Persimmons Delight Us In Fall

Persimmon. Even the name of this fruit hints at its extremes. Just saying it makes your lips purse the way they do when you bite into one of this rusty orange spheres before they ripen. The "simmon" part of the word hints at the mellowing to sugar that takes place this time of year.

Deer love them, raccoons and opossums gobble them, and several species of birds seek them out; so if you are a persimmon fan, you have to be on your toes to beat the other critters to them.

Of course, if you are really lucky and happen to know a good ole Hoosier family with a tasty family recipe for persimmon pie, you can rely on them to serve you up a slice this time of year. The next best thing is knowing an eatery where a good ole Hoosier girl brings the secret family recipe in for the baker to use (see some persimmon pie recipes at the bottom on this page).

This is just what happened to me last week on Bloomington's west side, where an a long-time buddy, Norm Ladd, has opened a coffee shop and art gallery called Gallery West at 702 West Kirkwood, the corner of Kirkwood and Fairview. For you old timers, it is Lucinda Jordan's former office and is just across Fairvfiew from what used to be Bruce Collier's Café. Owner Norm Ladd offered coffee and pie, and when I spotted persimmon pie on their pie list, I jumped on it.

What's an outdoors guy doing in an artsy-fartsy gallery with tasteful, peaceful décor, lovely young women like Katie Lime serving coffee, and artists wandering around hanging artwork that doesn't even come close to being wildlife art? In two words, T.J. Bloomfield's homemade persimmon pie, topped with whipped cream, the real stuff.

When you run into a persimmon pie, you are almost certainly going to run into a Hoosier family story, and that's just what happened at Norm's art gallery/coffee shop.

"It's a secret family recipe," said Lacey Davis, a red-headed Monroe Countian with roots down at Lake Monroe. "The Langley family recipe. I got it from LaDonna Hanna. I brought it down here to trade to T.J. for teaching me how to bake."

Good move for everyone was my first thought. The recipe seems to have come from down around what is now the Ramp Creek area where Lacey's family lived before the lake covered the family property.

"My papaw helped build the dam," she said.

T.J., another long-time Bloomingtonian, is the pie expert at Norm's place, and the persimmon pie is proof that he has come a long way from hot-waxing floors, which is what he was doing when I first met him some years ago. T.J. said a friend of his brought him the persimmons, but he didn't know the tree's location. And, when I asked Lacey for the recipe, her response was: "Oh no, no way. It's a secret!"

I can remember the location of every persimmon tree I ever harvested. I often revisit the ghost of a huge persimmon on the edge of the IU parking lot near Kirkwood and Dunn. It had to go to make way for more cars. Now that's progress ain't it?

Our persimmon variety is probably Diospyros virginiana which grows from Florida to Vermont and from Texas to Kansas and north to Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. There are many other species, including several Asian species that were introduced over 100 years ago. Persimmon trees and fruit are subjects in many Asian works of art.
Here is the U.S. Dept of Agriculture's description:

"Leaf: Alternate, simple, pinnately-veined, 2 1/2 to 5 1/2 inches long. Oblong to oval, lustrous dark green above, entire margin.
Flower: Usually dioecious, white to greenish-white, male flowers in 3's. Female flowers solitary, both about 1/2 inch long. Present March to mid-June.
Fruit: A plum-like berry that is green before ripening, turning orange to black when ripe, 3/4 to 2 inches in diameter when ripe. The fruit is astringent when green, sweet and edible when ripe. Matures September to November with frost.
Twig: Slender, light brown to gray, maybe scabrous or pubescent. Buds are dark red to black with 2 bud scales, triangular in shape. Leaf scar has one vascular bundle trace.
Bark: Very dark, broken up into square scaly thick plates; reminiscent of charcoal briquettes.
Form: A small to medium-sized tree with a round-topped crown. In forest stands the stem may be straight, tall, and slender."

From other sources I know that the persimmon tree seldom grows more than 50 feet tall and has a maximum diameter of 18 inches. Most are much smaller. Only the female trees bear fruit. If you want to see photos of the tree, flowers, leaves, bark and fruit on the internet, click here

There are lots of persimmon pie recipes on the internet too, but I cannot vouch for any of them. The trick to making a perfect persimmon pie is getting the consistency correct. A perfect persimmon pie is not gelatinous like a pudding, but solid, more like a pumpkin pie. Look for a recipe that has a cooking time of at least an hour, as these recipes tend to produce the correct consistency of the persimmon filling.

Of course, you still need to get out there and hunt up those persimmons, and that is part of the outdoor life in Indiana, just as hunting morels is in the spring. Make sure they are ripe or pay the price. Soft persimmons are ripe persimmons, and this time of year you probably aren't going to find any green ones.

Persimmon Pie Recipes

1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups whipping cream
1 cup persimmon pulp
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1. Preheat oven to 450*F (230*C).
2. Combine eggs, cinnamon, sugar, and salt. Mix in milk or cream, persimmon pulp, melted butter, and lemon juice. Pour mixture into unbaked pie shell.
3. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350*F (175*C), and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack before serving.
Makes one 9-inch pie.

Emeril's Persimmon Pie

* Exported from MasterCook *

Individual Persimmon Pie With Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Recipe By : Emeril Lagasse
Serving Size : 4 Preparation Time :0:00
Categories : Desserts Pies

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
=== PIE CRUST ===
2 cups Flour
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 teaspoons Sugar
1 cup Solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup Ice water
=== FILLING ===
1 tablespoon Butter
2 pounds Persimmon -- medium diced
1 cup Granulated sugar
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons Cornstarch
1/2 cup Cold water
4 scoops Vanilla bean ice cream
Powdered sugar -- in shaker
Cinnamon and sugar mixture -- in shaker
1/2 cup Caramel sauce -- in a squeeze bottle

For the crust: In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar.
Add the shortening and work it through with your hands until the mixture
resembles coarse crumbs. Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and
work it in with your hands until you have a smooth ball of dough. Wrap
the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Remove
the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a lightly-floured
surface. Divide the dough into fourths. Roll out the dough on the
floured surface into a circle about 5 inches in diameter and 1/8-inch
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Butter four 4-ounce ramekins.
For the filling: In a sauce pan, over high heat combine the
persimmons, sugar, Grand Marnier, and lemon juice. Bring the mixture up
to a boil. Combine the cornstarch and the cold water together, making a
slurry. While whisking the fruit constantly, add the slurry. Cook the
mixture for 5 to 6 minutes or until the mixture thickens. Cool the
mixture for about 10 minutes.
Spoon 1/4 of the fruit mixture into each of the four ramekins.
Gently lay the individual pie crusts over each ramekin. Using your
hands, form the crust around the lip of the ramekin, cutting off any
excess pie crust. Place in the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or
until golden-brown.
To assemble, place the ramekin on a plate. Place a scoop of vanilla
ice cream right on top of the pie. Drizzle the caramel over the top.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon mixture.
This recipe yields 4 servings.

Recipe Source:
ESSENCE OF EMERIL with Emeril Lagasse
From the TV FOOD NETWORK - (Show # EE-2293 broadcast 02-25-1997)
Downloaded from their Web-Site -

Formatted for MasterCook by MR MAD, aka Joe Comiskey -

Simple Persimmon Pie

Persimmon Pie
Serves 8 / This super-simple Southern favorite has a rich, creamy texture with a minimum amount of fat. A scoop of pomegranate ice cream completes this unusual and beautiful dessert.
4 medium persimmons
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 large egg
1 egg white
1/2 cup unrefined cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups low-fat or whole milk
1 Light and Flaky Crust, unbaked
1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Quarter and, if necessary, seed persimmons. Scrape pulp from skins into a blender. Purée with lemon juice until very smooth.
2. In a medium bowl, beat together whole egg, egg white, and unrefined cane sugar. Stir in salt, milk, and persimmon pulp. Refrigerate for 5 minutes.
3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry disk to make a 12-inch round. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim edge, fold under and flute decoratively.
4. Pour filling into crust. Bake for 10 minutes at 450°F, then reduce heat to 350°F. Continue baking for 30 minutes, or until filling is set and crust is golden. Cool on rack and serve warm or at room temperature.

Another Recipe

2 C persimmon pulp
1 beaten egg
1 C whole milk
1/2 C sugar
dash salt
1 T cornstarch
unbaked 9" pie crust

Mix persimmon pulp, egg and milk. Combine sugar, salt and cornstarch.
Mix well and stir into persimmon mixture. Spoon filling into pie
crust. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350 and
bake for additional 50 minutes.

Copyright 2003. Jordan Communications.