Picture courtesy of free school photo projects

Picture courtesy of free school photo projects

Are you familiar with persimmons – that tart edible orange walnut-sized fruit of the American Persimmon Tree in the genus Diospyros?

According to Wikipedia the word Diospyros is Greek and means ‘the fire of Zeus’. The American Persimmon (Diospyros Virginiana) is native to the Southern and Eastern United States, and some states in the midwest. Its wood is highly prized among furniture makers, resembling ebony. And the word ‘persimmon’ is a derivative of the Powhatan word for ‘a dry fruit’ – putchamin, pasiminan, or pessamin.

Even the seed of the fruit has a tradition concerning it. If there is a spoon shape on the seed it is meant to indicate a lot of snow shoveling, a knife shape means biting cold will be the winter’s destiny.

But what on earth does one do with that astringent, mouth puckering, tart fruit?

Well, the first thing you need to know – if you don’t already – is that the fruit must ripen completely before harvesting and although many say it isn’t necessary, I was raised by Southern wisdom which dictates that frost must nip the fruit before it can be enjoyed. That’s worked for me thus far, so I’m sticking with it.

It is also why my fruit picture didn’t look quite as beautiful as the one I found online. If frost bitten, yours will not be as plump or spot free either.

Wildlife love this forest find, especially deer. So you’ll have to beat them to it or climb higher than they can reach. As the persimmon tree is a bit of a leggy thing with skinny limbs, it isn’t suited for climbing. You may know of some older ones that defy this generality, but this has been the case for every tree of the American variety that I have seen. We have them growing wild in the forest on both farms – North Carolina and Virginia.

But how do you get the pulp out with the almond shaped and sized seeds in its center?

I use a food mill – the old fashioned kind with a handle that circles a curved dull blade against holes in its bottom. But you could mash them against the bottom of a colander. The idea is to separate the pulp from the seeds and skin.

Although the internet has many recipes for persimmon pulp ranging from candy to pie to ice cream to cakes and cookies, there is only one thing I have ever used it for – the traditional pudding.

This is a cake style pudding which reminds me of an English Plum Pudding. And just as a plum pudding would grace a holiday table during the holidays in Merry Olde England, it is a tradition in the south to place one on our table. Perhaps this is just a carry over from our European ancestors, but it connects us over the centuries past.

And I’m going to share my family’s recipe, handwritten in my recipe collection from a handwritten copy in my mother’s and she from a handwritten copy in her grandmother’s.

The method my family used was to blend as for any cake and that is what the directions call for. My mother never kept plain flour on hand so she changed the recipe to use self-rising flour and cut out the baking powder and salt. Then it is baked instead of steamed as so many puddings of this style are. The odd thing here is that when the finished product comes out of the oven, it will resemble a cake, but as it sets and the steam releases, it sinks into a dense pudding with the texture of a pumpkin pie.

So whip up a pudding and enjoy a Thanksgiving tradition.

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Renee’s Traditional Persimmon Pudding

2 cups strained persimmon pulp
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/2 cups sweet milk (This is plain milk either whole or skim. I use skim and it works fine. The word sweet is meant to distinguish it from buttermilk.)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 Tblsp melted butter

Beat the eggs together with the sugar, then add the pulp and the melted butter.

Sift together dry ingredients – meaning the flour and the spices. Add them to the pulp mixture alternating with the milk – but begin and end with the flour mixture. Spread into prepared 11 x 13 oblong pan.

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes – or as my recipe says – til done.
Let it cool and allow it to settle in pan before trying to cut or remove it. Serve with whipped cream if desired.

I refrigerate the remaining pudding.

Slice of traditional persimmon pudding with whipped cream

Slice of traditional persimmon pudding with whipped cream

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