The fruits of the common persimmon tree, Diospyros virginiana, ripen in autumn along roadsides, forest margins and backyards in their native habitat, the eastern United States. The attractive deciduous tree’s glossy green leaves turn deep purple in fall. At the same time branches are heavy-laden with the yellow and orange plum-shaped fruit. A perennial favorite of opossum and other wildlife, the common persimmon was once an important fruit of Native Americans and early colonists.
Native Americans mixed the pulp with corn meal to bake bread. They dried the fruit like we do with grapes and plums. Colonists used the pulp to make bread, puddings, pies, and preserves. Persimmon beer and brandy were served at gatherings.
Bring a thread of history to a contemporary party by featuring persimmon recipes at a fall possum party. The key to cooking with persimmons is harvesting only the ripest fruits. Unripe persimmons are loaded with tannin, an astringent causing puckering and distaste. However, ripe persimmons are as sweet as apricots.
The skin of ripe persimmons will be wrinkled and give way to light pressure when touched, somewhat like an overripe avocado. The color of ripe persimmons is reddish purple to black. The pulp minus the skin and seeds is what is used in cooking. To extract the pulp remove the skin and seeds by hand or, preferably, with a Foley mill.
The following recipes will introduce guests to the versatility of persimmon pulp as a culinary ingredient and a delicious party food.
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1½ cups hot milk
- ¼ tsp. salt
- Beat eggs and sugar together.
- Add milk and salt.
- In a 5 cup baking dish pour the above over 1½ cups of persimmon pulp and stir together. Set dish in a pan of warm water.
- Bake at 250° until pudding is set.
- 2 cups of flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- ½ tsp. nutmeg
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 beaten eggs
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 cup persimmon pulp
- ½ cup nuts
- Preheat oven to 375ºF.
- Sift together flour, powder, soda, and spices.
- Cream together sugar, eggs, and vanilla and gradually blend with sifted ingredients.
- Add persimmon pulp and nuts.
- Pour entire batter into a well-greased 9” x 5” x 3” loaf pan and let set for 20 minutes before baking in a 375° oven for 55-60 minutes.
- 2 beaten eggs
- 2 cups of persimmon pulp
- ½ cup of sugar
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. ground cloves
- ¼ tsp. ginger
- 1¾ cup light cream
- Preheat oven to 425ºF.
- Mix filling ingredients in order and pour into pie shell.
- Bake at 425º for 15 minutes.
- Reduce temperature to 350º. Bake an additional 45 minutes or until custardis set and knife inserted in center of pie filling comes out clean.
Persimmontini (serves 1)
- 2 oz. persimmon juice
- 1 oz. vodka
- orange sugar (optional)
- several ice cubes
- Dip the rim of martini glass in the orange sugar to decorate.
- In a mixer, shake 2 oz. persimmon juice and 1 oz. vodka together with ice cubes.
- Use a strainer to pour mixture into sugared glass. Serve immediately.
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