Raisin Rolled Oat Cookies

A classic, but not from Fannie Merritt Farmer.

Some sources attribute the first oatmeal raisin cookie to Fannie Merritt Farmer’s 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. But the image to the left is the page with the oatmeal cookie recipe on it. Do you see raisins? I don’t. There are four or five other cookie recipes with raisins in the book (including Boston cookies), so she could’ve added them. She just didn’t. I also looked at more recent editions (from 1918) to see if she added the cookies later, but unless she at some point put them in and took them back out again, Fannie doesn’t get credit for this one.

Oatmeal Cookies are the second most popular cookie in the U.S., next to the obvious champ, chocolate chip; April 30th is National Oatmeal Cookie Day.

The other side of this recipe is the recipe for lemon pie filling.

Update 9/16/2019

In the comments, Jonathan asked a good question I had kind of skipped over before: “Yes, but you didn’t address the glaring issue of what in the world puffed raisins are. Do they mean soaked?”

Y’know… that’s good question. I kinda assumed that, but I don’t know for sure. So let’s look around a bit.

Another early version of this recipe, from the September 21, 1927 edition of The (Staunton, Virginia) News Leader, makes no mention of puffing the raisins but cuts them into little pieces, if they had seeds:

Raisin Rolled Oat Cookies

One half-cup shortening,
1 cup sugar, granulated or brown;
1/3 cup milk;
1-1/2 cup rolled oats,
1-1/2 cups flour,
1 teaspoon cinnamon,
1 teaspoon nutmeg,
1 egg,
1 cup seeded or seedless raisins,
1/2 cup chopped walnuts,
1/2 teaspoon salt,
1/2 teaspoon soda,
1 teaspoon ginger.

One-half cup shortening, 1 cup sugar gradually and continue to cream; add egg, well beaten, milk, rolled oats, raisins and chopped nuts. Mix and sift dry ingredients and add to first mixture. Drop from spoon on to a well-greased pan, about three inches apart. Bake in a moderate oven about fifteen minutes. Cut seeded raisins in pieces with scissors.

Hmm. Well, that gives us a good age for the recipe, but it doesn’t really help us on puffed raisins. Maybe I should look in other contexts. What were puffed raisins in the 1920s?

The November 22, 1925 edition of The Los Angeles Times explains this newfangled modern marvel:

A New Product

CORCORAN — At a recent banquet here “puffed” raisins grown on the F.A. Cleveland ranch were served. The puffed raisin is something new and the process is a secret one. Under the new method it is said a machine removes the seeds without allowing the escape of the juice and destroying the shape of the raisin.

The May 8, 1925 edition of The Palm Beach Post shows the news about puffed raisins was national:

“Puffed” raisins is the latest. These “puffed” raisins are made on a patented formula and the process is owned and controlled by one of the largest grower’s associations. It is predicted these will make a big hit, for quality, size, appearance, and uniformity to make the product stand out as a leader in the raisin industry. It is expected they will be marketed at a price no higher than the present products.

Corcoran is about 30 miles south of Kingsburg, California, and both are in the San Joaquin valley. And raisin growers in the San Joaquin Valley were likely members of the California Associated Raisin Company, a cooperative of family-owned farms that, around 1918, changed its name to incorporate its famous brand name: Sun Maid Raisin Growers of California.

Since the paper said the process is patented, it gives us a hint of where to look: patents filed by the Sun Maid Raisin Growers of California. And surely enough, in January of that same year, there’s a patent application describing what makes these “puffed” raisins.

There are lots of patents for removing seeds from fruit in general, and raisins in particular; prior to 1925, the state-of-the-art raisin seeding machines either aligned the fruit in a single channel and then pressed the seeds out, or pressed layers of fruit between wire meshes that compressed them enough to, in essence, smash the seeds out.

The “puffed” raisin patent has a seeding step that, in all probability, relies on the same technology — the seeding tech itself is not part of the patent. What makes the “puffed” process different is that the seeding occurs when the raisins are hot from pasteurization. The raisins are immersed in hot water to raise them to 212 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 seconds. Then, while the raisins are still hot and malleable, steam pushes them into the hopper of the seeder. After seeding, they fall into a second conveyer that uses blasts of cold air (which, I guess, would be where “puffed” comes from) to cool them to room temperature.

So are puffed raisins just seedless raisins? Not exactly. As the patent explains, the air-drying part of the process makes the raisins stay separate in the box, rather than form a sticky clump. At the same time, the entire process, which takes under a minute and a half, manages to avoid making the raisins too dry or chewy. So a “puffed raisin” is, in theory, dry on the outside and relatively juicy (y’know, by raisin standards) on the inside.

Up through the mid-1960s, “puffed raisins” were advertised in grocery store ads, and recipes used the name to denote any seeded raisins. Now, when puffed raisins were launched, there were naturally seedless raisins available, Thompson raisins, but they commanded a higher price. While the puffing process patent expired in the 1940s, by the 1950s, Sun-maid was selling both puffed raisins and Thompson raisins… and the puffed variety commanded a higher price, in the January 15, 1954 edition of the Union County (Missouri) Tribune:

As Sun-Maid’s site explains, today, most of their raisins come from the Thompson seedless variety, making the puffing process unnecessary. And for our modern recipe purposes, any seedless raisin should do the trick.

From the box of L.S. from Joplin, Missouri.

Raisin Rolled Oat Cookies

1/2 c. shortening
1 c. sugar (white or brown)
1 egg
1/3 c. milk
1-1/2 c. rolled oats
1 c. puffed raisins

1/2 c. chopped nuts
1-1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. ginger

Cream shortening
Add sugar gradually and continue to cream
Add egg (well beaten)

Mix and sift dry ingredients and add.

Bake on well-greased pan, about 3″ apart. Bake in moderate oven about 15 minutes.


  1. Jonathan

    Yes, but you didn’t address the glaring issue of what in the world puffed raisins are. Do they mean soaked? I can’t imagine raisins being like puffed wheat…

    • Howdy and thanks for the good question! I did some more research and added it to the post (scroll up!) but the short version is that puffed raisins were a process of making seedless, less sticky raisins, and for our purposes, you can use seedless raisins right out of the bag, with no soaking, anytime a recipe calls for puffed raisins.

  2. Lee C.

    Hi. I loved the article. I was confused by this statement:

    “As the patent explains, the air-drying part of the process makes the raisins not separate in the box, rather than a sticky clump.”

    I think the word ‘not’ should be another word.

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