Persimmon and cranberry crisp – and a workshop!

by Jeanne on November 21, 2012

in Dessert, Recipes - fruit

Post image for Persimmon and cranberry crisp – and a workshop!

 

He raises both hands to touch the cloth,
asks, Which is this?
This is persimmons, Father.
Oh, the feel of the wolftail on the silk,   
the strength, the tense
precision in the wrist.
I painted them hundreds of times
eyes closed. These I painted blind.
Some things never leave a person:
scent of the hair of one you love,
the texture of persimmons,
in your palm, the ripe weight.

Excerpt from Persimmons by Li-Young Lee

 

I am always intrigued by exotic things mentioned in poems.  As a child, I longed to know what sandalwood and cedarwood smelled like after reading the wonderful Cargoes by John Masefield.  I spent many hours looking up pictures of dulcimers in the wake of studying Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Kubla Khan. But I never did find the frumious bandersnatch in the Encyclopaedia Britannica though ;) Even now, years later, I am intrigued by poetic descriptions although latterly it is more the food descriptions that catch my eye.  It can be so difficult to write about the specific feelings or memories that a food evokes, and when it is done well it makes you want to go back and read the lines over and over again, like rolling a sweet over and over in your mouth to prolong the taste.  That’s exactly what Persimmons (the poem excerpted above) made me want to do  and the beautiful full text is definitely worth reading, if you’re so inclined.

The persimmon is a fruit that I did not really grow up with but if it was beguiling enough for people to write poems about, I wanted to know more.  The excuse to do a bit of research arrived in the shape of a small basket of smooth, golden persimmons from Foods of Spain that recently landed on my desk.  It’s a fruit that’s native to Asia (although some species originated in America) and that goes by many names:  the kaki fruit, the date-plum, the sharon fruit, and of course the persimmon – a word that originated in the 1600s from the native American Powhatan (Algonquian) word pasimenan, meaning dried fruit. It’s not immediately apparent why you’d want to describe something as voluptuous as a persimmon as being dried in any way.  Clearly it was time for more research.

 

Persimmons 1 © J Horak-Druiff 2012

There are generally two types of persimmons that are commercially available and they can broadly be classified into astringent, and non astringent.   Non-astringent persimmons are round and squat in shape, almost like a slightly flattened tomato, and are most commonly sold as fuyu. The astringency refers not to acid as such, but to the presence of free tannins, the same chemical compounds that occur in tea and red wine and that make your mouth pucker and feel dry.  Non-astringent persimmons are not actually free of tannins as the term suggests, but rather are far less astringent before ripening, and lose more of their tannic quality sooner. This means that, unlike their astringent cousins, they can be eaten when still very firm (like a hard pear) and remain edible when very soft.

The most commonly sold variety of astringent persimmon is the Hachiya - instantly distinguishable from the fuyu by its slightly elongated heart shape.  Their astringency is due to high levels of soluble tannins, making the, taste “furry” if eaten before they are completely softened. They ripen quite happily after being picked and strategies for ripening include exposure to light for several days, or wrapping the fruit in paper (probably because this increases the ethylene concentration of the surrounding air). Ethylene ripening can be also be accelerated by storing the ripening persimmons in a clean, dry container together with other varieties of fruit that give off particularly large quantities of ethylene such as apples, pears or bananas. But rather than something like a peach that you want to ripen until it is just softening, you want your persimmons to reach the extreme end of ripeness, just this side of going mouldy!

The process of extreme ripening, if you will, is also referred to as bletting and can also be used for other super-astringent fruits like medlars, sea buckthorn and quinces.  The popular misconception is that persimmons are to be ripened till rotten but this is not the case.  There is no decay involved,  just ripeness to the point where the flesh is fully soft and almost jelly-like, at which stage the skin might be starting to split and the dried-out calyx can easily be plucked out of the fruit before serving.  This is often a good sign that the soft fruit is ready to eat, preferable simply scooped off the skin with a teaspoon.  These fruit were photographed when not yet fully ripe and soft as they are more photogenic and easier to handle this way, but those I did not use up still got a whole lot softer!

 

Persimmons cut © J Horak-Druiff 2012

As I mentioned, my persimmons came from Spain – which is unsurprising as the country is the major European producer of persimmons. Spain produces 70,000 tons of persimmons annually, although this is still dwarfed by production in Asia that easily tops 2 million tons annually.  As persimmons ripen easily off the tree and bruise when ripe, most fruit is shipped when it is not yet ripe enough to eat, leaving the customer to ripen them at home.  Signs that your persimmons are ripening include the fact that the calyx (the green petals around the stem) have turned brown and dry; and the fact that the fruit is changing colour from sunny yellow to a beautiful autumnal amber.  If you are eating firm fuyu persimmons, you can simply cut them into wedges like an apple; but if you have fully ripened your persimmon then the only way to eat it is to cut in half and scoop the soft fresh off the skin with a spoon. If you have a glut, you can also freeze persimmon puree for up to 8 months – just add add 1½ Tbsp of lemon juice per 1 cup of puree to prevent discolouration.

For my money, I did what I always tend to do with slightly unfamiliar fruit:  I made a crisp! A crisp, for the uninitiated, is similar to a crumble but the topping contains oats and nuts rather than just flour, butter and sugar.  I chopped up the persimmon flesh into small chunks, but next time I would almost puree it as the larger chunks tend to become chewy and tough.  I also think I would add a little more moisture next time, in the form of peach or mango juice, to the fruit as the astringency of the persimmons made the entire crisp taste slightly drier than I was aiming for.  But the overall taste was delightful – sweet persimmon, zesty cranberries, and a nutty, spicy, crunchy topping.  Perfect when served with a dollop of clotted cream on a chilly Autumn night.
Persimmons leaf © J Horak-Druiff 2012
Persimmons crisp final © J Horak-Druiff 2012

 

DISCLOSURE: These persimmons were sent to me for free by Foods from Spain.  No other remuneration was received for this post ad all opinions are my own. 

 

PERSIMMON AND CRANBERRY CRISP (serves 4)

Ingredients

FILLING
6 very ripe large Hachiya persimmons
2/3 cup dried cranberries
75ml peach or mango juice
TOPPING
1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1/4 cup wholewheat flour
75g butter, melted
1/3 cup soft brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup pecan nuts, choppedMethod

Preheat the oven to 180C and lightly butter 4 large ovenproof ramekins.

Cut the persimmons in half, scoop out the pulp using a spoon and chop it finely on a cutting board – it needs to be almost a chunky puree.  Place the persimmon pulp in a large mixing bowl and mix in the cranberries and juice.  Divide the mixture equally between the ramekins.

For the topping, combine all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl, then stir in the butter and mix well.  Scatter the topping evenly on the fruit in each ranekin, pressing down lightly to form a “lid”.  Bake uncovered for 30 minutes amd serve hot with clotted cream.

And in other news…  

 

London Feb 2013 workshop badge

I am thrilled to be able to announce that my amazing sister-from-another-mother Meetawill be jointly hosting an amazing 2 day Supperclub | Food Styling and Photography Workshop in London, together with the talented Sumayya, on 15 & 16 February 2013 - and I will be a guest speaker! The concept behind the workshop is to create a full food experience for the people who attend this workshop, including ahands-on food styling/photography workshop with Meeta, a session on overcoming the challenges of restaurant and low-light photography by ME(!), as well as a culinary tour led by Sumayya where participants will learn different cooking techniques used in the Indian/Pakistani kitchen, create some mouth-watering dishes, and indulge in an array tantalizing South-Asian street food.  The main venue is the stunning kitchen at the Central Street Cookery School, which provides huge windows for gorgeous natural light as well as plenty of space for cooking, styling, photographing and eating; and we will also bedining at a gastropub so as to practise the low-light photography skills that I will be teaching. 

Full details are available on Meeta’s blog - so do pop along and reserve your place now!

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Kit November 21, 2012 at 6:01 pm

Memories of hot June days in Italy, driving a minibus with a tray of kakis on the back seat, bursting with ripeness, almost dissolving into pulp before even reaching the picnic place!

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Tara November 21, 2012 at 6:04 pm

I love your blog,whenever I drop in to read I learn something new :)

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Robin O. November 22, 2012 at 6:06 pm

I am the luckiest girl. I have both types of persimmons in my yard. This crisp is a wonderful way to delight in the fruits perfumery. I like to make a steamed persimmon pudding like my grandmother did for Christmas dinners. Beautiful, gorgeous, sinfully rich images Jeanne — should entice many to try out this fruit.

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Valentina November 22, 2012 at 6:07 pm

It’s one of my fav fruits. I grew up. Eating an awful lot of it. The type I favoured the most is the fuyu because it’s really sweet, also love it’s shape which is close to a big tomato. In Brazil it’s a very popular fruit. The japanese imigrants took it with them in the early 1900 and we call it caqui whick is close to the japanese word – kaki. In Portugal it has a different name. I simply love the idea of this crisp and will save the recipe to make ut when I go home on holiday as I find our fruit tastier. I’m sure it’s the sunshine. Persimmons are also terribly astringent when unripe, and a lot of the ones found here in the UK are a bit like that. Now I must rush to check the workshop out

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Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen November 22, 2012 at 6:08 pm

How lovely these persimmon look.. I saw some yesterday at our grocers, I will go back and see if they’re the right variety for this crisp!

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Bron November 22, 2012 at 6:10 pm

I’ve never really got into Persimmons, I’ve only seen the Fuyu (squat looking) variety here in NZ. I’m really coveting your crumbles for breakfast this morning, not to mention those pretty spoons!

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Rosa November 22, 2012 at 6:10 pm

A fantastic crumble and original combination! I really have to try persimmons again…

Cheers,

Rosa

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Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen November 23, 2012 at 6:11 pm

I do love those persimmons, or rather kaki fruit as I grew up knowing them as. It’s too bad the season is so short!

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Jacqueline November 25, 2012 at 11:50 am

Love the new look Jeanne and love the look of the crisp. Never use persimmons. Maybe I should give them a try.

Workshop in Scotland please!

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Sally - My Custard Pie November 25, 2012 at 12:46 pm

I never knew all that about persimmons – in fact I by-pass them regularly at the supermarket. I’ll make sure I try one next time.
I was always intrigued by the slices of quince and the runcible spoon as a child.

LOVE the new look. Really fantastic.

Reply

Herschelian November 26, 2012 at 8:34 am

Here in northern China one of the most wonderful sights of Autumn is hillsides covered with wild persimmon trees loaded fruit. Because the trees loose their leaves before the fruit are ripe for picking, each tree looks as if it has been hung with hundreds of little golden lanterns. They feature in many poems, in many Chinese paintings, and even on Chinese porcelain.
Picking the fruit and either sending the best to market immediately, or drying them in the sun is an important part of the economy in the rural areas. The Chinese name for persimmon is shizi 柿 Costermongers can be found on the streets of many Chinese towns and cities with their barrows piled high with the delicious orange fruits.

Apart from the American persimmon, which is quite a different variety and really a minor fruit usually cooked in a baked pudding, all persimmons orginated in China where it is called shizi 柿子 and spread from there to other parts of Asia noteably Korea and Japan and then fanned out across the world. It was a Captain Perry who took some Chinese Persimmons from Japan to the USA in the late 1800s which started their cultivation in the States. The best eating persimmons come from Japan where they are farmed. Marco Polo wrote about the huge persimmon trade from China along the Silk Roads. The Japanese word for persimmon is ‘kaki’ – hence Kaki fruit, and the Sharon fruit is actually an Israeli cultivar from the Chinese persimmon.
It is nearly always eaten raw as a fruit here – I have never seen it cooked or baked in any dish. The season here is almost over, but I am definately going to try your recipe!

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Simone November 26, 2012 at 4:29 pm

O yay you finally moved over….;) looking good! Although right now I’m on my iPad but will check it on a full computer too as soon as we’re back home but I’m sure it’s beautiful! As for persimmons; I’ve loved them for a while but used to get very confused with the names as they just name them randomly here. Kaki, Sharon or whatever other name they go by. The only one name never see here is persimmons. Don’t know why; I’m guessing its probably too English…. :)

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