Southern persimmons look very different from the big red Italian beauties often seen in the North, or even from the paler, Japanese-style Hachiya persimmons most commonly carried by supermarkets. Our persimmons are small, only slightly larger than a cherry. When ripe, they turn a deep pumpkin-orange color and develop an intense, almost datelike flavor.
The persimmon tree has a long history in Tennessee, where the original inhabitants, the Cherokee, were skilled at cultivating the fruit. The trees are sensitive to even the smallest changes in weather, which is why we always keep some puree, made from freshly harvested fruit, in the freezer. To make the puree, gather the fruits after the first frost, which is when they will be sweetest, wash them well, and run them through the fine blade of an old-fashioned food mill to extract the pulp while removing the skins and the seeds.
Makes a 9-inch pie; serves 6 to 8
9-inch pie shell, partially baked
1 cup persimmon puree (about 4 cups small Southern persimmons or 4 to 6 Italian or Japanese persimmons)
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ cup heavy cream
Whipped cream (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°. Place the pie shell on a sturdy baking sheet and set aside. In a mixing bowl, whisk the persimmons puree, brown sugar, cinnaon, and nutmeg together. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, then the heavy cream. Pour the persimmon filling into the pie shell. Bake for 30 minutes, or until just set. Let the pie cool completely before cutting. Serve plain or with a dollop of whip cream, if desired.
Excerpted from Desserts from the Famous Loveless Cafe by Alisa Huntsman (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2012