Persimmons are perhaps the most beautiful fruit of the fall, but have you ever wondered if they have a purpose other than table decoration? Where I grew up, persimmon trees were abundant. While we didn’t have persimmon trees of our own, every fall my grandmother had persimmons ripening in the fruit bowl, thanks to generous neighbors.
And at Gigi’s house, persimmon cookies were always the inevitable destination of those glowing orange fruit. Wonderful, moist, sticky, spicy persimmon cookies.
Thinking back on it, it seems odd that the only thing I ever learned about persimmons was that they turned into cookies. Growing up, I never tasted an actual persimmon and I never heard about any other persimmon recipes. It was just understood that they would turn into cookies. And since persimmon cookies are one of my all-time favorites, it never occurred to me that they might be used for anything else.
Why mess with a good thing, right?
Well, it turns out that there’s a reason why no one in my family ate raw persimmons. The variety we grew up with were hachiya persimmons, and they can’t be eaten raw until they are so completely ripe, they’ve turned into a gelatinous goo. Doesn’t sound very appetizing, right? If this astringent fruit is eaten too early, you’ll apparently never forget the experience. And it’s for this reason, that hachiya persimmons have gotten a bad rap.
But the ripened hachiyas are excellent for baking, and they make a really good cookie!
Luckily, it turns out that there is another type of persimmon that is good for eating. And I just tried it for the first time this year. Fuyu persimmons are the short and squat variety that can be eaten raw like an apple, even when they aren’t fully ripened. Fuyus are very sweet and don’t have the mouth-puckering astringent quality present in the hachiya varieties.
Fuyu persimmons (left) are good for eating raw, while hachiyas (right) are best for baking.
As I mentioned earlier, I tasted fuyu persimmons for the very first time this year, and although it was good and sweet, I didn’t feel like it had a very distinctive flavor on it’s own. I think fuyu persimmons would be best chopped and added to a green salad, or even mixed with another type of fruit. But since it is a very new discovery to me, I haven’t done much experimenting.
When it comes to persimmons, my true love will always be these cookies made with the misunderstood hachiya.
This recipe calls for one cup of persimmon puree and you’ll probably need about three extremely ripe hachiya persimmons to get that amount of puree. When I say extremely ripe, I mean the insides of the fruit have turned completely to mush and the skin has become translucent. Leave the persimmons on the counter for a few days if they aren’t ripe enough when you purchase them (they probably won’t be).
I put my persimmons through a food mill to get a smooth puree and remove the skins all at once, but you could also squeeze the pulp right out of the skin and puree with a blender or food processor.
This was my very first time making persimmon cookies. My grandmother had always made them for me, so I never felt the need to learn. But now that Gigi is no longer with us, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
I don’t have her exact recipe, but my friend Ruby found one for me that sounded very similar. It seems like everyone in my hometown makes the same type of persimmon cookies and I really wouldn’t be surprised they all come from the same recipe!
These cookies are not the prettiest things in the world. They don’t spread when you bake them, so whatever shape comes off your spoon onto the baking sheet is they shape they’ll stay in after baking. They also turn very moist and sticky after a day of storage, which is one thing I really like about persimmon cookies.
When I baked these, I was a bit disappointed when they came out of the oven because they didn’t really look like the cookies I remembered. But one night of storage in a Tupperware container brought out the familiar sticky and moist texture.
The cookies are chock full of raisins, walnuts, and warm spices so they really are the perfect cookie for fall. They also freeze well, so you can make a bunch of them now to enjoy throughout the winter.
For more detailed information about the two types of persimmons, please read the wonderful Persimmon Pleasures post at Tea & Cookies.
Kitchen equipment used for this recipe:
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