As winter weather arrives, Diospyros virginiana, commonly known as 'native persimmon' trees, shed their leaves, but not their bounty. Small balls of orange fruit cling to the branches, waiting, hoping to be a part of your cold weather baking.
If you aren't lucky enough to live near native persimmon trees, have no fear, as other varieties of persimmon are often available in grocery stores.
Preheat the oven, and let's make Persimmon Bread!
Step 1: First Things First - Understanding Persimmon Availability and Astringency
To avoid all confusion about the different cultivars of persimmon, it is important to understand astringency, which basically describes the reaction of your mouth when you taste the fruit. Think of biting into an apple, which is typically crisp and sweet. Now think of biting into a lemon. A perfect example of astringency.
as·trin·gent - Thank you, Google
əˈstrinjənt/ adjective adjective: astringent
1. causing the contraction of body tissues, typically of the skin. "an astringent skin lotion" synonyms:constricting, constrictive, contracting; styptic "the lotion has an astringent effect on pores"
2. sharp or severe in manner or style. "her astringent words had their effect" synonyms:severe, sharp, stern, harsh, acerbic, acidulous, caustic, mordant, trenchant; Morescathing, spiteful, cutting, incisive, waspish "her astringent words"
(of taste or smell) sharp or bitter. "an astringent smell of rotting apples"
noun noun: astringent; plural noun: astringents 1. a substance that causes the contraction of body tissues, typically used to protect the skin and to reduce bleeding from minor abrasions.
Depending on your location, the availability of persimmon varieties may vary.
Common persimmon varieties that can often be found in supermarkets around autumn include the non-astringent Fuyu, and Sagura. These can be purchased and eaten the same day, sliced and eaten while crisp and sweet.
Hachiya is an astringent cultivar which is often confused for being the ready-to-eat variety. It is not a persimmon that is typically ready-to-eat when purchased, but rather, must ripen for a few days, becoming soft in the process.
Want to see some fabulous pictures of persimmon drying on rooftops in China? Click here
Step 2: Native Persimmon - Trivia Tidbits
If you are familiar with native persimmon, you may not be surprised to learn anything new from the information below, but a bit of trivia is always a good thing. You never know when you might find yourself on a gameshow.
Native persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, is a persimmon species commonly called the American persimmon, common persimmon, eastern persimmon, "'simmon", "possumwood", or "sugar-plum". Wikipedia
Additional common names include Date plum, winter plum, or Jove's fruit. Wildflower.org
Persimmon trees rarely exceed growth of 50 feet tall. Roadside Wild Fruits of Oklahoma- by Doyle McCoy
Step 3: Predicting the Weather With Wild Persimmon?
For fun, a bit of folklore, which pertains to the seeds of native persimmon.
It has been said, and the story passed down for generations, that if you cut a persimmon seed in half lengthwise, the embryo will be shaped in one of three ways. Cutting a thin seed in half is not exactly easy, and in fact, can be very dangerous. Use tools, keep your fingers clear, and be extremely careful if you attempt to do this.
- A knife - Said to represent, or forecast an icy, cold winter that will 'cut' through your skin.
- A fork - Thought to indicate a mild winter. Can't pick up much snow with a fork, is the mindset.
- A spoon - Representative of the need for a shovel, for plentiful snow
Step 4: Utensils and Other Requirements for Baking the Bread...
Though you can certainly improvise many of the tools and utensils required, here is a list of the items I used, as a guideline:
For obtaining puree:
- Bucket, bag, or other means of carrying persimmon, if harvesting in the wild
- Colander / strainer with a fine mesh, able to withstand pressing into the screen
- Wooden spoon or other item to press persimmon into screen colander
- Bowl or other container to catch pressed persimmon from the colander
- Silicone scraper
- Measuring cups
For baking the bread:
- 4 coffee cans *optional* - empty, no plastic lining, no film, no BPA, clean, labels removed OR baking dishes
- 2 mixing bowls
- Measuring cups & measuring spoons
- A metal whisk
- Silicone tools, especially a scraper
If you don't want to use cans for baking...
You can also use baking pans, or Charlotte molds molds, or coffee cans - round in shape
Step 5: The Recipe...
Over the years, I've tried many recipes for persimmon bread, but I always come back to the one and only recipe worth keeping.
Despite a massive cookbook collection with dozens of wild fruit recipes,
James Beard's Persimmon Bread recipe always brings me back to my senses.
Look no further for a keeper.
3½ cups sifted flour
1½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground mace or nutmeg - What's the difference?
2 to 2½ cups sugar
1 cup melted unsalted butter and cooled to room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
2/3 cup Cognac, bourbon or whiskey
2 cups persimmon puree
2 cups toasted walnuts (or pecans)
2 cups raisins or other fruit, perhaps apricots or dates
Step 6: To Bourbon, or Not to Bourbon...
The recipe used in this Instructable calls for 2/3 cup cognac or bourbon. Understandably, some cooks prefer not to use alcohol in their food, or are otherwise opposed to its consumption, while some add a dash of spirit where they can. Below, you will find discussion and alternatives for both inclusion and omission.
ALCOHOL - NO, THANK YOU!
One substitution for bourbon or other alcohol would be to use 1 part vanilla extract and 2 parts water for each tablespoon, as suggested by FoodSubs.com.
Let's see. The recipe calls for 2/3 cup of bourbon.
A tablespoon is equivalent to 3 teaspoons
There are 10 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons in 2/3 cup.
ALCOHOL - YES, PLEASE!
If you don't object to bourbon, but do not have any on hand, an acceptable substitution would be cognac. My opinion for bourbon, which may be swayed by the fact that we actually have a bottle, is W.L. Weller. Though I am not necessarily a drinker, the first time I smelled and tasted bourbon, I was rather surprised. It doesn't have a battery acid, cough syrup taste that burns your throat as it goes down. Combined with the walnuts and raisins in this recipe, a perfect combination of swirled flavors.
Have no fear, there is no need to use high-priced sipping bourbon.
Other bourbon suggestions: (You'll need to be of legal drinking age to visit the following sites)
Step 7: Picking and Prepping Persimmon...
If you are using native persimmon fruit, always remember to collect the fruit from the tree, or fruit that you just knocked free from the tree, and not the fruit collected from the ground.
Deer, rabbits, squirrels, mice, raccoons, and other wildlife are quite fond of the ripened fruit, which you may find under, or near the bearing tree. Resist the temptation to eat the fallen fruit, as it will often be found near scat, or animal droppings. A bacterial infection such as Escherichia coli, commonly known as E. coli could very well be hiding in the harvest.
Be sure to thoroughly clean the persimmon, using plenty of fresh, clean water to rinse them.
Remove stems, leaves, and sepal, also known as the blossom leaves.
Use plenty of fresh, clean water to rinse, shuffle, and rinse the fruit again.
As you sort through the persimmon, be sure to exclude fruit that is very firm. as this is when the fruit will be at its most astringent stage. There is nothing good about an unripe, astringent persimmon. These fruit can be tossed into a closed plastic bag or other airtight container for a few days, and they should ripen in a hurry.
Step 8: Create the Persimmon Puree...
Place several washed persimmon into the basket of a fine-mesh colander. Using a firm silicone scraper, or a wooden utensil, press the fruit into the screen. The colander should be strong enough to support the pressing, so as not to rip the screen. Be certain the mesh is not so large as to allow seeds, skins and other undesirable parts of the persimmon to get through to the puree collection.
On the exterior of the screen, the puree will begin to appear. Some will stick, some will drop into the bowl below. Use a silicone or rubber scraper to scrape off the puree into a measuring cup, or allow it to fall into the larger bowl beneath the colander. You may notice the need to rinse the screen on occasion, to keep the mesh clean enough to produce puree.
Once you have accumulated two cups of puree, be certain to cover it with plastic wrap. The puree may be stored in a refrigerator for several days, if you are not yet ready to bake.
Step 9: The Mess. Oh, the Mess...
Over the years, I've tried many methods of getting puree from native persimmon, but I have yet to find one that works as well, and achieves a lovely, clean puree as by pressing through a fine mesh colander.
It also seems to be rather messy, but the end result is well worth it.
Step 10: Gather Your Ingredients, A.k.a. Mise En Place...
Having all of your ingredients measured ahead of time will make the process so much easier.
This is known to the French as Mise en Place. Known to some as 'dirtying too many dishes'.
Begin with setting out two sticks of butter, or warm gently in a microwave on lower power. Once the butter is melted, set it aside to cool. The butter should not be hot when making the batter.
Measure out all of your spices, eggs, flour, sugar, nuts, raisins, bourbon, etc.
Step 11: Mix the Dry Ingredients Together...
In a bowl large enough to contain all of the dry ingredients, combine the following:
3 1/2 cups of sifted, all-purpose flour (*)
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon of ground mace
2 cups of sugar (1/2 cup more if you have a sweet tooth)
(*) Sift the flour into a measuring cup, then use a knife to level off the top.
Whisk all of the dry ingredients together to blend them well. Set aside.
Step 12: Prepare the Cans...
I tend to look at it more as saving for a use one day than hoarding, but...
Years ago, many people did not have all the fancy bake ware that is now available. Thrifty people were wise to the idea that heavy-duty cans from the grocery store could also double as baking tins. Though the world has evolved, and bake ware can easily be acquired from any store, let alone a yard sale, it is a good thing to remind ourselves how times have changed.
Though commercial cooking spray is available to prevent the bread from sticking, I throw caution to the wind and grease the cans with butter.
I cannot speak for any and every can on the market, but I can say that I use coffee cans as one-time baking pans, which are not lined with a plastic material. If you decide to use a can, please do your homework, and use BPA Free Cans, such as those from EDEN Foods.
BPA: Bisphenol A (BPA) is an organic synthetic compound with the chemical formula (CH3)2C(C6H4OH)2 belonging to the group of diphenylmethane derivatives and bisphenols, with two hydroxyphenyl groups. It is a colorless solid that is soluble in organic solvents, but poorly soluble in water. It has been in commercial use since 1957. - Wikipedia
Visit this link to learn more about Bisphenol A, which is typically abbreviated as BPA.
What is BPA, and what are the concerns about BPA?
Using coffee cans - are they safe?
We look to other Instructable members for advice. In addition, well, you know. I Googled it.
Instructables member DTOM_Bear once said "Cans/tins used for food storage are not galvanized (which is a zinc coating process; originally electroplating, but came to include zinc hot-dip). They are tin-plated. Testing with a magnet would tell you nothing about the zinc (or tin) plating on a can, since those are nonferrous/nonmagnetic metals. The magnet simply detects the steel. Ordinary tin-plated cans are perfectly safe for baking; I've done it for years. I've never seen a galvanized food can; I don't know if such were ever made. What you might have trouble with when using aluminum cans is the plastic coating (used because aluminum tends to react strongly with acidic foods). If using paper cups for this application, it shouldn't be an issue."
There are other great comments about using cans for food on
Sunshiine's Instructable: GO RUSTIC . . . BAKE IT IN A CAN!
Be sure to use a can opener with a safety feature that will leave a clean edge on the can. otherwise, be extremely careful not to cut yourself on any sharp can edges.
Step 13: Combine Moist and Liquid Ingredients, Create the Batter...
In a second mixing bowl, combine the following ingredients:
1 cup of melted butter
4 eggs, gently beaten
2/3 cup bourbon
2 cups of persimmon puree
Once combined well, bring the dry ingredient bowl back into play.
Make a small well in the center of the dry ingredients, then add the moist puree mix to the well.
Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl down. If using a clear bowl, make certain there are not any flour clusters.
Mix gently, enough to combine. Add any raisins or nuts to the batter at this time.
Step 14: Pour Batter Into Prepared Cans...
Remember, since we already greased our cans (or pans) with butter in step 12, the cans are now ready for batter.
It is a very thick batter, and will require scooping and glopping to get it off the utensil. This reminds me of my mother's Thanksgiving dressing, thick as spackle. You had to sort of thunk it off the spoon. She used so much poultry seasoning, the dressing was green. I kid you not. But, I digress.
Once you have divided the batter among all four cans, they are ready for the oven! You could flatten the top of the batter if you desire, but we like to leave a few little mountains, as they bake into yummy, crunchy tips of bread.
Step 15: Bake for One Hour at 350 Degrees
Place the cans evenly spaced across the middle rack of the oven.
Bake for one hour at 350 degrees, or until household members come in to ask what the wonderful smell might be coming from the kitchen.Don't worry if the bread does not rise to the top of the cans.
Step 16: Cool, Slice, and Serve!
Once the cans have finished baking, remove them from the oven, and place them onto a cooling rack until the cans are cool enough to touch. You may slice it while warm, or wait for it to cool.
A few ideas for serving:
Cold, straight out of the refrigerator, on the go
Heated in a toaster oven, long enough to give the top a wonderful, crisp crust
Served with a dab of butter, even honey butter
Served with a dab of whipped topping
Step 17: Serving, Storing, and Freezer Tips...
If you happened to use a coffee can with a plastic lid, be sure to allow the cans of bread to cool completely before using the plastic lids. Put the cans into the refrigerator, or remove the bread, slice, and store in an air-tight container. You may also use plastic wrap, or foil.
Persimmon bread can be wrapped tightly and frozen, too. This will give you a great head start for the holidays or special occasion.
Please let me know if you baked the bread, and if so, which persimmon cultivar you used!
Thank you for viewing my Instructable.
Step 18: Save the Seeds! Let's Grow Trees!
Though most commercial persimmons do not have seeds, native fruits have plenty!
Growing your own tree is one way to ensure you'll always have fruit for the wonderful bread in this Instructable.
Here are just a few links to get started growing your own:
How to Plant and Grow Persimmons by HGTV
Learn How To Grow Persimmon Trees by Susan Patterson