Fish Shack Gingerbread made with seawater and rum



Thumbing the vintage Lanescove cookbooks my neighbor loaned me, I saw a recipe for Joe Froggers, which included the story about the 18th century African American guy named Joe who had lived beside The Frog Pond in Marblehead, and made cookies – “Joe Froggers.”  These molasses, rum and spice cookies – so large they were shaped like a bullfrog –  were supposedly so beloved by 18th century Marblehead, that, when Joe died, someone – maybe his daughter? – snatched up the recipe and kept baking.

I didn’t really care too much about that story, but I loved the name “Joe Frogger,” and so I pulled out the rum and preheated the oven.  Not knowing exactly what a Joe Frogger should be, after a few tries, I decided they’re not that easy to make; molasses and baking soda combined look like an elementary school science experiment, all foamy and explosive.  In a dough beneath a rolling pin, that combo begs the dreaded warning, “Dough will be sticky,” which means go straight to cussing.

I made all kinds of Joe Froggers:  high, cakey ones.  Flat, chewy ones.  wide, crisp ones.  I Googled and baked.  Then, I began to come upon recipes that called for a secret Joe Frogger ingredient:  “seawater, if you can get it.”



This was my cookie now.

I partnered my Joe Frogger research with Mary Lou Nye’s excellent baking skills.  Nye lives down the street from me in the village of Lanesville.  We decided to merge a classic gingerbread with Joe Froggers, aiming at an authentic Lanescove Recipe – “Cove-ers -”  including rum and the secret ingredient, Lanescove seawater, boiled.

We love the recipe we came up with; it’s heavier on spice and molasses than the usual gingerbread cookie, but a better dough for rolling and cutting into shapes than the Joe Froggers I kept trying.  And, of course, we love the secret ingredients.

Since the Fish Shack is being saved by a group of Lanesville volunteers (see the a previous post) what better shape for the Official Lanescove Gingerbread than a Fish Shack?



Mary Lou will be taking orders for Fish Shack cookies if you just can’t get enough of our classic building.  I promise, the cookies are as delicious as they are adorable.  Nye makes a gluten-free version, too.


She can probably adapt the recipe to various oceans and coves, too, should you prefer your seawater Plum or Brace’s Cove.  Mary Lou is also working on a shape for our cookie that would be more like a cracker.  We decided the spice in the bare cookie, without the royal icing, makes them a wonderful vehicle for a sharp cheddar cheese – an appetizer with real Lanesville terroir.

Still, should you have access to seawater, you can make your own Cove-er Gingerbread;  I live in Folly Cove; the seawater here works just fine.



Cove-er Gingerbread

makes about 25 cookies



1 stick butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup molasses

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup rum

1/4 cup seawater, boiled

1 two inch knob fresh ginger

10 cardamon pods

30 coriander pods

2 cinnamon sticks

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons ginger

1 teaspoon nutmeg

2 teaspoons ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

3 teaspoons cinnamon

a recipe Royal Icing


In a small saucepan put seawater, fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks, cardamon pods, and coriander pods.  Simmer gently for five minutes, and let steep.

In a large mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar.  Beat in egg.

In a measuring cup, mix together molasses and baking soda.  Strain the seawater.  In a separate measuring cup, stir together seawater and rum.  In a large bowl, stir together the flour and spices.

Alternately add molasses, rum, and flour mixture to the creamed butter, adding half of each at a time, and beating well after each addition.

Chill dough for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Roll out dough approximately 1/3 of an inch and cut into shapes.  Place on parchment paper lined pans, and bake until firm.  Decorate with Royal Icing.


About Mary Lou Nye

Nye worked at Banbury Breads in Marblehead in the early 1980’s.  I asked her if that was where she learned about Joe Froggers, and she said, “oh, no!  I knew about Joe Froggers long before that.”  She’s a Frogger expert.

Nye cooked for the photographer Imogen Cunningham, who taught her how to make soup stock; Mary Lou still makes the pumpkin bread recipe that got her the job.

Nye’s interest in gardens and nature complements her interest in food.  She knows just where to pick the sumac berries and wild mustard (high in anti-oxidants) that bloom along Lanes Cove.

To place orders for cookies you can write Nye at or call her at 978-282-4745.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply