Monday, October 22, 2012

Persimmon Pudding for the Holidays

With fall in the air and November around the corner, my thoughts turn to Thanksgiving and the special meals my Grandmother prepared over the years. We literally did go 'over the river and through the woods' for our Thanksgiving feasts.
I remember it being colder back then. Many times when the house ran over with family, the kids slept on pallets on the floor. My sister and I would go to sleep on a soft pile of blankets, with a thick quilt over us to keep us warm. By the time we woke in the morning we could hardly turn over from the weight of the new quilts that had been spread over us during the night.
Daddy usually hunted early in the day leaving long before we were up, but returning with his dog, Bo, in plenty of time for turkey. The children always ran out to greet the hunters when they returned. Coming back into the house there was a rush of warmth from the kitchen—and delicious aromas of roasting turkey, rising yeast rolls and the unmistakable sweet smell of fresh persimmon puddings cooling on the counter.
We ate our persimmon pudding cold, so Mama Nell put it into the refrigerator for a cool down while we ate. Then we cut little slivers and topped them with whipped cream. The puddings disappeared so quickly, even though there were other desserts, cakes and pies, to be eaten.
If you are fortunate enough to know the location of a good persimmon tree, make persimmon puddings this Thanksgiving and see how quickly they disappear! 


2 cups persimmon pulp**
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
One-half cup corn oil
2 cups sugar, one white, one dark brown, packed
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups self-rising flour
1-cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoonful vanilla
1 teaspoonful cinnamon
Dash of cloves and nutmeg
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1 cup shredded coconut (optional)

**Persimmons will ‘turn your mouth wrong side out’ if you try to eat them before they’re ripe. Mama Nell always told us to wait until after the first frost to gather them. Just be sure they are nice and orange and getting soft. It takes a big mixing bowl of persimmons to make 2 cups of pulp. Rinse the persimmons gently and remove any debris. Let them dry. Then either use a pulper to separate the skin and seeds from the pulp, or force through a sieve or strainer. You can freeze the pulp and then thaw completely when ready to make puddings.**
Preheat oven to 350°.
Add the melted, cooled butter and corn oil to both cups of sugar and stir until mixed. Add eggs and mix well. Alternate adding flour and milk until all combined. Stir in vanilla, persimmon pulp and cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Fold in pecans and/or coconut if so desired. Divide batter between three loaf pans greased generously with corn oil. Bake at for about 30 minutes. You want the pudding to be set, but not overcooked. Cool in pan. Turn out onto foil paper. Wrap and store in refrigerator. Serve cold. May top with a little sweetened whipped cream.

Home Grown Olives

 We're trying a new food project this month. About ten years ago a friend sent me two olive trees for my birthday. They were about two feet tall, and looked like rooted sprigs. I potted them and have loved and nursed them ever since. They grew to about four feet after several years and several new pots. Not until we took them to the NC coast and planted them in the ground did they really grow. After two years they are taller than our heads, and for the first time, filled with olives.

My husband and I disagreed about what to do with the crop. He wanted to press them for their oil, but with only two trees I didn't think they would yield very much. I thought curing them made more sense, plus if they tasted good, there would be lots of opportunities to share, and I could say each time we ate them, 'You won't believe this, but we grew these olives!' So, cure them we did.
As it turned out, it was fairly simple. There are several different methods. I chose gently cracking the olives and soaking them in cold water for several days, changing the water a couple of times a day until the bitterness is leached out of the olives and into the water. Then you pack them in salt water with a little vinegar, and any other additions you want—garlic, thyme, rosemary, lemon, jalapeño, etc., and let them brine for thirty days in the refrigerator. You can store them for up to a year in the frig.

I have since learned that where olives are grown, raw olives are sold each season and many people brine their own. I'm hoping we'll have another successful crop next year, and if we keep adding trees, maybe someday we'll have a large enough crop to press for oil!