Persimmons are an underrated fruit simply because most cooks do not know what to do with them.
Along the Gulf Coast, American persimmon trees grow well from October to February. These trees are not only pretty, but produce a brilliant orange fruit that can be used in everything from preserves to desserts providing the fruit is ripe.
A ripe persimmon is a mushy, soft fruit. Some say it reminds one of a water balloon about to explode.
Persimmons can be likened to apricots or plums in flavor and texture. When fully ripe they have undertones of cinnamon and clove, just perfect for baking.
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Once ripe, persimmons need to eaten or used in cooking immediately. Persimmons do better being stored at room temperature, but may be kept in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for no longer than three days.
In her October newsletter, author Carolyn Haines of Alabama, formerly of Mississippi, wrote about cooking up a feast of shrimp kabobs and persimmon pudding, made with a friend's bounty of persimmons. Haines, a former journalist, is author of the Sarah Booth Delaney "Bones" series, the latest being "Bonefire of the Vanities," and even darker mysteries, the next of which comes out in April.
Since I often get asked what to do with persimmons, I e-mailed Haines and asked for the pudding recipe for this column. She graciously obliged.
1-1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
1- 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups persimmon pulp
2- 1/2 cups evaporated milk
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Bake at 350 in a 9-by-9-inch pan for 1 hour. OK -- pull it out when done, let it cool, then I like to refrigerate it and serve it with real whipped cream.
-- Submitted by Carolyn Haines
Here is a persimmon jam recipe that Joan Laube shared in October 2001 from the "The Complete Book of Canning."
4 pounds (about 10) very ripe persimmons
4 cups sugar
Cut persimmons in half and scoop out pulp. Press fruit through a strainer, put through a food mill or puree in a food processor.
Measure 4 cups pulp into 4- 1/2-quart pot. Add sugar and stir well.
Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened (about 30 min). Keep fruit mixture below boiling point or jam will become bitter. Jam will thicken on cooling.
Ladle jam into clean, hot jars, leaving1/4-inch headspace; seal.
Process in boiling water bath 10 minutes. Yield: 6 to 7 quarts.
-- Submitted by Joan Laube
Readers, if you have persimmon recipes you would like to share, please send them to me, especially quick breads or cakes.
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"I found this recipe in a 1970s Hunt's booklet," said Irene Riley of Biloxi. "Maybe it is what Susan Daugherty is looking for. Worcestershire sauce could probably be used in place of the chili powder."
HUNT'S SPECIAL CASSEROLE
3 cups macaroni
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 cup diced Cheddar cheese
1 to 1- 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
Salt and pepper
1 (28-ounce) can Hunt's tomato sauce
1 cup water
1- 1/2 to 2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Cook macaroni according to package directions: drain. Toss with butter and green onions and arrange in a 3-quart casserole. Sprinkle on cheese; then crumble meat over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour on Hunt's sauce mixed with chili powder and sugar. Cover; bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Remove cover; bake 10 minutes longer. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Note: For 4-6 servings, prepare in 2 (1 1/2-quart) casseroles. Bake one casserole as directed above; freeze the other for later use.
-- Submitted by Irene Riley
"This is a recipe a co-worker shared with me 30 years ago, and I have fond memories of her each time I bake the cake," said Debra Hastings of Bradenton, Fla. "I hope it will be enjoyed."
Earlier this year, a reader asked for a Watergate or pistachio cake recipe. Hastings' is a little different in that either ginger ale or sour cream can be used in the cake batter.
1 white cake mix
1 cup oil
1 cup ginger ale or sour cream
1 (3-ounce) package instant pistachio pudding
1 small carton Cool Whip
1 (3-ounce) package instant pistachio pudding
1- 1/2 cups milk
Prepare cake mix with other ingredients as instructed on box. Pour batter into a greased and floured tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes. Let cake cool in pan 15 minutes. Turn out of pan and cool completely before frosting. Split cake horizontally in half. Spread with frosting and replace top half. Frost side and top and store cake chilled in refrigerator. -- Submitted by Debra Hastings
Adding heat to peppers
"Recently, I read a recipe in the Bradenton Herald for red/orange/green bell peppers to be used for turning them into spicy, hot peppers. I saved the paper; however, I have searched high and low to find the article and cannot locate it.
"I remember one of the ingredients was cumin. Chili powder, crushed red pepper or cayenne was also listed," said Ann Dey. "I know a couple additional ingredients were listed, but I have no idea what they were nor the measurements of each ingredient along with how long to marinate them. Would you please get me the recipe? Thank you in advance for your assistance."
Readers, if you, too, saved this recipe, please send it to me for Dey.
Don't forget those fall recipes
Please send in your best fall festival or Halloween carnival treat recipes, as well as, gluten-free and dairy-free ideas and favorite rice dishes.
Andrea Yeager, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send contributions or requests to Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi MS 39535-4567. If requesting a recipe, include the name or describe it.