There are cookies, and then then there are cookies. These were cookies. Handsome, dark, subtly sweet, not overpowering, but able to make you want another, and then maybe another after that. Bad for diets. Good for indulgence.
So, of course, when Nadia served them to a group of native plant aficionados and informed them that they were persimmon cookies, made from the fruits of our very own backyard persimmon tree, they raved about them and went for seconds.
“I don’t know why I didn’t use persimmons before,” Nadia said. “There are persimmons all over the place around here, but I didn’t try them for years. It might be because right after I came to the U.S., somebody gave me a persimmon that wasn’t ripe, and I was scared to try them after that.”
There was a slight, but audible, gasp among the onlookers. “Oh, no!”, someone said. “That’s awful! No wonder you didn’t want to try them again! Who would do that?”
I moved slightly back into the shadows…
Anyone who hangs around outdoors in persimmon country will eventually try an unripe persimmon. It might be a mistake or perverse curiosity, it might be on a dare, or you could be the victim of a prank–ahem–, but whatever the cause, it will be an unforgettable experience. Your mouth will pucker, indescribable tastes and sensations will flood your taste buds, your teeth will feel like they were just coated with…..well, green persimmon. You will want that stuff out of your mouth RIGHT NOW!
To get a rough idea, take a little alum, wet your finger, dip it in the powder, and put finger in mouth. It’s in the ballpark, but cannot compare to the onslaught of a green persimmon.
So how do we get from this existential shock therapy to the delicate treats on the plate before us? Well, you wait. You bloody well cannot rush a persimmon and remain unscathed. Just wait. Wait until they are soft and smooshy and sort of orangy-purple. Even better, wait until they are on the ground or until there has been a frost. You can then pick them up or pluck them, brush off any other living creatures with similar ideas, pop them in your mouth and savor the sweetness. After you suck the pulp off them, the large seeds are good for spitting at targets, if you like that sort of thing. Beagles work well.
It is those seeds that make persimmons less popular than they might be otherwise, since there are a lot of them relative to the amount of pulp, and they make processing the fruits a bit more difficult. Nadia uses one of those conical colanders with a wooden pestle that some folks use to process tomatoes for pulp and juice. It works pretty well and the proof was right before us, diminishing rapidly.
“I don’t remember who gave me that persimmon,” Nadia replied, “But it must have had an effect, because I avoided them for years.”
It was time to face the music, I suppose. The Father of Our Country had his cherry tree. I had my persimmons. “It was me,” I confessed. “I guess you blocked that part out.”
Multiple pairs of surprised eyes swung in my direction, including Nadia’s.
“And what did she do?”, someone asked, squinting in contempt.
“Well,” I said, taking a deep breath. “She married me.”
Now, I do not—-repeat, do not—-recommend green persimmons as a standard courting technique. Frankly, I doubt if it contributed to the final outcome one way or another, maybe because of the Nadia’s mental block as to who the culprit was. I escaped retribution by reason of traumatic amnesia, I suppose, but I expect that persimmon cookies might just aid the cause of romance. They are just that good.
And so, in the interest of romance, here is a recipe. Feel free to experiment or substitute at will. May it serve you well.
Persimmon cookies with wild plum or elderberry jam
1 cup Greek-style yogurt
1 tsp butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups persimmon pulp
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp salt
½ cup native pecans or peanuts minced
¼ minced crystallized ginger-optional
Preheat oven to 350 F and grease cookie sheets with canola or other oil.
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix sugar, butter, yogurt, eggs, and persimmon pulp. Add dry ingredients to this mix. Fold in nuts and ginger (if using).
Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets and add a dab of wild plum or elderberry jam on top of each cookie.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. This recipe makes 8 dozen cookies.
And here’s a bonus recipe, for all you cake lovers:
Persimmon cake with rice flour
3/4 cup raisins
Apple juice (or brandy)
2 cups rice flour (or replace with 2 cups wheat flour)
1/2 tsp baking power (skip baking power if using wheat flour)
2 tsp baking soda
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp salt
1½ cups sugar
¾ cup melted butter (or replace with Greek-style yogurt)
1¼ cup persimmon pulp
2 tsp vanilla
1½ cups Missouri pecans (or walnuts)
Preheat oven to 350 F
In small saucepan over medium heat, bring the raisins and apple juice to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool.
In a medium bowl, mix melted butter, persimmon pulp, eggs, and vanilla. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients. Add persimmon blend and gently stir. Fold in raisins with apple juice and nuts.
Add the batter in a greased 10 cup bake pan, bake for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Remove from the oven, let cool and invert into a plate. This recipe serves 12 or more.