A Taste of History – Mrs. Kelderhouse’s Cookies

The holiday season is full of traditions passed down by our ancestors. One tradition many of us share is making baked goods to share with family and friends. This year we are sharing a sugar cookie recipe from Mrs. Lottie (Beeman) Kelderhouse, of Port Oneida.

In 1976, the Empire Township Heritage Group compiled a recipe book called “Remembering Empire with Recipes: Homemade Kitchen Magic”. This is where Lottie’s recipe was printed. 

Sugar Cookies 

1 ½ cups white sugar
2 eggs 
1 cup lard
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup sour milk 
1 tsp salt 
1 tsp lemon extract
3 cups flour

Cream sugar, lard, and eggs together. 
Add milk and mix well. 
Add lemon extract and salt. 
Sift flour, baking powder and soda together and stir in. 
Take one half of the dough and roll out on a floured sheet or bread board, until about ¼” thick. 
Cut, sprinkle with sugar, and bake in a moderate oven, 350 degrees. 
Repeat with the other half of the dough.  

A Note From the Baker 
When first looking over this recipe, I noted the use of Lard. I have a few vegetarians in my life I wanted to share these cookies with and wanted to see if I could substitute the lard. I reached out to food historian, Susan Odom of Suttons Bay to ask about substituting butter for lard, and if it would drastically alter the recipe. She was fast in responding and assured me that butter could be substituted in a 1:1 ratio. She also mentioned that it was best to use lard you have made yourself. Store bought lard can have additives that are not pure pork fat.

I had previously asked Susan about Sour Milk. I wasn’t sure what it was initially. My first guess was buttermilk. 

Susan’s response was:
  “Well it used to be, back in the day when milk was unpasteurized, that milk naturally started to sour after a day or two. It sours little by little and isn't really spoiled for several days at room temp. But today we mostly have pasteurized milk. So to make sour milk today this is what you do:

Get 1 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar or store-bought lemon juice and put that in a 1-cup measuring cup. Then add enough milk to make 1 cup. Gently stir it up. Wait about 5 minutes and it will be sour. The milk might actually chunk-up a bit. The acid in the vinegar/lemon juice makes the milk clabber. This is sort of like the first step in making some cheese!” 

The recipe calls for lemon extract, which I found to be a nice touch, but if you don’t have that on hand or don’t like lemon, vanilla extract will work just as fine.

The cookies turned out wonderfully, and are the perfect Christmas sugar cookie. I topped them with simple white sugar, but I bet they would also taste good with icing or colored sugar. 

I want to thank Susan Odom for her exceptional help with this recipe and for always answering the historic baking questions I send her way!

Happy Eating!  -Emma Keaton (LHS Archivist)

Charlotte “Lottie” Kelderhouse (nee. Beeman)


Lottie was born in Empire Township to parents William H. Beeman and Mary Ann Atkinson. She married William Kelderhouse of Port Oneida in 1890. Together they homesteaded 60 acres across from the Port Oneida School. Their farmhouse still stands and is part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Their farm was a gathering place for the Port Oneida community. Lottie operated a general store, post office, and telephone exchange from the house. Charlotte and William had nine children, only four of which lived to adulthood. Their son Roland and his wife Agnes were the last residents of the farmhouse in Port Oneida. Lottie passed away in 1971 at the age of 98 and is buried in the Kelderhouse Cemetery.

(Fun Fact: Kim Kelderhouse, Executive Director of the Leelanau Historical Society, is the Great Great Granddaughter of Lottie.)

Lottie posing for a photo in front of fruit trees on the Kelderhouse Farm in Port Oneida in the early 1940s.