Although pudding cookies have been around forever, it’s always interesting to take a basic recipe and personalize with flavors that appeal to you especially. I have always had loved the flavor of both citron and anise, so I decided to incorporate them in this cookie. I have very vivid memories of my mothers’ huge, wonderful garden, on our farm in southern Alberta. Citron was one of the melons that she grew and made it into a nice, preserved fruit for the winter months. I just loved it, but it seems this melon has become extinct these days. The reason can be deduced from historical seed catalogues. Throughout the period of about 1910 to 1950, whenever imported winter fruit and reliable refrigeration arrived in a region, the local seed companies tended to drop citron melon seeds from their catalogues.
The real value of citron melons was that they kept for nearly a year with no special storage, which means a rural family could depend on them for winter food (with some boiling and sugar), and they could be processed into sweet desserts at any time of year when there was less outdoor work to do. Combined with the fact that the plants require very little care, and can yield a decent crop in poor soil, citron melons were a very practical source of useful fruit for farm families and rural communities.
Citrons were a preserving melon, not meant for fresh eating that were widely grown by farm families and gardeners in the 1800s and early 1900s, all across Canada.
Since the flesh of the citron has no color or flavor of its own, it could be combined with other fruit to ‘extend’ them, making more jam, pies, and preserves. I recall my mother putting raisins with hers.
Anise can be a bit of a polarizing spice. It has the flavor that most people associate with licorice and tends to be something you either like or you don’t. I have always enjoyed the taste, so combining with citron makes a match made in heaven.
The tradition of using anise seeds to flavor meals and desserts dates to the time of the ancient Romans. It is said that the Romans would serve large cakes flavored with anise at the end of their feasts in order to enhance their digestion.
Now this brings us to the question ‘why use pudding mix in cookies’? Added to cookie dough, pudding mix yields unbelievable texture and depth. They come out of the oven nice and crunchy on the outside, but they maintain that delicious soft, chewy texture on the inside. Cornstarch is a key main ingredient in instant pudding, so it probably makes sense that it helps make pudding cookies super soft and chewy. And when it comes to the recipe, you’ll want to choose your pudding mix carefully. An instant pudding mix is required.