Autumn brings two luscious varieties of persimmons to the marketplace. One, the Hachiya, is heart-shaped and a vivid orange. It needs to be fully ripe with a water balloon-like consistency to be delectable. Underripe, it is unpleasantly astringent. The Fuyu variety is tomato-shaped and is a lighter orange color; it can be enjoyed when apple-like firm or slightly softened. Both varieties are generally available from October to December.
When buying Hachiya persimmons, don’t be fooled by the color of the skin; the skin of these heart-shaped beauties is the same vivid orange color even when unripe. Touch them; they should feel very, very soft.
Cut off the top and their pulp can be scooped from the skin like jam from a cup. They are seldom sold ripe because they are super-soft and fragile. Ripen at home, either at room temperature, or place in loosely sealed paper bag with another fruit, such as apple or banana. When ripe, store at room temperature up to three days, or refrigerate in plastic bag in crisper drawer up to six days.
The pulp can be frozen, wrapped airtight, up to three months. Incorporate pulp into jam, cookies, or sorbet; pudding or smoothies, quick bread or muffins.
As for tomato-shaped Fuyu persimmons, they can be eaten firm or slightly soft. Look for fruit with green (not brown) leaves. Skin should be a consistent light orange color, not yellow or green. Store at room temperature up to seven days or refrigerate in plastic bag in crisper drawer up to 12 days.
Peel and eat fresh out of hand like an apple. Or cut into medium dice or wedges for mixed green salads or other cold dishes such as grain-based salad, wraps or fruit salad. Cut them into crosswise slices and they showoff a flower-like pattern; use them instead of crackers to accompany cheese.
Cakey Hachiya Persimmon Puddings
This dessert showcases the likable elements of fruitcake without the components that many find objectionable. The underlying sweetness of the persimmon shines through, augmented with the taste and texture of nuts and raisins, as well as chopped dried apricots. If you like, substitute dried cherries or dried cranberries for the raisins.
Yield: about 10 servings
Nonstick vegetable spray
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups persimmon pulp, about 3 to 4 very ripe Hachiya persimmons, see cook’s notes
3/4 cup finely chopped dried apricots
3/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup chopped pecans
Garnish: 1 cup heavy whipping cream plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Cook’s notes: If persimmon pulp is chunky, mash with fork or whirl briefly in a food processor.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously spray ten 3/4-cup soufflé cups with nonstick vegetable spray. In large bowl of electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla; mix until well-blended.
2. In separate bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt; stir with whisk until well-combined.
3. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture; mix until blended. Add pulp; mix until blended. Add raisins, crystallized ginger and nuts; mix until blended.
4. Spoon into prepared cups, filling a little less than 3/4 full; smooth tops to make even, using back of large spoon or rubber spatula. Bake in middle of preheated oven, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 to 50 minutes.
5. Allow to cool 15 minutes before serving. In an electric mixer, beat cream and powdered sugar until soft peaks form. Using have of whipped cream, add a dollop of whipped cream to each pudding and serve. Place remaining whipped cream in a bowl and pass for optional topping.
Source: “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce” by Cathy Thomas (Wiley, $29.95)
Spinach and Fuyu Persimmon Salad
Yield: 8 servings
6 ounces fresh ginger (about two 3-inch plump knobs)
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1 cup vegetable oil or extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 bags (10 ounces each) washed baby spinach
3 firm Fuyu persimmons, washed, wiped dry
Garnish: 4 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds, see cook’s notes
Cook’s notes: To toast sesame seeds place a plate next to stove. Place seeds in a small skillet on medium heat. Shake handle of pan as they start to brown to redistribute seeds; watch them carefully because they burn easily. Turn out into the plate to stop browning.
1. Prepare the dressing: Shred ginger on the large holes of a box grater. Wrap half of the shredded ginger in the corner of a clean kitchen towel. Wring ginger over a small bowl to extract juice. Reserve juice and discard the juiced ginger. Repeat with remaining ginger. You should have about 4 tablespoons of ginger juice.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk vinegar, ginger juice, sugar, salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in oil. Stir in shallots. Cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to serve. Dressing can be prepared one day ahead; whisk well before using.
3. Using a small sharp pointed knife, cut out the green calyx from the top of each persimmon. Peel persimmons with a swivel-bladed vegetable peeler. Cut the peeled persimmons into 1/4-inch-wide wedges. Place in a small bowl, cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to serve. Persimmons can be prepared up to four hours ahead.
4. Toss persimmons with 2 tablespoons of dressing. In large bowl, toss spinach with remaining dressing and persimmon wedges. Divide between salad plates. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve immediately.
Source: “Thanksgiving 101” by Rick Rodgers (Broadway Books, 1998, $15)
Fuyu Persimmon Appetizers Wrapped in Prosciutto
4 Fuyu persimmons, washed, wiped dry
5 to 6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
For serving: Toothpicks
Garnish: Sprouts or microgreens
1. Using small, pointed knife, remove calyx (leafy portion at top) from each persimmon. Cut each persimmon in half from top to bottom. Cut each half into 4 wedges. Wrap each wedge with narrow strip of prosciutto, twisting it around middle. Secure each with toothpick if desired.
2. Place on platter and garnish with sprouts or microgreens (Trader Joe’s often sells microgreens — immature greens — in plastic containers.)
Have a cooking question? Contact Cathy Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.