notation concerning the origin of the recipe. It read;

“When lois and Vern came back to Jerome after they were married, Helen and Jack came back with them to visit us. Helen made these cookies for us during their stay and they were very good tasting. Seeing how much we all enjoyed eating them, she left me this recipe. She told me it is from a cook book that came with a gas oven she had purchase when her home was built. I do not put the table sugar or broken chocolate pieces in because Hamblin thinks the cookies are too sweet and he does not want the children to come down with worms”

(Lois and Vern are my Parents, Jerome was the farm in Idaho I was raised on, Helen and Jack are my Moms parents and Hamblin was my father’s father.)

I figure this recipe is probably from the turn of the century since my Ohio Grandparents house was built in 1917. It makes sense that the house would have been outfitted with a new gas stove as gas for lighting and cooking was available to them back then and the brand of stove was popular.

I have no idea how much ‘table sugar’ or ‘broken chocolate pieces’ she left out but I think I would agree with my grandfather Hamblin that these cookies are sweet enough without the added sugar. If you differ, add a ¼ cup and see what they taste like. I do add ¾ cup of Ghirardelli dark chocolate morsels though. I suggest you adjust it from there and the worms be damned!

I was really surprised to see that no butter was used in her recipe. Instead it calls for oil (remember, the recipe originated in Cleveland Ohio). During WWl, butter and cream became scarce and expensive in the cities and this was probably reflected in the baking recipes of the day. Milk was still available.    Conversely, in the rural countryside, many people still owned a dairy cow and made their own butter, cream and milk and were not as affected as their city living counterparts. I suspect the oil used in the recipe was the popular cotton seed or recently invented corn oil. All this may explain the absence of butter in the recipe since the cookbook was included with the purchase of a Cleveland Ohio stove manufacturer’s product. (American Stove Company, now called Magic Chef).

Ingredients #1; (mix these together well using a mixer)

1 cup of packed brown sugar (to make your own brown sugar, read my earlier post on pancake syrup)

1/4 Cup of granulated cane Sugar to taste  (optional) I would suggest starting with 1/4  of a cup and go from there.

2 large fresh eggs

1/2  cup of milk

3/4  cup of oil

1 teaspoon of vanilla

Ingredients #2; (combine these in a bowl then add them to the other ingredients then mix well)

3 cups of flour

2  teaspoons of baking soda

1 teaspoon of salt

1 1/2  teaspoon of cinnamon

1 teaspoon of nutmeg

2 1/2 cups of rolled oats (oatmeal)

3/4 cup of chocolate morsels


In your mixing bowl combine brown sugar, eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Use beaters to mix well. (I use an electric stand mixer) Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and stir into the batter. Stir in the oats. (Add chocolate morsels and table sugar if desired at this point.)

Let stand for 10 minutes. Drop a heaped tablespoon of cookie mix onto greased baking sheets.

Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove immediately to cool. 

Makes about 3 dozen.

It started out as 3 dozen but by the time I took this photo (20 minutes later) I was left with only about half of them!