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Serving: MO

Cookie cutter history on display

Nancy Hoyt Belcher Interior of a cookie cutter museum with glass cases filled with artifacts and cookie cutters and a wooden doll holding a box labeled brochures
TIME STAMP: Today, bakers make their mark on cookies by stamping or pressing, but a museum in Joplin, Mo., is home to some unique cookie cutter relics.
A museum in Joplin, Mo., holds a collection of cookie cutters from across the country.

It’s the time of year when baking is in full swing, and nothing says the holidays are underway like cookies. My mom made the best buttermilk cookies. She would gather us around the kitchen table, roll out the cookie dough and open her container of cutters. We would choose our favorite — a turkey, a tree or a snowman — and begin the holiday season.

I still have some of my mom’s cookie cutters. Over the years, I carried on that same tradition with my daughters. But when my daughters married and left the home, I gave them their own set of cookie cutters, and I was amazed how different those cutters were compared to my childhood favorites.

A little history

Cookie cutters were not invented by one person, but rather, they evolved over time. They became popular with the gingerbread man shape in the 16th century. By the 1800s, they were made of tin and came in many shapes and sizes. Today, cookie cutters are made of plastic, aluminum, copper and some tin.

Even the cookie cutter has evolved. It is no longer the straight cutout cookie cutter with a simple shape — think heart or circle. There is a type known as the cookie stamp, which takes the cutout and adds detail.

For instance, my mom’s turkey cookie cutter had raised ridges to simulate its tail feathers. Then there is the embossed cookie cutter that has the print on the rolling pin. The cookie press simply pushes the design into the dough.

No matter what the style, there is a place dedicated to preserving the history of the cookie cutter.

Saving memories

The National Cookie Cutter Historical Museum in Joplin, Mo., holds collections of cookie cutters from not only Missouri, but also from across the nation. It is supported by the Cookie Cutter Collectors Club.

The museum has several display cases, each containing a collection of different cutters. Some of those display advertising cutters, tinsmith's cutters and European cutters.

There is a special grouping of club annual membership cutters, Cookie Cutter Week cutters and some of the cutters created exclusively for club conventions or regional meetings.

It doesn’t matter if you are using old or new cookie cutters this holiday season; it only matters that you are baking with the ones you love. So, gather around the table and get to it.

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