John Glessner and his wife Frances were among the most generous and loyal supporters of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since its founding in 1891. They extended that generosity into their own home, and both Theodore Thomas and Frederick Stock, their families, along with members of the Orchestra and visiting soloists, were frequent guests, especially during the Christmas season (see here).

Frances meticulously kept diaries, detailing menus, decorations, guests, and seating arrangements, giving us a glimpse into the family’s frequent entertaining. According to her diaries, during the holiday season she frequently served one of her favorite cookies—Hermits. Here’s her recipe:

Hermits
Makes about 1 1/2 dozen bar cookies
3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 cup nutmeats (chopped coarse)
1/2 cup dates (chopped or diced)
1 orange rind grated
1/2 cup butter or shortening
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons sour milk
2 eggs (beaten well)

Cream together butter, sugar, and orange rind. Sift together flour, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and soda and set aside. Add beaten eggs to butter and sugar mixture. Alternate adding dry ingredients and sour milk, then fold in dates and nuts. Spoon into (greased and floured) 9-by-13-inch pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Cut into bars when cool.
Modern cooking tip: sour milk can be fabricated by adding a few drops of lemon juice to milk.
(from Carol Callahan’s 1993 Prairie Avenue Cookbook)

Keeping with the Glessners’ holiday traditions, the Glessner House was beautifully decorated for the holidays this year. It recently was open for docent-led candlelight tours, complete with executive director and curator William Tyre playing carols on the late nineteenth-century Steinway grand piano in the parlor.

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And a footnote . . . we couldn’t share the recipe without trying it ourselves . . . delicious success!

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