From the Archives Kitchen – Hermit Cookies

Freshly-baked hermits, using Hettie London's 1902 cookbook. John Campbell photograph

Freshly-baked hermits, using Mrs. Charles London’s 1902 cookbook. (John Campbell photograph)

Imagine yourself in the kitchen of the farmhouse at London Farm in the early part of the last century, thinking about a nice treat for your cook to bake for the family. You go through your favourite cookbook and voila, you find a healthy, yet simple recipe for hermit cookies.

Cover of "Woman's Favorite Cook Book," published in 1902 and used by the London family. City of Richmond Archives reference file

Cover of “Woman’s Favorite Cook Book,” published in 1902 and used by the London family. City of Richmond Archives reference files

This is what Hetty London, wife of pioneer farmer Charles London, might have done using her “Woman’s Favorite Cook Book”, published in 1902, and found with old records of the London family now in the holdings of the City of Richmond Archives.

London Farmhouse, 1908. City of Richmond Archives Photograph 2009 16 75

London Farmhouse, 1908. City of Richmond Archives Photograph 2009 16 75

Charles London and his brother William purchased land in the South Arm district of Richmond in the 1880s, the area taking on the name of “London”. After their marriage, Charles and his wife Henrietta (Hetty) built their farmhouse, where they raised a family of eight children (three of whom died as infants.) ┬áIn 1978, the farmhouse was designated as a heritage site and the next year was purchased by the municipality to be restored as a heritage property.

London Farmhouse after restoration by the municipality. City of Richmond Archives Photograph 2009 16 13-4-3-1

London Farmhouse after restoration by the municipality. City of Richmond Archives Photograph 2009 16 13-4-3-1

The recipe for “hermits” found in Mrs. London’s old cookbook was particularly appealing to Precilla Huang, professional pastry chef and Board member of the Friends of the Richmond Archives, because it represented simpler times and the use of wholesome ingredients.

Recipe for Hermits from "Woman's Favorite Cook Book." City of Richmond Archives reference files

Recipe for Hermits from “Woman’s Favorite Cook Book.” City of Richmond Archives reference files

The result of Precilla’s baking was a tasty drop cookie, not too sweet but rich with buttermilk and lightly spiced with a hint of nutmeg.

A plate of hermit cookies hot out of the oven. (John Campbell photograph)

A plate of hermit cookies hot out of the oven. (John Campbell photograph)

Imagine the fragrance of the batch of cookies coming out of the oven, and the enjoyment they would have brought to the London family and guests.