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Until I Get It Right: Persimmon Pie

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

We've been doing some foraging under a particularly generous persimmon tree in Marietta. It has been dropping fruits since mid-October, and there are still a ton of them in the naked branches as of Nov. 17!

You don't have to pick them; they're lying all over the ground, like Easter eggs!

 Obviously, the thing to do was to make a pie.

I love a custard pie. But the bar is high. Bill's mom Elsa made a cherry custard pie for his birthday every year that was just the most delicious thing you've ever tasted. Her crust, for one, you could eat like a cookie, it was that good. And the custard was velvety and vanilla-y and it never tasted really eggy. I just don't know how she did it. I believe there was a double boiler involved. And time.

Two weeks ago I set out to make my first persimmon custard pie. I followed the custard recipe I found it Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. It ruled out a graham cracker crust because you had to cook the liquid custard in the crust. OK. So I used a conventional pie crust (Pillsbury, if you must know) and Bittman's custard recipe. Not giving it here because read on.

Once it had cooked and set and cooled, I schmeared fresh persimmon pulp on top. I pulp the fruit with my fingers, just getting the seeds out. Many, if not most, of these cultivated American persimmons are seedless, a huge bonus. You can't really peel them at all; the skin is too thin to get a hold on it. So what I do is seed them and then mash them so the skins disappear into the pulp. I agree with the reader who commented that it's hardly worth pulping wild American persimmons--they're mostly seed. These cultivars are the bomb! There's a lot of food in each one.

This first pie was really, unexpectedly delicious. I will say that the custard part was quite eggy-tasting, and the consistency was that of flan--thin and a bit jiggly. So it wasn't quiiiite what I was going for. But it was still gone in a day, between me and Liam! No regerts!

Fast forward two weeks, and sweet Liam is coming home again for my lecture at People's Bank Theater in Marietta, Nov. 14. I resolve to make another attempt on this pie. I figure the missing element is VELVETY. So I Google "Velvety vanilla custard" and this recipe pops up.

Right away, I can see this is more what I'm after. I follow most of the instructions, omitting the candy thermometer (I can durn well tell when a cooking custard has set up) and the strainer (who cares if it's a little lumpy, and who wants to push custard through a strainer, then clean the strainer? Not the Lazy Chef.)

I cook it mostly to instruction, then cool it outside, with Saran over it to keep a skin from forming, while Liam and I make the graham cracker crust and pulp the persimmons. We are terrified a raccoon will come and eat the custard so we keep glancing nervously out on the deck (our big cheap refrigerator).

We make the crust with fresh cinnamon sugar Honey Maid graham crackers, even though they remind Liam of eating them while running cross country repeats which he did not like.  Liam lets out a little emotion in smashing them in a large Ziploc bag. We're a little short of them so we add a couple Breton wheat crackers to fill it out. We melt 6 TBS butter and mix it with 1 1/2 cup of crumbs, then press the mixture into a 9" pie plate and bake it at 350 for a few minutes until the edges start to brown. When the crust and the custard are both completely cool, we combine them and it looks like this:

I.E. YUM!! It's light and fluffy and vanilla-ey and not eggy. Not flanny. Perfect.

Here are the pulped persimmons.

 and the finished pie.

I cannot tell you how delicious this pie is. This is what I was shooting for, but it's better than I'd dared hope.

We had to let little Curtis clean up our plates. He likes persimmons! and, needless to say, custard...

It's been such fun having Liam home the last two weekends. And Thanksgiving break starts this coming weekend. I'm in tall corn and getting very spoiled. We all are! Liam is just about Curtis' favorite person on earth.

I've got lots of extra persimmon pulp. I'm going to freeze it, though it keeps remarkably well in the fridge. High sugar content, and it seems to have some kind of natural mold repellent. Very little problem with that. I want to find a way to get this stuff to my three cooking sisters, see what they do with it.

The gorgeous time is coming to an end, and we'll need bright cinnabar fruit to get us through the long gray winter.

If you don't have American persimmons around, you can do a custard pie with rhubarb, cherries, strawberries--anything that'll make a nice bright schmoosh for the topping. Bon appetit!!


Any chance you'd be willing to share the location of your loaded persimmon tree? I also love persimmons, but don't have a source here... yet.

Posted by Anonymous November 20, 2019 at 9:23 AM

Pie making is an art; cake making is baking.
I love Curtis' googly eyes while Liam holds him.

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Hmmm... I've never had a persimmon. There's an organic farm/orchard close to where I live, and I get most of my produce there. They have persimmons. I'll have to get some just to see what all the hub-bub is about. I have no frame of reference here.

When I was a child, my mom liked Fig Newtons. I thought they tasted terrible. Imagine my surprise the first time I tried an actual fig, and found them to be ambrosia! Not at all like the Newton. They are now my favorite fruit.

Posted by mimimanderly November 20, 2019 at 5:31 PM

What did we do without google? It looks delicious!!

Not a cook, I'll have to try your custard pie with rhubarb. (It's probably been 70+ years since I've had a good persimmon.) Thank you for the recipe!
Cop Car

Posted by Anonymous November 24, 2019 at 3:34 PM
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