Wednesday, December 9, 2015

When Bad Produce Happens to Good People - Fuyu Persimmons

Sometimes my Produce Proselytizing goes way beyond my expectations.  
Of all the fruits I've talked up, none has become more popular among my friends than fuyu persimmons.

Some of this success is due to the very real charms of the fuyus themselves. Once sampled, these sweet, flavorful fruits can easily become favorites. (And unlike hachiya persimmons, fuyus aren't bitter and astringent when hard.)  This time of year, most fruit stands include a fuyu display. Fuyus are also pretty cheap, encouraging experimentation and frequent purchases.

My friend Lol identified yet another factor in her own growing fondness for fuyus. As she told me, “Ever since you introduced me to these persimmons, I can't get enough of them! And they're good in so many stages of ripeness. I like them hard like apples – and when they're super-soft, like pudding. And I like them in every stage in between.”

Despite my enthusiasm, I am not quite so tolerant of all fuyu candidates. 

I like fuyus only in the hard-like-apple stage. If they get a bit soft, I have to slice the fruit very thinly - and sometimes I have to dust them with cinnamon - in order to make them palatable. In theory, I could cut a too-soft fuyu in half and scoop the flesh out with a spoon -- many people's preferred way of eating them, as it happens. But in practice, I am more likely to make a gift of the fruit to someone who actually likes 'em soft rather than gussy them up to make them merely tolerable.

Some fuyu persimmons can challenge the inclusive love of even an open-minded enthusiast like Lol. These dinged-up fruit, for example.

I can avoid buying persimmons that look like this at the time of purchase, but I haven't managed to avoid bad fuyus entirely. It's my own fault:  I have occasionally bought so many fuyus that some of them have inevitably gotten forgotten in the back of the fridge or in the bottom of a backpack. When finally discovered, the fuyus' firmness has become a hazy memory, and I'm left with fuyus no better than ones I would have shunned.

So there any hope for these dented, bruised persimmons?


One option I explored was a kick-the-can-forward cryonics. I simply froze the fuyus to delay further decay while I hoped that a better plan would come to mind.

Just chillin'

I was inspired by the idea of freezing overripe bananas for smoothies (seldom made by me, but you might like them) or sweet bread (ditto, but here's a nice recipe for persimmon bread). But unlike slender and easily chopped frozen bananas, frozen whole fuyus are like baseballs. If you plan persimmon bread or smoothies, I suggest you pulp the fuyus before freezing. And if you want to use them in pancakes or oatmeal (my tip for bad blueberries), I suggest dicing them.
I was left with one plausible alternative for my sad fuyu baseballs: baking them whole. I decided to use the same technique for their squishy, unfrozen kin (even though I had the pulping and dicing options for them).

I like to add cinnamon to anything baked, so I installed a fuyu in a ramekin and then dusted the ramekin with cinnamon.

I added a bit of water for a nice brown bath. I already had the oven engaged at 375 degrees for another baking project, and I popped the fuyu dish in. I added a little more water after 15 minutes, and pulled the dish out after about 25 - 30 minutes in the oven. My persimmons sported cinnamon rings around their midriffs, corresponding to the water level. I tried not to think of bathtub rings.

I had kept the fuyus' leafy tops in place before baking for practical reasons. They would be tough to remove on the frozen guys and their removal would make the squishy fruit even messier. But they ended up adding a pleasing note. Baked and burnished, the tops enhanced the autumn glow of the baked fruit. The tops came out easily when I cut the fuyus in half.

I enjoyed the appearance of the persimmons' dense orange flesh, a big improvement of their squishy dented selves. But never mind appearances. What about taste? There was good news on this front. The baked fuyus had dense, honeyed flesh and a taste that embodied many great fall flavors: sweet potato, pumpkin and baked apple. Dignity restored!

And if Lol ever determines that some fuyus actually don't pass muster, she'll have yet another way to love her persimmons.

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