Persimmon Pudding

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persimmon tress
Cruising around the neighborhoods this time of year when all the leaves have dropped really gives one a get sense of what’s going on in the neighbor’s yard. Not only did I discover new pool-owning neighbors I plan to befriend, but I know who has fruit trees. Sure, everyone has citrus around here, but I have discovered a few precious persimmons.

These bright orange fruits hang on leafless trees this time of year, which is how they got the pseudonym “lantern fruit.” Native to Japan, there are two main varieties that we find here in the United States. The Fuyu is squat and pumpkin shaped, while the Hachiya has a larger, acorn shape. Both sweeten as they ripen, but the Hachiya is extremely high in tannins, and so astringent when unripe that it is inedible. The Fuyu, on the other hand, can be eaten when it is firm and less ripe, although it is not as good. In fact, there is nothing quite as good as a fully ripe persimmon, eaten out of hand like an apple. I feel certain that this fruit is under-appreciated.
persimmmon
This recipe is typical of persimmon recipes, highly spiced and loaded with booze. It’s a nice seasonal use for this fruit, as the result is a lot like a traditional Christmas Pudding.

The leafless season is short in So Cal, so I really need to get back to snooping before the leaves start to sprout.

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup pitted dates, chopped
1/2 cup dried black figs, chopped
1-1/2 cup cognac
2 cups persimmon puree
2-1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
a pinch ground clove
1 cup walnuts
1 cup milk

METHOD

  1. Macerate dried fruits in cognac overnight.
  2.  Preheat oven to 325˚F. Coat an angel-food cake pan (tube pan) with pan spray. In a large bowl, combine persimmon puree, sugar, oil and vanilla, and mix well. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices, and add. Stir in milk, raisins, walnuts, and stir thoroughly.
  3.  Transfer to prepared pan and bake for 1-1/2 hours, until firm to the touch. Cool completely, then unmold onto serving platter. Serve slices with lightly sweetened whipped cream.

persfuyu
You can speed up the ripening process of persimmons buy freezing and defrosting them. You can also store them in a closed bag with a red apple, which naturally gives off ethylene gas which ripens fruit. (Unripe fruit is picked and shipped in ethylene filled trucks to ripen on the way to market.)

Apples, Fennel, and Onions with Caraway

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caraway

Among my many idiosyncrasies is my unabashed love of caraway seed.  There are only a couple of spices that I am in love with , and caraway is one of them.  (Don’t tell cardamom…she will get jealous!)

In the west caraway seeds are most associated with breads, notably rye bread. Those who find rye bread disagreeable can blame the caraway. The flavor is heady, like a strong combination of thyme and dill, and is sometimes considered an acquired taste.

Caraway is found in all kinds of foods throughout northern Europe and Scandinavia, paired often with cabbage and root vegetables, meats, cheeses, and even fruits. It is also a major component of aquavit, a herbal Scandinavian distilled liquor.

Caraway is an ancient herb. It was found among Neolithic ruins of Europe, and it was known in the Middle Ages as a useful anti-gas remedy. Aren’t you glad you know that now! You never know when you may be trapped somewhere with nothing but gas and caraway.
caraway flowers
The seed is the most commonly used part of the herb, but the rest is used too. The stems and leaves have a mild flavor similar to parsley. The roots have a sweet, parsnip flavor and can be cooked and eaten boiled or fried.

As with all spices, it is better to toast and grind whole spices as needed. Ground spices loose their flavor and aroma rapidly.
The flavors of this dish are so deliciously complimentary, this is destined to be a new family favorite. It makes a terrific accompaniment to roasted poultry, pork, or sausage.

INGREDIENTS

4 TB. butter
1 TB. caraway seed, crushed
1 yellow onion, sliced thin
1 fennel bulb, sliced thin
2 Fuji apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin
1 cup dry white wine
1 tsp. sea salt

METHOD

  1. In a large sauté pan, melt butter over high heat. Add caraway seed and toast until fragrant, 1 or 2 minutes. Add onion and sauté until translucent. Add fennel and apples, reduce heat, and continue cooking until everything is golden brown and caramelized.
  2. Deglaze with white wine, and cook until liquid is evaporated. Remove from heat, add salt, and serve warm.

carawaypicture

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