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How to use persimmons.

On the southern Indiana farm where I was raised, persimmon trees grew in dense thickets along the fence rows. After the first cold snap each fall we'd brush aside fallen leaves, gather the smooth-skinned orange fruits, and carry them home to make persimmon pudding. Standing bare-armed at the sink my grandmother worked the soft fruit through a colander to squeeze out fragrant, dark orange pulp for her puddings.

Indians taught the early settlers to mix the tangy pulp with crushed corn for persimmon bread. Five generations of my family used buttermilk, flour and sweetening to create delicious persimmon puddings for special occasions. Here's our favorite recipe for persimmon pudding:

2 cups persimmon pulp

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1-1/2 cups buttermilk

1-1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup)

1/4 cup cream

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg pinch of salt

Mix sugar and persimmon pulp. Add beaten eggs and stir. Add soda to buttermilk, then pour into batter. Sift baking powder, salt, and flour together. Add to batter and mix well. Add spices and cream. Melt butter and pour into the batter, mixing well. Bake in a greased 9 " x 13" pan at 325 degrees for one hour or until done. Serve at room temperature.

As it bakes, the pudding will rise, then fall, in the center. Don't be alarmed; it's normal for these heavy puddings to "sag" in the middle.

A first rate persimmon pudding has a smooth, glossy top, an even texture, and ranges from dark to golden brown in color. My grandmother advised, "Don't add many spices or you'll hide the persimmon flavor." The best puddings have a sweet, fruity taste which sits lightly on the tongue. Because every batch of persimmons differs slightly in flavor and ripeness, each pudding assumes its own character.

Most persimmon recipes call for persimmon pulp, which is prepared as follows: Collect ripe persimmons from ground or tree after the first frost. The fruit appears dark orange, sometimes nearly black when it's ready to eat. If it isn't ripe you'll pucker at the first bite; unripe persimmons contain large amounts of tannin, giving them an extremely tart flavor.

Wash the fruit, remove stems, then scoop pulp and seeds from the skin with a spoon. My grandmother squeezed her persimmons by hand through a colander to pulverize the soft fruit, but a blender or food processor is faster. Extra pulp can be frozen or canned for later use.

An easier way to obtain persimmon pulp is through the mail. In Mitchell, Indiana, Dymple Green's persimmon factory offers canned or frozen pulp year round. You can contact the firm at: Dymple's Delight, Route 4 Box 53, Mitchell, Indiana 47446. I've used this product when I can't get fresh pulp, and the quality is excellent. One can of pulp may be used in all recipes calling for 2 cups sugar and 2 cups pulp.

Here's a recipe for persimmon brownies from Dymple Green's persimmon cook book:

2 cups persimmons

2 cups sugar

2 cups flour

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup butter

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 teaspoon nutmeg

3 eggs

Cream sugar and butter together; add persimmons, buttermilk and eggs. Then add dry ingredients. Pour into 10" x 12" baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Cool and add cream cheese icing. Icing:

3 ounces cream cheese

1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup)

1 box powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chopped pecans

2 tablespoons cream

Cream butter and cream cheese; add vanilla, cream, and powdered sugar. Spread on brownies and sprinkle with chopped pecans.

Whether you hunt wild persimmons in the woods, grow your own trees, or obtain the pulp by mail order, these colorful orange fruits can provide delicious treats for your family.

Planting persimmons

The common persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, grows through-out the Southeastern United States and thrives in a wide range of soils. Even homesteaders with poor soil can cultivate the trees, especially if a well-drained site is chosen and straw/manure mulch is applied.

General procedures for planting, mulching, and fertilizing are similar to those for other fruit trees. The persimmon has a long taproot, which means only young trees can be transplanted. The trees need 18-20 feet of space and should be set about an inch deeper than in the nursery. Persimmon trees produce suckers which must be removed each year in order to prevent formation of a thicket.

A member of the ebony family, persimmons produce an extremely dense, hard wood which is used commercially for golf club heads and shuttles for textile weaving. The trees may grow as high as fifty feet.

Persimmon seeds can be ordered by the pound or a few at a time from Dymple Green's factory in Indiana. The address is: Dymple's Delight, Route 4 Box 53, Mitchell, Indiana 47446.
COPYRIGHT 1994 Countryside Publications Ltd.
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Copyright 1994 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes recipes
Author:Wright, Sammie
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:May 1, 1994
Words:826
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