Auntie Dick's real name was Hermine Juliette, and she had been born in Germany. Before her death, she had known five generations of our family, and our sister Juliette was named after her. I remember as a girl when I asked her how she came to be called Dick, because it was curious to me that she had a man's name, she explained that as a young girl in Germany that she had been chubby, and her family referred to her as "Dicke", which basically means "fatty" in German. The name stuck even though she grew into a thin and elegant lady, and I can still remember her tickled smile when she talked about how she got her nickname. I remember thinking at the time that I certainly would not enjoy being nicknamed "fatty" by my family, and I failed to comprehend her good humor about it. That memory still makes me smile.
|Auntie Dick and Uncle Wes celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.|
I can remember as the fruit ripened on the counter in her kitchen, my Nana would squeeze the persimmons to see when they were ready. When they were soft enough she would squeeze the juicy pulp into containers for the freezer, then she would discard the skin of the fruit, and she always let me help. Her trick for saving the pulp because the fruit ripened at different times was to keep accumulating the fresh pulp on top of the already frozen pulp, so that it froze in layers until the container was full. In this way she was able to have persimmon pulp ready for baked goods all through the year, but particularly at Christmas time.
|Our maternal grandmother, Maxine.|
There are many varieties of persimmons, but in your local market starting in October, you will find mostly Fuyu and Hachiya persimmons. Fuyu are a less astringent fruit, and can be eaten like an apple when it is still firm. Hachiya persimmons are an astringent fruit, and need time to ripen and get soft before eating in order to lessen the high tannin content. The Hachiya is the persimmon that is used for baking.
According to Native American folklore, persimmon seeds can be used to predict whether the coming winter will be cold or mild. When the persimmon seed is cut in half, the shape appearing inside of the seed will indicate what the winter will bring. If the image inside of the seed looks like a spoon, be prepared to be shoveling deep drifts of snow. If inside you see a fork shape, the weather will be milder. If there is a knife shape, the wind will be cold and biting, it is said.
A delicious and modern twist for the pudding is to garnish the serving of pudding in a pool of sabayon and drizzle with caramel sauce. I think Hermine and Maxine would approve.
Auntie Dick's Persimmon Pudding
You must use Hachiya persimmons, not Fuyu. Fuyu's are similar in texture and shape to apples. Thin slices of Fuyu's make a beautiful garnish - on a cheese tray, "standing" in whipped cream, or as a beautiful edible treat surrounding the Baked Brie with Candied Fruits and Nuts. Dried slices of Fuyu's resemble delicate flowers and are beautiful decorations for the pudding as well as many fall desserts and cheese trays.
The Hachiya persimmons are ready to use when squeezably soft. If the individual fruits do not ripen at the same time, do not despair. Simply cut off the tops and squeeze the ripe flesh into a tupperware (discarding the peel) and freeze. As each fruit ripens, repeat the process and return the container to the freezer. When ready to use, defrost the required amount before proceeding with the recipe.
1-1/4 cups Hachiya persimmon pulp (about 3 or 4)
3 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
3/4 cup milk
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsps vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
boiling water, as needed
Dried Persimmon Flowers, optional
A pudding mold, optional
parchment paper, optional
1. Place a rack inside a large, tall soup pot. Place the empty pudding mold on the rack. Fill the soup pot with enough water to come halfway up mold. Remove mold and dry with towel. Butter the mold liberally and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Set aside. Begin to heat water in prepared pot; bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer.
2. In the meantime, slice tops off the persimmons. Squeeze out flesh into a blender or bowl of food processor fitted with a steel blade. Discard skins. Blend pulp until smooth. Set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, whip egg whites until stiff, but not dry. Set aside.
4. In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar. Add melted butter, persimmon purée , milk and whisk again. In a small dish, combine the vanilla and baking soda and stir well. Add to bowl and stir well.
5. In a separate bowl combine flour, cinnamon and salt, stir. Add nuts, stir until well combine. Add flour and nut mixture to the wet ingredients and whisk until smooth. Quickly fold in eggs whites.
6. Transfer the persimmon batter to the greased and sugared mold. If you are using a pudding mold, cover with lid. If you are using a ceramic bowl, or metal coffee can, cover tightly with buttered parchment paper, then topped with a double layer of foil tied securely in place with kitchen twine. Place the prepared mold carefully inside the soup pot. Cover pot with lid and continue to simmer, adding boiling water as needed to maintain water level. Steam for about 2 hours until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.