Final flavors of fall

By Gary Henry ghenry@prairiepress.net
Posted 11/21/22

Autumn is a favorite time for many people.

The heat of summer is broken, days are more pleasant, and the chill has not yet taken on the bone-numbing cold of winter. Autumn is also the most …

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Final flavors of fall

Posted

Autumn is a favorite time for many people.

The heat of summer is broken, days are more pleasant, and the chill has not yet taken on the bone-numbing cold of winter. Autumn is also the most colorful time of the year with brilliant leaves falling from the trees, displays of Indian corn, red and yellow apples and, of course, stacks of bright orange pumpkins in time for Halloween.

This is also a great time for flavorful food. The pumpkin spice dispersion into everything is overdone, but no one can argue with a flavorful pumpkin pie, the warm and rich aroma of fresh baked apple dumplings or the crisp tartness of cranberry sauce made from recently harvested cranberries.

Another flavor that is most definitely late fall is persimmon. Probably the last wild fruit of the season, persimmons do not ripen and fall from the tree until everything else is done and trees are generally barren of leaves.

Persimmon is not as ubiquitous as pumpkin, apple and cranberry, but for its fans, persimmon is a desirable treat.

Food writers compare the taste to figs, apricots and other things. Perhaps food writers have more discerning palates to make such comparisons, but persimmons have their own flavor that should be appreciated for what it is.

Maybe the food writers are making reference to the Asian persimmon — a sizeable fruit that is sometimes found in produce aisles. The American wild persimmon (diospyros virginiana) which is familiar to people in Edgar County is never found in a grocery. The fully ripe fruit is soft, mushy, sticky and does not transport for commercial use.

Persimmon is an acquired taste. People who grew up in families using persimmons like the flavor. Those who were not blessed to be in such a family are less enthusiastic. Nostalgia no doubt plays a part in the fondness for the taste.

Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners at my grandmother’s house always included a persimmon pudding, topped with a warm sweet sauce, or whipped cream. I have also heard of some using a rum sauce, which sounds tasty.

Persimmon pudding is something of a misnomer. It is not a pudding as Americans use the term. It is baked and looks somewhat like a cake except for the thick and moist consistency. It is not dry and crumbly like a cake.

I suspect a persimmon pudding’s consistency is more akin to an English boiled pudding. That makes some sense because permission pudding is well-known in southern Illinois and Indiana and those areas were predominantly settled by families from Kentucky whose English and Scotch-Irish immigrant ancestors were familiar with boiled puddings.

The difficulty this year is what to do with all the persimmons. My three little trees produced such a bumper crop my wife is challenged by all the pulp we put in the freezer. What’s left on the tree can be wildlife food.

Our freezer has much more than is needed to yield a monthly persimmon pudding and batches of her special harvest cookies. She experimented with persimmon infused rice pudding, persimmon candy and there is a persimmon barbecue sauce coming the next time she cooks a salmon filet.

A seemingly never-ending supply of recipes exists online for everything from persimmon bread to using persimmons for a mead melomel. It is all intriguing, but just a slice of persimmon pudding, with or without a topping, and I’m happy.

The only thing that might be better is one of my mother’s apple dumplings — in case somebody I know is reading this.