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(article, Deborah Madison)
Persimmons don’t grow in New Mexico, but my winter blues, due mostly to lack of all the good California produce I grew up with, vanished when a friend sent me a box of Hachiya persimmons in November.
They arrived hard and bright orange with glossy black splotches here and there on some. I set them out on a big platter, and over the next couple of weeks, they began to soften.
And by soft, I mean they had the feel of a relaxed inner thigh or calf muscle when cupped in your hand. That is, really soft, as if it’s just a purée held by in the skin, which is exactly what it is.
When your Hachiyas get to that stage, and only then, you can eat them. Before that, they’ll be astringent enough to set up a good pucker in your mouth. But when soft, the pulp is delicious with cream poured over it, turned into ice cream, or made into a neon-orange sauce. My favorite way to use the pulp is in persimmon pudding.
[%image reference-image float=right width=400 caption="Ripe Hachiya persimmons."]
Persimmon pudding is dark, lush, and moist, and one even garnered me a marriage proposal from an elderly Texan, although I’m already married. As desserts go, a pudding doesn’t look like much, but the eyes of your eaters will open with surprise when they take a bite.
Persimmon pudding was my dad’s favorite dessert for winter holidays of any and all kinds. I’ve happily maintained the tradition of making a few puddings over the winter holidays, on into the drab months of early spring.
Growing up, we always used the recipe in an old Joy of Cooking, but I like this one, slightly adapted from one in my book Local Flavors, even better. The same friend who sent the persimmons gave me the recipe.
If you haven’t tried a persimmon pudding yet, please do! By the way, you can use ultra-ripe Fuyus as well, but since you can also eat those in their hard form in salads and such, you may not get around to letting them soften — unless, of course, you’ve got a huge supply. And in that case, you are very lucky indeed.