First Thanksgiving Cookies
Though sweet potatoes, turkeys, and pumpkin pies often crowd the table at modern Thanksgiving dinners, the original Thanksgiving dinner was much different. It is believed that wild fowl, pumpkin, squash, lobster, eel, spinach, dried beans, corn, grapes, and nuts graced the Harvest Festival table of the Wampanoags and Pilgrims. But what about Thanksgiving cookies? Is there any evidence the Pilgrims settled down after their meal with a nice cookie?

Though many historians believe that first Thanksgiving did not include desserts like cakes or pies because the pilgrims lacked ovens and their sugar supplies were running low, there is a distinct possibility that cookies were indeed on that first Thanksgiving menu.

Early Thanksgiving Cookies
Pilgrim cookies, unlike cookies today, were often baked or boiled until they became hard like hardtack, a bland unsweetened cracker. In fact, they were often baked as many as three times to remove all excess moisture, making for a dry, but longer-lasting and easy-to-store cookie.

These cookies could be stored as long as a year, while hardtack could be stored as long as five years. Pilgrim cookies are actually believed to have been brought over on the Mayflower. The pilgrims had no need of an oven or sugar if they could serve last year’s cookies.

Types of Cookies
Pilgrims had two basic cookie types: gingerbread and jumbles. While Americans today may be familiar with gingerbread, jumbles may be a bit less familiar. Jumbles are a cookie made from butter, sugar, flour, flavorings, and eggs –a very basic cookie dough. This dough could then be rolled and cut into different shapes, like a modern refrigerator cookie, it could be made like a drop cookie, or it could be boiled.
Ginerbread Smiley Cookies
Modern Thanksgiving Cookie Traditions
Today, people can include both gingerbread and jumbles in their Thanksgiving cookie traditions if they choose. Gingerbread cookie traditions abound online and in cookbooks, and cutting the cookies out in the shape of turkeys or pumpkins can add an extra bit of Thanksgiving cookie whimsy. Jumble recipes may be a bit harder to find, but they too are available online. Modern jumbles can be made with stir-ins, like dried fruits, bits of candy or chocolate chips, or nuts. Unlike Pilgrim Thanksgiving Cookies, there is no need to bake the cookies three times to get them suitable for long-term storage; these Thanksgiving cookies are likely to disappear as quickly as the Thanksgiving feast itself.

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