So my dad swung by the house a week or so ago and brought me a grocery bag full of persimmons.
He had gotten them from a gentleman at work and passed them along, thinking that I might want to try one or two (or the 12 in the bag).
I must confess that although I had seen persimmons around over the years, I wasn’t quite sure how they tasted or how to cook with them.
Dear old Dad had done some research before his arrival and began schooling me on the topic.
There are two classes of persimmon: astringent, meaning that it has a harshness and bitterness to it and should only be eaten when completely softened by ripening (to the point that the flesh inside turns to pulp); and non-astringent, a persimmon that can be eaten whole, without peeling, while the fruit is still firm.
Trees must be grown in male-female pairs so that there is cross-pollination and fruit production. Persimmon trees are also very tolerant and disease resistant and hold their own in flood zones. The fruit itself is a good source of dietary fiber and vitamin C.
Since Daddy had been eating his persimmons as you would apples, I reasoned that I now had a bag of the non-astringent variety.
What could do with them?
One traditional recipe is for a persimmon pudding made from the mashed-up pulp.
Not being a traditionalist (and not too crazy about fruit puddings), I wanted to try something else.
You can use persimmons almost like you would use apples or pears. There are recipes for persimmon tarts, upside-down cakes, coffee cakes and crumbles, cheesecakes and salads. I picked out four of the more interesting recipes and have included them here.
I made Daddy the persimmon Bundt cake. The batter, once mixed, tastes almost like a gingerbread.
Because I did not have all-purpose flour, I used self-rising flour and left out the baking soda and salt. And, because the persimmons I had were on the firm side, I pureed them in the food processor. I figured this would have the same effect as pushing a softer persimmon’s pulp through a sieve. It worked and everyone loved it.
Another big hit was the fruit salad that I made and took to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving.
The persimmon and pomegranate combination gets everyone’s attention because of the orange persimmons mixed with the purple pomegranate (orange and purple???) and the apples lend a bit of sweetness and texture to the mix.
So, what does a persimmon taste like?
It’s rather hard to describe. It’s almost like an apple and pear with a hint of peach. Not too sweet and, depending on the ripeness, can be more apple-like in texture rather than peach.
Since persimmon season runs now through February, pick some up at the grocery store or find a friend with a couple of trees and ask for a few.
Note: I did my baking and salad recipes with persimmons grown here in Richland County, off of a neighbor’s tree. These were sweet, even when eaten raw. I did purchase two persimmons from the grocery store to use as “photo-perfect” fruits and those seem to have more of an astringent taste to them. If you can’t get a hold of locally grown persimmons, make sure that the grocery store variety is ripened almost to the point of being mushy before using. You can do this by placing fruit in a brown paper bag left on the counter.
Persimmon Pomegranate Fruit Salad
3 persimmons, peeled, seeded and chopped
3/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1 Granny Smith or Fuji apple, peeled, cored and chopped
7-10 fresh mint leaves, julienned
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
Gently toss all of the ingredients together.
Hint: To easily get the seeds out of a pomegranate, slice the fruit in half, hold it over a large bowl and smack the outside of the pomegranate with the back of a heavy spoon.
Persimmon Bundt Cake
4 large ripe persimmons
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3 extra large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
3/4 cup dried currants
Position rack in the center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter and flour Bundt pan.
Peel persimmons and press pulp through coarse sieve into medium bowl. Measure 1 1/3 cups persimmon puree into small bowl.
Mix baking soda into small bowl and set aside.
Beat sugar and butter in a large bowl until blended. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each mixture.
Mix in vanilla.
Sift flour, cinnamon, salt, allspice and cloves into butter mixture and blend well.
Mix in persimmon mixture, walnuts and currants.
Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until tester comes out clean, about 55 minutes.
Cool cake in pan 5 minutes then turn out cake onto rack and cool completely.
Dust with confectioners sugar and serve.
Optional finish: Persimmon Glaze: Peel and chop two persimmons (about 1 1/2 cups). In a saucepan, mix 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch. Add persimmons and stir over medium heat until mixture boils and thickens, about 4 minutes. Let cool and then pour over cake. This is great over cheesecake.
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
Four 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups persimmon puree
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Zest of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
Place the crumbs in a small bowl and add the sugar and butter, mixing to combine. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake until the crust is golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool while you prepare the filling.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
Place the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until smooth. Add the persimmon purée and mix just until smooth. Then add the flour, cinnamon, lemon zest, salt and vanilla, and combine on low speed. With the mixer running, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each one is incorporated before adding the next.
Place the springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the filling into the pan and transfer it to the oven. Bake for 55 minutes, then turn off the oven and let the cheesecake sit in the oven for 2 more hours. Do not open the oven while baking or cooling, or you run the risk of cracking and deflating the cheesecake.
After the 2-hour cooling period, remove the pan from the oven and let the cheesecake cool completely at room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 8 hours, before serving. Serve with whipped cream garnish, if desired.
Prosciutto wrapped Persimmon
3 persimmons, peeled and sliced into eighths
24 very thin slices of prosciutto (about 1/2 pound)
24 small rosemary sprigs
4 ounces goat cheese (optional)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
On a work surface, place one slice of persimmon (and a teaspoon of goat cheese, if using) on one end of a slice of prosciutto and roll it up.
Using a toothpick, poke a hole in the wrapped persimmon and insert a sprig of rosemary.
Place wrapped wedges on baking sheet and lightly brush with olive oil. Roast in oven for about 20 minutes, until lightly brown and sizzling. Serve warm or at room temperature.