Persimmon Pickin’ Time – Part II

American PersimmonBy Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz

In Persimmon Pickin’ Time Part One, we talked about how to harvest persimmons and how to separate the pulp from the bitter seeds and skin and how to freeze the pulp of this delectable wild fruit.  Today, we’ll take on that sticky-sweet pulp in the kitchen and I’ll even throw in a couple of my favorite persimmon recipes to get you started

We already know that persimmons are good wild pickin’s, but did you know that they are nutritious, too?  Persimmons are super rich in protein, calcium, potassium, iron, and manganese and they contain the healthy enzymes papain and bromelaine, which are also found in pineapples and papayas.  This means that when you eat persimmons, your stomach is encouraged to produce digestive enzymes that help break down food more efficiently, which goes to say that eating persimmons regularly might help you have a healthier digestive system.

But of course, most of us don’t need a reason to dive into the persimmons, because they are so delectably sweet!  As a matter of fact, persimmon fruits contain up to 34% fructose, making them one of the sweetest fruits found in nature.

Aside from the sheer sweetness of the fruit, the flavor of a ripe persimmon is a heavenly meeting of the flavors of golden brown sugar and fresh maple syrup with a sweetness that will make your teeth ache.  The richness of this homely little fruit is a fabulous taste treat all on its own, but pair it with the traditional holiday spices like cinnamon, allspice, ginger and nutmeg and you’re in for something really special.

And while ripe persimmon fruits are pleasantly edible straight from the tree, the cleaned pulp of the fruit can be turned into jams, fruit butters or fruit leather, and can be used to create creamy sauces, puddings and flan.  Surprise yourself by adding persimmons to a jar of spicy chutney or walk on the wild side with perky persimmon salsa!  The possibilities are just out there waiting for the creative cook.

But the most honest thing you can do to bring out the deep rich flavors and smells of persimmon is to bake it into something.  Much like the pumpkin, persimmons are a fall fruit and fairly beg to be wrapped into the  cadre of holiday spices, where it’s deep, warm flavor is most easily appreciated.

And I have a great little secret to tell you… persimmon pulp is one of the very best fat substitutes you will ever come across!

Yep, that’s right.  Persimmon pulp can not only be made into persimmony baked goods, but it can be slipped into non-persimmony baked goods as a fat substitute.  You may know that just about any kind of fruit pulp will work as a fat substitute in baking with prune, apple sauce and banana puree being the most popular, but I dare you to find one that adds the same level of subtle flavor and sweetness as persimmon pulp does.

Here’s the skinny:

For cake, muffin or quick bread recipes replace all or part of the solid fat with half as much persimmon puree.  For example, to replace all of the fat in a recipe that calls for 1 cup (two sticks) of butter, replace it with 1/2 cup of persimmon pulp.  If the recipe calls for oil, replace that amount with ¾ as much pulp. When eliminating all of the fat in cake, muffin and quick bread recipes, reduce the number of eggs by half.

For cookies the same principle applies, except that it is best to only replace up to half of the solid fat with half as much persimmon pulp, or up to half of the oil with three-fourths (¾) as much pulp.  For example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, replace it with no less than ½ cup of butter and ¼ cup of persimmon pulp.  But either way, do not reduce the number of eggs used in a cookie recipe and bake the cookies at a slightly lower temperature to prevent burning.

Of course, our favorites are chocolate-chip persimmon and black walnut cookies.  The cookies come out with a rich, caramel, brown sugar taste to die for.   I can’t very well leave you hanging there, so here’s the cookie recipe and one for rich, persimmon pudding.

Reduced Fat Chocolate Chip Persimmon and Black Walnut Cookies

2 ¼ c. flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp. salt
½ c. butter, softened
¾ c. white sugar
¾ c. light brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1 c. persimmon pulp
12-16 oz chocolate chips
1 c. black walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 375°. In a medium bowl, blend flour, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, cream butter, sugars and vanilla until creamy. Add eggs and beat well.  Stir in persimmon pulp.  Gradually add flour mixture to the persimmon mixture, beating well.  Fold in chocolate chips and nuts.  Drop by rounded teaspoons onto greased baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.  (Notice that this recipe uses half the fat of a normal chocolate chip cookie recipe!)

Rich Persimmon Pudding

1 c persimmon pulp
1 c sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 c milk
1/4 lb butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla

In a large bowl, mix pulp and sugar together and beat in eggs until creamy.  In a medium bowl blend flour, soda and spices together.  Slowly add to the persimmon mixture and stir until smooth.  Pour batter into greased 9” pan and bake at 325° for 35 minutes.  Serve with real whipped cream if desired.

Wow, I’m really hungry now, so I’ll leave you to it.   Happy persimmon pickin’!

© 2010 Jill Henderson

AJOS 214x328Excerpted in part from the book:
A Journey of Seasons
A Year in the Ozarks High Country

Set in the rugged heart of the Ozark mountains, A Journey of Seasons is memoir, back-to-the-land handbook and nature guide rolled into one.  Henderson’s 20-years of living off the land and foraging in the wilderness shines in this cyclopedic work filled with nature notes, botanical musings, back-woods wisdom and just a pinch of “hillbilly” humor.  This is one journey you don’t want to miss.

Available in the Show Me Oz Bookstore

Jill Henderson is an artist, author, and the editor of Show Me Oz . Her books, The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs, The Garden Seed Saving Guide and A Journey of Seasons can be found in the Show Me Oz Bookstore. Jill’s work has also appeared in The Permaculture Activist, The Essential Herbal, Acres USA, and Llewellyn’s Herbal Almanac.

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8 responses to “Persimmon Pickin’ Time – Part II

  1. Hi Jill,

    Great article but, with me, you are preaching to the choir! I “discovered” native persimmons in the form of persimmon pie when a college student in Indiana in the 1960’s. And while I have forgotten much of whatever I learned in my 8 AM sociology class at DePauw Univeristy, I will never forget the taste of the slice of persimmon pie that was served me by my roomate’s grandmother in rural Indiana over the Thanksgiving day holidays during my freshman year. Since then, I have been trying to locate a recipe that approximates what I experienced long ago with no success. The search goes on.
    I have tried a variation of your recipe that calls for buttermilk instead of milk. Here it is:

    1 tbBaking Powder
    2 1/4 cFlour
    1 cButtermilk
    1 tsBaking soda
    1 cSugar; white
    2 EGGS
    1 cSugar; dark brown, packed
    1 tsCinnamon
    1 tsAllspice
    1/2 tsSalt
    2 cPersimmon pulp

    My question is: Do you think that you could substitute buttermilk for milk in your recipe for richer flavor?

    • Hello, Tom. Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it. I am always looking for new and interesting persimmon recipes and I will have to try that one out. Buttermilk is definitely richer and tangier than milk and I don’t see why you couldn’t use it in place of regular milk.

      • I will also keep my eye out for that elusive persimmon pie recipe!

      • Yes, yes! That would be great.

      • I haven’t yet had luck finding persimmon pulp for you, Tom. I’ll keep my feelers out, though!

      • I hope you like it Jill. BTW, do you know of anyone that sells persimmon pulp in the Ozark area? Its a long way to southern Indiana to buy the stuff.


      • Y’know, Tom, I don’t know anyone who sells persimmon pulp. I’ll ask around though…I know there are a lot of people here who gather persimmons this time of year and maybe I can find some for you. According to my sources, American persimmons grow wild in southern Indiana – and all across the eastern states – but I suppose finding them is the real challenge! I’ll keep you posted!

      • Thanks, Jill, I await any knowledge of Missouri pulp should it be obtainable. Meantime, I will use my last 2 cup container of southern Indiana pulp that I got last year at the annual Persimmon Festival in Mitchell, Indiana. It abounds in puddings, cakes, and even persimmon ice cream. Somewhere out there is persimmon wine!

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