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Persimmons ... the soft and the hard and the confusing.

Persimmons . . . the soft and the hard and the confusing

Bright jewels of the fall season, persimmons please the eye whether seen as golden orange orbs on leafless limbs or mounded in glistening plenty at the market. They are also the source of some confusion.

A native persimmon, found in the Eastern states, is a seed-filled, rather small fruit that is too puckery to eat until the first frost. It turns soft are sweet and perishes rapidly. Rarely will you see a native persimmon in the West. What you do find are the big, showy Oriental kinds.

Although all Oriental persimmons are similar in their rich, very sweet flavor, they divide quite cleanly into two groups. The first--Fuyu is the predominant market variety--is good to eat while firm and ripe; the second, represented mainly by the Hachiya, is astringent and inedible unless soft-ripe.

The persimmons that are best when firm-ripe have flat bottoms. In addition to Fuyu, other flat-bottom varieties are Gosho (or Giant Fuyu) and Maru (or Chocolate, because brown streaks run through the fruit). These crisp persimmons are much easier for newcomers to the fruit to like. Even when very ripe, they retain more texture than Hachiya types do. They also keep their exture when cooked.

Hachiya-type persimmons have pointed tips. Similar varieties, mostly found in home gardens, are the Hyakume, Tamopan, and Tanenashi. Hachiya-type fruit are too astringent (from tannins) to eat until soft and ripe. However, they are the most intensely flavored persimmons. Unless handled in specific ways during cooking, the sweet, creamy pulp will revert to bitter astringency. In baking, this behavior is neutralized by baking soda, but unless soda is added to the pulp before it is mixed with other ingredients, the resulting product will be gummy.

Crisp persimmons are the first to appear in the fall; soft-ripe ones usually linger into December.

Ripeness: how to determine

Feel a Hachiya-type persimmon. When it gives readily or is actually squishy when pressed and begins to look translucent with a slightly dull skin, the fruit is at the ideal eating stage.

For Fuyu-type persimmons, color is the main clue. Fruit should be shiny, with a bright, deep orange color. It should feel solid, like an apple, but even when the fruit is riper and gives to gentle pressure, this variety makes excellent eating.

Frequently you will notice black streaks on the skin. These are harmless markings caused by bumps or branches whipping against the hard fruit on the tree.

How to store persimmons, hasten ripening

At room temperature, the fruit ripen slowly--one reason why many people like to keep piles of persimmons in bowls for fall decorations. To hasten ripening, especially of Hachiya types, enclose fruit in a paper or plastic bag with an apple for 3 to 5 days; check frequently.

In the refrigerator, you can store firm persimmons up to about 1 month; check occasionally for spoilage.

To freeze persimmons, fruit should be at a ready-to-eat stage; both types will be soft when thawed. Freeze whole fruit in a single layer; when solidly frozen, enclose in plastic bags. Or scoop soft Hachiya-type pulp from skin and pack in small containers; cover surface with plastic wrap (to reduce darkening) and freeze. Held at 0| or colder, fruit will keep up to the next season.

Cooking with persimmons

Raw or cooked, Oriental persimmons make a delicious contribution to the table. With more than brief heating, both types begin to lose their bright color; handled carefully or preserved (canned or frozen) as directed here and on page 168, they make attractive offerings year-round.

Two of the simplest and perhaps most stylish preparations are shown on pages 102 and 103. Slice off stem end of a soft-ripe Hachiya-type persimmon and nestle in a stemmed glass. Serve chilled, if you like, to scoop from skin with a spoon; squeeze fresh lime juice over the fruit or splash with hazelnut-, almond-, or orange-flavored liqueur.

Or cut a Fuyu-type persimmon into wedges, starting from the bottom without cutting into the stem end. Peel back skin to create a petal effect (see page 103). Lay fruit stem side down on a plate. Serve with hazelnut-, almond-, or orange-flavored liqueur to pour over fruit; serve with knife and fork.

Glazed Persimmon Wedges

Spicy, glazed persimmon wedges are a sweet-savory counterpoint to baked ham or roasted pork.

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds (see chart below) crisp-ripe Fuyu-type persimmons

1/4 cup (1/8 lb.) butter or margarine

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon curry powder

3 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon raisins

With a sharp knife or vegetable peeler, cut off persimmon stems and peel; slice the fruit into 1/2-inch-thick wedges, discarding any seeds.

In a 10- to 12-inch frying pan, combine butter, ginger, cumin, and curry powder; cook, uncovered, over medium heat until mixture foams. Stir in persimmons and lime juice. Heat mixture until sizzling, then reduce heat to low and cook, turning fruit occasionally with a spatula until hot and lightly glazed, about 5 minutes.

Serve warm in a bowl; sprinkle with raisins. Makes 2 cups, 5 or 6 servings.

Hachiya-type Persimmon Syllabub

Use the thick version as a dessert or sauce; sip the thin syllabub.

1 1/2 pounds (see chart below) soft-ripe Hachiya-type persimmons

1 cup each whipping cream and powdered sugar

1/3 cup dry sherry

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 1/2 cups milk, optional

Pull stems off persimmons, cut fruit in half, and scoop pulp from skin with a spoon; discard any seeds. You should have 2 cups pulp. In a food processor or blender, whirl persimmon pulp until pureed; set aside.

With an electric mixer, whip cream and sugar (scrape bowl sides often) until mixture will hold soft peak. Stir in persimmon puree, sherry, and lemon juice to taste. Serve, or cover and chill up to 1 day.

To serve as a dessert, stir persimmon mixture, then ladle into small bowls or widemouth wine glasses and eat with a spoon.

To serve syllabub as a beverage, stir milk into persimmon mixture. Pour into wine glasses or cups to sip. Makes 6 or 7 dessert servings, about 3/4-cup size, or 6 beverage servings, about 1-cup size.

Baked Hachiya-type Persimmon Indian Pudding

If you like, accompany this pudding with a sauce of the thick syllabub and a garnish of persimmon chutney (right) and slices of crisp Fuyus.

1/2 pound (see chart, below) soft-ripe Hachiya-type persimmons

2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) butter or margarine

1/4 cup dark molasses

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon each ground cinnamon and ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Pull stems off persimmons. Cut fruit in half and scoop pulp from skin with a spoon; discard any seeds. You should have 1 cup pulp. In a food processor or blender, puree pulp with baking soda; set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat together sugar, butter, and molasses until blended; add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, stir flour with cornmeal, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice. Gradually stir into creamy mixture along with puree, raisins, and nuts.

Pour batter into a buttered 6- to 7-cup loaf pan or ring mold (no deeper than 3 in.); cover tightly with foil. Put pan in a larger pan and place in a 300| oven. To larger pan, add 3/4 inch boiling water around loaf pan or 1/2 inch boiling water around ring mold. Bake until pudding is firm in center when lightly pressed, about 2 hours. Let stand 10 minutes, then run a knife around side of pan to release pudding. Invert onto a plate. Serve warm or cool, cut into slices. Makes 12 servings.

Persimmon Chutney

Use crisp persimmons for a chunky chutney, soft persimmons for a smoother texture. The chutney goes well with curries, grilled cheese sandwiches, and ham, pork, duck, or goose.

2 pounds (see chart below) crisp-ripe to soft-ripe Fuyu-type persimmons; or 2 pounds (see chart) soft-ripe Hachiya-type persimmons

3 1/2 cups water

1/2 pound (2 cups) dried apricots

1 1/2 cups raisins

2 tabelespoons minced fresh ginger or 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 tablespoon mustard seed

3/4 teaspoon chili powder

1 1/2 cups white wine vinegar

1 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar

Salt

To prepare Fuyu-type persimmons, cut off stems and peel with a sharp knife or vegetable peeler. Chop fruit, discarding any seeds; you need 4 1/2 cups fruit.

To prepare Hachiya-type persimmons, pull of stems, then cut fruit in half and scoop pulp from skin with a spoon; you need 2 2/3 cups fruit.

Set fruit aside.

If using Fuyu-type persimmons, in a 5- to 6-quart pan combine fruit with water, apricots, raisins, ginger, mustard seed, and chili powder. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, then cover and cook 10 minutes. Add vinegar and sugar. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, then more frequently as mixture thickens, until most of the liquid evaporates and chutney is reduced to 7 cups, about 45 minutes; remove from heat.

If using Hachiya-type persimmons, in the 5- to 6-quart pan bring water, apricot, raisins, ginger, mustard, and chili to boiling; reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook 10 minutes. Add vinegar and sugar, and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally until reduced to 4 1/2 cups, about 55 minutes. Stir in Hachiya-type fruit and remove at once from heat.

Salt chutney to taste. Serve chutney warm, or store in covered jars in the refrigerator up to 1 month; or freeze in easy-to-use units.

To can Fuyu-type chutney, follow directions for canning on page 170; use 1/2-pint canning jars. Store in a cool, dark place.

Hachiya-type chutney is not suitable to can as heating makes it very astringent.

Makes 3 1/2 pints Fuyu-type chutney, 3 pints Hachiya-type chutney.

Table: How many persimmons do you need for our recipes?

Photo: Flat-bottom Fuyu-type persimmons are sweet and flavorful while firm and crisp. Color indicates ripeness. Fruit above is pale and immature; at right, shiny bright orange color signifies good eating

Photo: Pointed-tip Hachiya-type persimmons above are still firm, puckery tasting. Let fruit ripen until translucent and soft enough to scoop from skin. One way to serve: nest in a glass and eat with a spoon

Photo: Fanciful petals peel away from wedges of partially cut Fuyu-type persimmon. Pour hazelnut-flavored liqueur over fruit; skin is good, too

Photo: Orange-gold puree of Hachiya-type persimmons makes dessert syllabub (above) or goes into Indian pudding with syllabub sauce. Firm Fuyu-type wedges decorate the top

Photo: Oriental persimmon harvest is ready to preserve (see pages 106 and 168). Hachiya types (bag and basket) must be soft-ripe to use; they can become astringent when cooked. Fuyu types (colander) are sweet, nonastringent while crisp or soft and retain flavor when cooked
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Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Oct 1, 1987
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