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.
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.
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
- Macerate dried fruits in cognac overnight.
- 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.
- 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.
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.)