I love to hear stories from the elders in my family. I’ve gathered many through the years, along with several notebooks full of handwritten family recipes. It’s important to me to know where my food comes from … and what ingredients are in the food that I serve my family. And I particularly like cookies.
One of the recipes that I have comes from my sister-in-law, who received it from her then mother-in-law, who noted that it came from a lady at her church … Well, this is how it started. I was looking for the recipe for tender oatmeal cookies that I remembered use chicken fat instead of hydrogenated shortening. It’s a recipe from the days when cooks used what they had available. I like this idea. And a couple of weeks ago, I made my “Famous Rooster Stew” for dinner, and as usual had skimmed the fat from the stock. (I purposely did not add any garlic or onions or any seasonings to the chicken as it cooked, because I planned to use the fat.)
Now, here’s a disclaimer before I go any further. I know where my chicken came from — my yard. I am not suggesting that you go to the store and just buy any old chicken and stew it up for chicken fat. I don’t know what those chickens have been eating, or where they’ve been. My suggestion for fat from “store-bought” chickens is to get rid of it.
Also, I played with this recipe a bit, so it’s not exactly the same as it came down through the generations. The cookies are tender and yummy, though, and I’d like to share the recipe with you.
Begin by measuring 2 cups of dried fruit (I used a combination of raisins, dried cranberries and dried cherries) into a saucepan. Add 1 cup of water, bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. This will plump up and soften the fruit. Remove from heat, drain and reserve liquid.
In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 3 eggs, 1 cup each brown sugar and white sugar, and 1 cup melted chicken fat. If you don’t have enough chicken fat (and I never do!), you can substitute up to half with unsweetened applesauce. Beat well. Stir in the reserved fruit liquid and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Mix the following dry ingredients together:
3 cups flour (I use half all-purpose white and half whole-wheat)
2 cups oatmeal
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon allspice
Add to bowl, and mix well.
Stir in the fruit and 1 cup chopped walnuts, if desired. (I always desire them!)
Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheet, and bake in preheated 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes.
This will make about five dozen cookies. They are wonderful when fresh out of the oven, but if you are quick enough to hide some, they also freeze well when cool!