Depression Hermits

The lowly hermit has all but been forgotten these days.

A favorite during the Great Depression, the hermit is a square, soft cookie filled with nuts and raisins. It’s origins are a mystery — some say the recipe came from Moravians who settled in Pennsylvania during the nineteenth century. Others theorize that the hermit’s history is rooted firmly in New England. Either way, one can attribute the cookie’s popularity to its ease of preparation and long shelf life.

Hermits from Monastic Greetings


There are hundreds of hermit recipes out there. Here’s a hermit recipe based on the original recipe from Miss Fanny Farmer’s cookbook, published in 1896. It was supposedly the first hermit recipe to appear in print.


1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg, well beaten
2 Tbs milk
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup raisins, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup nut meats
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon clove
1/4 teaspoon mace
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Cream the butter, then add sugar gradually. Once the sugar and butter are creamed together, add the raisins, nutmeats, egg, and milk. Mix dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture. Dough should be firm, but pliable. Roll dough into long strips lengthwise on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350° for about 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned. Cut each strip into 2-inch bars while still warm.

The hermit’s spicy nature ensures that it will last for weeks in a tightly closed tin.


Baumgarthuber, Christine. Fermented Foods: The History and Science of a Microbiological Wonder. Reaktion Books, 2021.

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