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A Food For Fall: Persimmon Pudding

In Indiana, it just wouldn't be Fall without a pan of homemade persimmon pudding. Chef Orr shares his recipe on this episode of Earth Eats.

a bowl of persimmon bread pudding topped with vanilla ice cream

Photo: Earth Eats Staff

These puddings are great the day they are cooked, but may be made in advance and gently reheated.

In Indiana, it just wouldn’t be Fall without a pan of homemade persimmon pudding.  This unique fruit grows on a tree that is part of the ebony family.  The tree’s hard wood is favored for use in billiard cues, shuttles for weaving textiles, and for high quality golf club heads.

Persimmons are also used to foresee the coming winter’s weather forecast. Cut the seed of a ripe fruit in half the long way and see if there is a white fork, knife, or spoon. The knife shape means mild snowfall, fork medium, and spoon heavy.

John Smith A Fan Of The Persimmon

There are two varieties of persimmons grown in the United States; the Japanese are common in California, and the Hoosier type, which was first found in Virginia.

There are records as early as 1612, where John Smith is quoted touting the quality of this round, orange fruit.  Native Americans ground the seeds from the fruit to use as a meal.  Pioneers roasted them as a coffee substitute.

A Delicious Fruit, When Ripe

The fruit from the persimmon tree can continue to ripen on the trees even after a frost. During the Civil War, the troops of Confederate General John B. Hood’s found persimmons on frosted trees near Nashville, Tennessee. The fruit was found to be the most delicious thing they had ever eaten.

When not yet ripe, the persimmon is barely edible. Loaded with tannin, the high astringency makes the fruit difficult to eat.  But once the fruit ripens, the sweet pulp is a delicious treat, finding its way into many puddings, pies, and breads. You can even make a spiced syrup out of them for a fall cocktail.

Persimmon Festivities

Mitchell, Indiana has hosted a Persimmon Festival in late September since 1946.  The festival is a large community celebration featuring a parade, pudding contest, and other events.

A Persimmon Party has also been held in Taylorville, Illinois since 1985.  The Party is a one day celebration of all things persimmon.

Persimmon and Raisin Bread Pudding with Ginger/Orange Rum Sauce

These puddings are great the day they are cooked, but may be made in advance and gently reheated. Makes 8-10 servings.

Ingredients:

For the puddings:

  • 4 eggs
  • pinch kosher salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup sorghum
  • 2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups local persimmon puree
  • 8 cups sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • ½ cups white raisins
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon Sweet Seasons Spice blend (recipe follows – or equal parts nutmeg and cinnamon)

For the sauce:

  • 2/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup rum
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Directions:

  1. For the puddings combine eggs, salt, sugar and sorghum in a large mixing bowl. Stir in cream, vanilla, spices, and persimmon purée. Mix well to incorporate. Add bread, raisins and lemon zest,  toss to coat well and let stand at room temperature 30 to 60 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  3. Butter a 9 x 13-inch baking pan or similar-sized pan or 8-10 individual portion ramekins. Distribute bread pudding mixture evenly. Put pan or ramekins into a larger pan that contains enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the bread pudding dishes.
  4. Bake about 40 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Ramekins will take about 25 minutes. Cool until warm to touch.
  5. While pudding cools, combine orange juice, rum, butter, ginger, and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.
  6. Combine cornstarch with 1/2 cup water. Add to the orange-juice mixture. Stir until thickened.
  7. Serve bread pudding warm, cut into 8 even portions. Drizzle each with about 2 tablespoons of warm sauce.

Great served with vanilla or persimmon ice cream and whipped cream.

Sweet Seasons Spice Blend

  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1 stick cinnamon (1/2″)
  • 1/2 teaspoon annatto seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon pomegranate powder
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 2 pieces star anise
  • 2 pieces cloves
  • 1 piece mace
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground nutmeg
  • 2 bay leaves

Grind fine in a spice blender. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.

Chef Daniel Orr

Chef Daniel Orr is the owner of FARMbloomington and the author of several cookbooks. He draws from a lifelong curiosity about individual ingredients combined with extensive training in the art of finding food’s true essence and flavor. The result is simple, yet sophisticated; the best of American food tempered by classic European training.

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