When we lived in Indiana, I worked in the now-closed Visteon plant in Bedford. A lot of my fellow employees were from Mitchell, known (among other things) for being the birthplace of Gus Grissom, and for its annual persimmon festival. When persimmons were in season, we were regularly treated to persimmon pudding at morning department meetings, and I’ve missed Danny’s wife’s cooking since we moved.
Therefore, when Buzz came home from a walk and announced he had found a ripe persimmon tree,* I was pretty excited. (He had been out walking with our daughter, and she had picked up a fallen fruit and asked him what it was; she initially thought it was a brightly-colored rock.)
Persimmons are one of those things that really aren’t edible before they are completely ripe. If you’ve ever bitten a very green banana and gotten that sort of prickly fuzzy feeling on your tongue, just imagine that times twenty and you’ll have an idea of what unripe persimmons do to your mouth. (The Old Foodie has a nice post about their astringent effect, including some historical anecdotes of persimmons’ ultra-puckering power.)
Fresh off the tree, persimmons need a bit of processing to turn into pudding.
After a light washing, they are squished up and pushed through a wire mesh strainer to separate the persimmon pulp from the seeds and skin.
Persimmons are one of those fruits with surprisingly large seeds. Of course, the wild persimmons are relatively small, but still.
Pulp is pretty good on its own, but now we’re ready to make it into pudding!
To truly get our retro on, we used a recipe from “Indian Cookin,” a small, rather odd 1973 cookbook. Buzz got it at Fort Michilimackinac when he was six or seven. While on family vacations, he was allowed to get one modestly priced souvenir per trip. On that particular visit to northern Michigan, he decided to get the book, since it combined his strong interests in cooking and Indian culture. It has some reasonable looking recipes, like this one, and some that sound completely off-the-wall, like yellow jacket soup. Never having had occasion to cook groundhog, opossum, or any of several varieties of frog, this was the first time Buzz had ever actually used one of the recipes in the book.
1-3/4 cups buttermilk
1/4 lb. butter
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 cups persimmons
Press enough persimmons through a colander to make 2 cups. In another bowl beat eggs, add milk, sugar and melted butter, now the flour and persimmons. Mix well, pour into 9×12 baking dish. Bake 400 degrees until even brown.
The pudding only bakes until it is set in the middle; you’re not trying to crisp it up or anything.
This goes well with whipped cream (or vanilla ice cream, mmm), but doesn’t really require any toppings. Persimmon pudding is very sweet, and has one of those flavors you really have to taste to understand. Unless you’ve eaten persimmons, I don’t know how to describe it. But I definitely do recommend tasting it if you ever get the opportunity — whether you make it from scratch after picking your own persimmons, or just happen to run across it in a restaurant!
* Buzz has a good knack for finding edible fruit on random hikes, combined with enough botanical knowledge to be sure he’s picking persimmons and not something poisonous. If you are interested in similar scavenging and cooking adventures, please make sure you have enough basic knowledge to not poison yourself and your family. Reading this blog is not going to provide that education.