Friday, October 30, 2015

Remembrance Cookies

by Sheila Connolly

Tomorrow night, October 31st, is Samhain (pronounced “sow-in”), also called All Hallows Eve or All Saints’ Eve, and what we know as Halloween. I’ve probably described it here before (since it comes around every year!). If you’re of a superstitious turn of mind, it’s the night where the barrier between the living and the souls of the dead is at its thinnest, so if you fear spirits, you might want to stay out of your local cemeteries. (Or go out with a crowd of people and beg for candy!) But this may not help, if the dead want to return to their former homes. To welcome them, light a few candles to guide their way, and put out some food and drink for them.

The celebration of the event goes back to medieval times and possibly earlier, and—no surprise—apples have played a part. But I’m not going to talk about apples! I’m talking about Irish cookies.

Rosemary for remembrance

A lot of the traditional Irish Samhain recipes are pretty much like ordinary year-round recipes. I debated about offering you Fairy Spice Cakes, but I don’t think October 31st is a night for fairies, but rather for darker creatures. But I did find a rather unusual cookie recipe that most people label Remembrance Cookies. I’ve read that you should eat the cookies while telling stories about your ancestors (the Irish are great story-tellers, and they have very long memories where people are concerned), and if there are any cookies left, add them to a bonfire outside.

Remembrance Cookies

1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, softened (particularly appropriate for County Cork, where there are over 4,000 herd of dairy cows)
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
1-1/2 Tblsp chopped rosemary (for remembrance, of course)

In a large bowl, beat the sugar, butter, egg, vanilla, almond extract and rosemary until creamy. (BTW, I used my own home-grown rosemary.)

Includes butter from Co. Cork cows
Chopped rosemary

In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and cream of tartar. Fold the flour mixture into the sugar mixture, then beat until the dough comes together. Refrigerate for three hours. You can keep the dough in the refrigerator for longer, but in that case let it warm up a little before you try to roll it out.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Divide the dough into halves. On a floured surface, roll out one half to just under a quarter-inch thickness.

If you have them, use gingerbread women or men to cut out shapes (these are the ones that you’ll use to celebrate your dead), and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet (or you could use parchment paper). Do the same with the second portion.

Bake in the preheated oven for 5 to 7 minutes (don’t let them burn!). Remove from the baking sheet and let cool.

I will confess I was a bit skeptical about how well rosemary would work in a sweet cookie, and one with almond extract, no less, but the combination was surprisingly pleasant.

My Irish family: the four Lawless sisters, their
only brother (Patrick), and my grandparents,
Margaret Lawless and John Connolly

Pour yourself a bit of Irish whiskey and share the old family stories around a nice fire.

And in the spirit of the day, a sneak preview of the next County Cork Mystery, A Turn for the Bad, coming February 2016.

Available for preorder at Amazon and Barnes and Noble

There will be smugglers! And a daring rescue! And whiskey!



  1. "Pour yourself a bit of Irish whiskey and share the old family stories around a nice fire." Didn't you forget something? And wait for the ghosts to visit!

    Thanks for this fascinating take on Halloween, Sheila. I may put out some cookies after all!

    1. None in this neighborhood, but I look for them in Ireland. I did once run into a Connolly in a local cemetery, but I don't think he was a relative. Also in the same cemetery, a stranger who knew my Connolly cousin, who hadn't lived in the area for nearly fifty years (her family moved when she was a child). It's a small country. And then there was the elderly gentleman we met while he was walking along a country lane with his dog, and he was carrying a bucket of water. No idea why. Maybe he wasn't exactly "alive."

  2. We will be celebrating Samhain with our son and his lady friend tomorrow.
    Thanks for the tips and recipe.

  3. Wonderful recipe with a nice touch of history. Marc and I will have a candle burning in our pumpkin and, in a bowl beside it, goodies for any spirits who happen well as trick-or-treaters.

    BTW - Marc and I are enthusiastic fans of Kerrygold butter. That higher fat content makes it an amazing product to eat. And they say butter from grass-fed cows has better nutrition. (Thank you, Ireland!) Happy Halloween! ~ Cleo

    1. Since some of the milk that goes into Kerrygold butter comes from Cork, I like to think I've met some of the cows. And I've certainly seen them grazing on all that green grass!

  4. Sheila, a lovely history, tenderly handled. Thanks. And the little ghosts look yummy.

    ~Daryl / Avery

  5. So many books, so little time! Thanks for the recipe and the books!

  6. Just may have to make some of these. Thanks for the remind and the link, had to go pre-order my copy!!

  7. Thank you for the bit of history!!! Remembrance cookies are a lovely sentiment. Does rosemary have a historical or traditional attachment to the loss of a loved one??? Also I prefer ordered your next book. Excited t o read it!!! Although I don't have A Gala Event read yet. I must dedicate more time to reading