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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Persimmons among Mother Nature's fall food bounty

Persimmons make good puddings and make tasty wine.

Mother Nature produces a fall harvest of good things to gather and eat. Persimmons are one of those good things that can be found on a hike in the woods or on a special trip just to pick them.
Persimmons are one of the most popular items harvested in the fall, although other fruits of interest include the pawpaw, wild grapes, elderberry, and wild cherry. These can be picked while on a fall hunting trip for squirrels or a fishing trip, or they can be hunted and picked on any fall outing.
And besides the items thought of as fruits, there are nuts, walnuts, hickories and others. They are tasty in baked goods and other recipes.
Unfortunately this summer's drought has impacted some fruits and nuts, but in places they can be found.
The persimmon tree has gray, fissured bark. Once you learn the tree, they are easy to identify. I've never quite figured out persimmon production as to whether it will be a good year or no-so good year. Similar weather years don't seem to always produce the same amount of fruit. With the dry, hot weather, it will be interest to see the result. One way or another, it will be fun to get out and check the trees.
Persimmons should be picked from the ground and not the tree. If picked from the tree, they may be what we always have called “puckery”. One not fully ripe will leave the inside of your mouth with an awful taste and make the inside feel as though it puckers. Some people shake the persimmons from smaller limbs, but there is a danger of getting some puckery ones included in your picking.
Persimmons can be used to make wine. To process them is easy. You just look them over in the kitchen. Wash them off and make sure they are clean. Then squash and drop skins, seeds and all into the container where you make your wine.
However if you plan to use them to make persimmon pudding, cookies or pies or to save and freeze for later, much more work is involved. The biggest problem is getting out the seeds. They are sizable, but difficult to easily remove. The skins and stems also must be separated. They need to be run through a colander or Victoria strainer,  and that is a work of love, but one well worth doing. I love persimmon pudding. It is always a part of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
Here is a persimmon pudding recipe::
Ingredients -- 2 cups persimmon pulp, 2 cups sugar (granulated), 2 cups milk, 2 cups flour, 3/4 stick of margarine or butter, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.
Melt the butter and stir it into the pulp. Then stir in flour, sugar, cinnamon in that order and stir it well.
Pour the mixture into a nine by 13-inch cake pan, and bake for one hour in an oven that has been preheated to 350 degrees. It can be served with shipped cream, or it can be cut into squares and eaten with the hands, although you may have to lick your fingers afterward.
There are a number of other recipes. My mother-in-law always made a pudding that was less like a cake and more like a soft pudding to be eaten with a spoon. Either way it is delicious.
If you want to enjoy eating a few raw persimmons while on a hike or baking a tasty pudding, this is the time of the year to give them a try.

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