It is truly autumn, even in South Georgia today on November 2. The wind is gusting around corners of the house and playing wildly with our U.S. flag outside my window. The temperature has dropped to a wonderful fifty degrees. Dry magnolia and oak leaves scurry along the driveway making me look often to see if someone is walking out there. I stopped at our old place yesterday and ate an orange while looking around at the beloved old landmarks, our pet cemetery, the fig trees dropping their leaves, the playhouse in the woods, the shed with its latch hook door…Then when I arrived back at our new place, I discovered that two of my five prized Japanese persimmons, gifts from friends, were ripe enough to make the pie I’ve been anticipating all week.
These persimmons are huge, compared to the little wild ones I remember from my childhood in north Georgia. Those little ones, the size of a cotton ball but much stickier, did not need to sit in the kitchen window to ripen. In fact, it was a challenge to rescue them from grass and leaves, intact. The trees we knew had very high limbs so my siblings and I didn’t often devise a way to climb them. We were dependent on the tree’s letting go when the fruit was ripe. Sometimes the soft, squishy orange-colored orbs splatted when they hit the ground; at best they would have a covering of soft wrinkles like the cheeks of a sweet old person. They really looked like cute little faces with a black scalloped hat on top. The ones that were just right to take to Mamma for making her persimmon pudding had only slight wrinkles and still held their form. Of course, we all knew that if we actually tasted one that was still fully firm, our mouths would draw, and our pucker wouldn’t leave until we chased it down with a nice sweet one.
I discovered that these “new-fangled” persimmons cause the same mouth puckering when they aren’t ripe. I tried one to see! As I grew impatient for them to ripen, I thought perhaps they were actually good when still hard. But no indeed! That’s when I set them all in the kitchen window where the sun could get to them.
As I pureed the two ripe persimmons into a pulp and mixed dry ingredients in a bowl, I thought about Mamma’s persimmon pudding and all that went into the making of it. During the fall when the persimmons were ripe we’d gather them diligently, pouncing on them as they fell from the tree. There was one tree near the house so we could check it often. Another one was down in the meadow and that was the one the boys liked us to leave for them. They enjoyed, along with our dog Thor, treeing a opossum at least once in the season. Opossums greatly enjoy persimmons, too. Once we delivered the persimmons to the kitchen, Mamma put us to work de-seeding them (there were a lot more seeds in those little ones than in these great plump Japanese ones!) and whipping them into a nice consistency.
Mamma used flour and sugar and spices and eggs, mixed them all together and baked them in the wood cook stove’s generous oven for about an hour. The result was pure heaven! As she portioned it out to the eight or ten of us, we began to wish we’d brought her a bigger bowl of persimmons.
For years I’ve wished for and hunted for that recipe of Mamma’s. It wasn’t in her old Mumford cook book and it wasn’t in her notes. But when Susan brought me these persimmons, she also brought me her recipe for persimmon pie. When I looked at it and then began to put it together, I knew it was similar at least to Mamma’s recipe. Sure enough, the taste is just as I remembered! And I know why Mamma made pudding instead of pie. With so many mouths to feed, it was much more efficient to make a big crustless pudding rather than a whole bunch of pies!
Susan said I could share her recipe with you so here it is:
Combine: 1 cup plain flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 t. baking powder, 1/4 t. salt, 1/4 t. cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg. Puree: two Japanese persimmons to equal 1 cup.Mix persimmon pulp, 1 beaten egg, 1/3 cup milk, and 1 t. vanilla into dry ingredients. Pour into 1- 9″ unbaked pie shell and bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.