US born and bred, these cookies taste larger than Texas. I used a 5″ in diameter bowl and a sharp knife as a cookie cutter and two metal spatulas to lift them off the cookie sheet. They are baked two or three at a time, as they sprawl and fill up a standard-size sheet, and are also finicky about where in the oven they are placed. After following Sharon Tyler Herbst’s advice (The Joy of Cookies) and letting them mellow for a day, I cut them all (15 total) into eighths, filled three freezer boxes for cold storage and half of another for more immediate consumption.
Here is some of their story according to Ms. Herbst:
Legend tells us that these cookies were created over 100 years ago in Marblehead, Massachusetts, by an old man called Uncle Joe. He lived alongside a frog pond and used to trade local fishermen a batch of his favorite cookies for a jug of their rum, which left all parties involved feeling pleased with the swap. It was said that his cookies resembled the great, fat frogs in his pond — hence their name.
Thinking there must be more to this story than a man dwelling next to a pond, driven to bake for the sake of rum, I looked further: http://www.legendinc.com/Pages/MarbleheadNet/MM/Articles/BlackJoe.html. Not surprisingly there is an invisible woman involved (Lucretia — another pet peeve here: I hate the way men routinely write women out of history and really dislike Ms. Herbst’s going along with that in this account) and some politically-correct cleaning up of the story by substituting Uncle for Black in the name of Joe. It’s a good story, however, worth further exploration.
Worth a jug of rum, these cookies are delicious. They are flavored with molasses (I used a cup of the dark stuff), ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, rum and strong coffee and topped with chopped walnuts and a dusting of sugar. They almost bite back!