Thursday, November 1, 2018

After the frost’s first kiss, the persimmon is perfect for pickin’

Persimmon

My latest column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail:

You may see them lining softball fields or growing along the highway — small, yellowish-orange fruits dotting the leaves.

The persimmon, a native American tree in the southeastern United States, is finally ready.

It’s during the fall that the small fruit ripens and produces sweet, pulpy nectar. But it’s not until after the first frost that you can dig in. Once they receive that chilly kiss, the persimmons trade their harsh bite in favor of a sweetness that everyone — raccoons, foxes, opossums and squirrels included — savors.

You know the persimmons are ripe once they have fallen to the ground, or do so with a little shake of the tree. And once you have gathered a basketful of fruit, you have many options: baked goods like pudding, cookies and more.

Persimmons can be used in most recipes that call for mashed pumpkin, applesauce or plums. Or they can even be used as a topping on ice cream!

Even persimmon seeds are useful in the transition of seasons. According to folklore, the shape, once split in two, can predict the winter weather. The seed takes the form of one of three different shapes:

A knife:
  • This is the most severe symbol, indicating there will be a cold, icy winter where the wind will cut through you like a blade.
A fork:
  • This symbol indicates a mild winter with light, powdery snow.
A spoon:
  • This symbol represents a shovel, which will be needed to dig out of all the snow.
This small, yet mighty, fruit is a unique component of Appalachian cooking that can prove difficult to find — but it’s so worth the search.

And with its versatility and tasty flavor, it’s a gem in our cuisine. Try it with your morning breakfast or part of your dessert. Just make sure you scoop some up before it’s too chilly — or before someone else does.

Plum Bread Pudding with Maple Butter Sauce and Spiced Whipped Cream


The persimmons just received their first touch of frost, so here’s a recipe that could use those coveted persimmons or a substitute: plums. West Virginia chef Brittany Furbee, who won Food Network’s "Cooks vs. Cons" show, whipped up a perfect fall-inspired dish that puts those gems to use. Try it with a cup of coffee for maximum “mmm.” Brittany Furbee is an award-winning competitive home chef from Morgantown. Learn more by visiting Brittany Furbee’s Culinary Adventures on Facebook at facebook.com/BrittanyFurbeesCulinaryAdventures.

6 cups stale bread, cubed

3 eggs

½ cups half-and-half

1 cups whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 persimmons, chopped (plums can be substituted for persimmons)

¼ cup dark brown sugar

¼ cup maple syrup

¼ teaspoon cloves

⅛ teaspoon cinnamon

⅛ teaspoon nutmeg

⅛ teaspoon ginger

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup golden raisins

¼ cup chopped pecans

For the spiced whipped cream:

2 cup heavy whipping cream

3 tablespoon maple syrup

1 teaspoon cloves

¼ teaspoon salt

For the sauce:

½ cup maple syrup

½ cup butter

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13x9x2-inch pan.

Mix together eggs, half-and-half, milk and vanilla in a bowl. Pour over cubed bread and let sit for 5 minutes. If many of the cubes are still dry, add additional milk until coated.

In another bowl mix together chopped plums, dark brown sugar, maple syrup, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt, golden raisins and pecans. Combine with bread mixture.

Pour bread mixture into prepared pan and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until set. Remove from oven.

For the spiced whipped cream: In a large bowl combine heavy whipping cream, maple syrup, cloves and salt. Beat with an electric mixer until soft peaks form, approximately 3-4 minutes. (Whipped cream can be prepared in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two days.)

For the sauce: Combine additional maple syrup, butter, cinnamon and salt in a sauce pan. Warm over low heat and stir often until combined. Pour over bread pudding. Top with spiced whipped cream and serve warm.