By Jill Henderson – Show Me Oz –
Now that I’ve got you thinking about persimmons – those gooey globes of goodness – let’s talk more about what to do with them once you manage to pick them, clean them and process the pulp (Missed that part? Then check out, Wild Walk: Persimmons). Today, we’ll take on that sticky-sweet pulp in the kitchen and find something awesome to do with it!
You already know that persimmons are good wild pickins, but did you know that they are nutritious, too? Persimmons are super rich in protein, calcium, potassium, iron, and manganese. They also contain the healthy levels of the digestive 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 more digestive enzymes that help break down food more efficiently. It goes without saying that eating persimmons regularly might help you have a healthier digestive system.
That being said, most of us don’t need much of a reason to dive into those sweet, wild fruits. And sweet, they are! Wild persimmons are far sweeter than Asian and cultivated varieties and contain up to 34% fructose, which makes them one of the sweetest fruits found in nature.
Aside from sweetness that will make your teeth ache, the flavor of a ripe persimmon is a heavenly melding of golden brown sugar and fresh maple syrup all wrapped up into one.
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 of persimmon pulp is to bake with it. Much like pumpkin, persimmons are a fall fruit and fairly beg to be wrapped into the cadre of holiday spices, where its 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. Traditional fruit purees include prunes, apples, and bananas. 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
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.
Happy persimmon pickin’!
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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.