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Persimmon Cookies Recipe

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 darn 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.

Now 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 weird shape comes off your spoon onto the baking sheet is what you’re stuck with!  They also turn very moist and sticky after a day of storage.  That’s the way I really like them!  I was a bit disappointed when they came out of the oven because they looked nothing 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.  I’ll be freezing a bag today for my husband to enjoy when he gets back in town.  Although he didn’t grow up eating them, he grew to love Gigi’s persimmon cookies almost as much as I did.

We all really miss my grandmother and I’m grateful to have this cookie recipe that will always remind me of her.

Persimmon Cookies

1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup persimmon pulp
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon*
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, soda, salt and spices; set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, cream the shortening with the sugar using a hand mixer. Beat in egg then beat in persimmon pulp.  Slowly beat in the flour mixture until everything is combined.  By hand, stir in the nuts and raisins.
4. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets. They can be placed close together because these cookies don’t spread much.
5. Bake for approximately 12-15 minutes. Let cool on baking sheets for five minutes and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: approximately 36 small cookies

Recipe notes: *I used 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice to replace the cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.  I used a 2-Tablespoon cookie scoop which made cookies that were a little larger than usual and ended up with 24 cookies.  Since my cookies were so large, I ended up baking them for 16 or 17 minutes.  Although I generally prefer butter over shortening in almost all of my baking, I wanted to stay true to this original recipe because it reminds me of my childhood.  You can certainly experiment with using butter if you prefer, but leave some space between the cookies, because they will probably spread a little.  These cookies are also very sweet, so the sugar could probably be reduced a bit if desired.

I used a 2-tablespoon cookie scoop to measure out the dough. These were larger than a normal persimmon cookie, and I’ll probably use a smaller scoop next time.

As you can see, the cookies don’t change shape very much when you bake them!

For more detailed information about the two types of persimmons, please read the wonderful Persimmon Pleasures post at Tea & Cookies.

For those of you just tuning in this month, I’m happy to say that I’m participating in the National Blog Posting Month challenge. For this year’s edition of NaBloPoMo, I’ve pledged to post a new recipe every single day for the month of November. If you don’t want to miss a recipe, sign up to receive my recipes by e-mail. You’ll only receive an e-mail when I write a new blog post, and your e-mail address will not be used for any other purpose. Interested? Sign up now!

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