Persimmons

Our Christmases have always been heavily persimmon themed. In Palo Alto where my grandparents lived, persimmons are literally dropping like flies in the late fall and, though she didn’t have her own tree, generous friends and neighbors plied my grandmother with these sweet orange fruits that look something like a cross between a tomato and a kumquat. They would sit in a wooden fruit bowl on the counter, slowly softening into a rich pulp and awaiting Christmas baking season. My grandfathers’ favorite holiday treat was soft, dark persimmon cookies, full of spices, raisins and thick persimmon pulp, like a chewier version of fruit cake.

Of all the things I associate with Christmas, persimmons probably fall somewhere between the endless string of ugly sweater parties and searching for pre-holiday shopping mall parking. I’m not offended by their flavor but would rather save stomach space for piles of angel bars and macadamia nut fudge. 

Yet one of my favorite traditions came at the end of Christmas dinner after the fancy china and dinging angels had been cleared. The lights went off and my grandmother emerged from the laundry porch carrying a platter laced with green holly and topped with a mound of dense persimmon pudding, lit on fire and blazing through the darkened room. I ate the smallest sliver, puckering at the lingering taste of alcohol and hints of persimmon buried in the dark fruity loaf. Nothing a little lot of hard sauce and a few Christmas carols can’t fix.

Persimmon Pudding                
Recipe by Rose ‘Gam’ Babson

Ingredients:
1/2 C. melted butter        

1 C. sugar                
1 C. flour, sifted        
1/4 t. salt                
1 t. cinnamon    
1 C. ripe persimmon pulp
2 t. baking soda
3 T. brandy (warm)
2 t. warm water    
1 t. vanilla
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 C. seedless raisins    
1/2 C. chopped walnuts

Add sugar to melted butter and stir. 

Add flour resifted with salt and cinnamon.  

Add persimmon pulp, soda dissolved in warm water, brandy and vanilla. 

Add eggs, mixing thoroughly but lightly.  

Add raisins and nuts, stirring only until mixed. 

Put in buttered steam type covered mold and steam 2 1/2 hours.  

Flame at table with brandy (note: my grandmother always used Bacardi 151 from a 30 year old bottle she kept in the cupboard for this purpose alone.)  

Serve with brandy flavored hard sauce.  

This recipe can be frozen if unmolded, wrapped tightly in foil, then in plastic. Reheat by steaming in foil covering.

 

Persimmon Cookies                
Recipe by Rose ‘Gam’ Babson

Cream:
1/2 C. shortening
1 C. sugar

Add:
1 egg
1 1/2 C. persimmon pulp
2 C. flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. allspice or cloves (optional)
2 t. cinnamon
1 C. walnuts or pecans
1 C. raisins

Drop on buttered sheet. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.