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Marion’s Raisin-Filled Cookies

April 26, 2012

My Mom loved a good cookie.  Nothing fancy that required frosting or fancy shapes, or a cookie press.  She liked just a good old-fashioned cookie with the vernacular New England spices:  cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice.

When I was a teenager and Mom was looking for me to find a hobby, she encouraged me to go through the recipe box (a small tin box containing all sorts of family treasures written out on 3X5 cards separated with little green tabs with headings like one would see in a Betty Crocker cookbook) and see if anything struck my fancy.  My life-long love affair with cooking and food really began with baking since the cookie tab in the box was the fullest.  I learned the art of substituting ingredients when the recipe called for Oleo or Spry; I learned that there really is a difference between a pinch, a dash and a throw of something.  I also learned that nothing comes out right if you rush and don’t take your time.

Mom’s favorite cookie was without a doubt a raisin-filled cookie.  Her eyes just lit up when anyone mentioned them.  She would speak of life on her Father’s rural Maine dairy farm where everyone had chores to do; where reliance on seasonally grown and home canned vegetables was a must at every meal; where time wasn’t too often wasted.

Her mother, Marie, reserved special recipes for special occasions.  My Grandfather always had homemade Grapenut ice cream on his birthday.  Pecan Pie was for Chrismas, right along with a good Minced Meat Pie.  The raisin-filled cookie was reserved though for my Mom’s birthday in July, or whenever Mom had done something while growing up that was special and there was reason to celebrate.  (Since there are multiple steps to making the cookies, which are somewhat time consuming, I have decided that Grammy probably only made them on the rare occasion, not to raise their level of symbolism, but because she like my Mom preferred the more simple recipes which took less effort.  I know that is why I don’t make them more often myself.)

When I moved away from home to go to college in 1991, Mom felt like she had lost her cookie baker.  We spoke on the phone often, but my visits were fewer in number than I would have wanted over the years as the cost of plane tickets to Maine rose every day a bit higher.  When I would call and ask what it was that she could want or need for her birthday or for her wedding anniversary, she always asked me to mail her a batch of raisin-filled cookies.  She always promised, since she had developed a touch of diabetes, that she would be a ‘good girl’ and freeze most of them and only eat them one at a time so as not to see her numbers spike.  Knowing full well that never happened, I played along and told her that I approved of her plan and sent her a box of cookies which she squirreled away from sight so that visitors to the house wouldn’t get to them before she did; she may have meant Dad too, but wouldn’t ever have said it out loud.

This last year, when Mom’s health took a dramatically serious turn for the worse and I was called home to help in her care, I asked if there was anything that I could make her that she really wanted to eat but hadn’t in a long time.  Her eyes lit up and shimmered with excitement, Dad said.  I repeated that she could have whatever her heart desired.  “Couldn’t you make me a batch…” she started to say just before I broke in and said that her cookies were already in progress as we spoke.

My suitcase and I apparently took very different routes to get home in November, though.  I arrived some three days before it did.  When I opened the zippered case, I was grief stricken to discover that the batch of cookies I had made and packed did not arrive.  Not to be deterred by whichever cookie thief had so viciously relieved me of my stash while the bag was en route, I set to making a new batch in my Mother’s kitchen, the same kitchen where I had learned to make them a quarter century earlier.

I cleaned off the counter tops and a scrubbed up a space at the table so I could mix, stir and combine ingredients until I had rolled out a second batch, made in time for my Mom’s dessert that night.  Oh, how she ate with such relish and joy!  By that point in her final illness, she wasn’t eating much of anything at all, so she slowly made her way through a half cookie at dinner and polished off the rest of the cookie as an evening snack.  She had another the following day.  “Oh, they are so good.  You added a bit of vanilla, didn’t you?” she stated as she chewed carefully, savoring the sweet filling and the sugar cookie crust.

While I lost my Mom, Marion, just before Christmas, my own birthday is coming up at the end of April.  I think I will make myself a batch of Raisin-filled Cookies this year instead of the Angel Food Cake I usually bake myself.  It’s a special enough occasion for me to get in to the kitchen, dust up the table top with some flour and roll out some dough.  I can see my Mom’s eyes light up already and know that she would approve.  In fact, I think I can hear her:  “Couldn’t you make me a batch…”  Yes, Mom, I certainly can; whatever your heart desires.

Marion’s Raisin-Filled Cookies


Cook the following together until firm:

1 cup raisins

½ cup sugar

½ cup water

1 Tblsp flour

juice of lemon

(To avoid flour lumps in my filling, I usually put the flour in to a small jelly jar and add the lemon juice and shake, like one would do to thicken a gravy almost.)


1 cup sugar

1 egg

½ cup shortening

1 tsp. vanilla

½ to ¾ cup milk

2 cups flour with ½ cup later

1 tsp. Soda

2 tsp. Cream of tarter or baking powder

Cream together the vanilla, sugar, egg, and shortening.  Add the milk (usually the 3/4 cup is a good amount unless the egg was jumbo sized), flour, soda, and tarter. Mix well.  (This is an old-fashioned recipe which used to read, “flour to roll”, a frustratingly imprecise amount!  As a rule of thumb, I start with two cups of flour and add more as necessary so that the dough holds together nicely and doesn’t just stick to your fingers or the rolling pin.  If it is a humid day, it takes more flour; if dry out, the two cups is sufficient.)  Don’t over work the dough so that it becomes tough when cooked; refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes to make it easier to work with as you roll it out.  Using the reserved ½ cup of flour, dust the rolling surface so that the cookie dough doesn’t stick.  Roll and cut out circles about the size of an old fashioned donut, or the size of a wide-mouthed canning jar.  Put a teaspoon to a tablespoon of filling in the middle of one and the cover with second circle of dough.  Crimp lightly (just with your fingers) the edges together to seal.  Lightly grease cookie sheet.  Bake 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.)  The cookies will be a beautiful buttery color, not very brown on the top when done.  I test doneness in the cookie by touching the top lightly and if it bounces back like it should, it is all done.  These cookies do get larger as they cook so space them out nicely on the cookie sheet.  They freeze well if you make a large batch and don’t want to eat them all at once, though this has rarely happened in my family.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. raphi permalink
    April 26, 2012 7:54 am

    Très beau James. Les petits bonheurs qui font les grands… Bises Raphi

  2. Mindy permalink
    April 26, 2012 11:31 am

    Great story! Very inspiring!

  3. Laurie Campbell McKinnis permalink
    April 27, 2012 6:55 am

    Though the thought of raisin filled anything doesnt appeal to me, I loved your story!! I know your Mom was a wonderful lady and you were both blessed to have the awesome bond you shared. 🙂

  4. April 29, 2012 1:04 am

    A beautiful story, that makes me wish I could have known your Mom. What wonderful memories you have, and your readers are truly blessed by that fact that you share them with us. Thank you.

  5. Ginny Rosselli permalink
    August 2, 2013 10:01 am

    My grandma always made these and they are still my fa orite. I found a bakery that will make them if I call ahead. They call them pillow cookies.

    • jamesrwilson permalink*
      August 2, 2013 3:43 pm

      Pillow cookies… what a great name!

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